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The Down & Dirty Details of Dental Insurance — What You Need to Know

Dental health is a critical component to your overall health, but most health insurance plans don’t include dental. And just like your body’s health, a proactive, preventative care leads to healthier and more cost efficient outcomes. But dental insurance packages come in all shapes and sizes. The quality of coverage can be across the board. Here’s what you need to understand about dental insurance when deciding on the best plan for you and your family.

Most Plans Include Free or Low Cost Preventative Care

Dental insurance is a business like every other business. The insurance company wants to minimize its costs. Catching minor problems before they become dental emergencies is in everyone’s best financial interest. That’s why most plans will have free or very low cost preventative care like checkups and cleanings. Take advantage of this. Otherwise you’re letting benefits you pay for go to waste.

Group Coverage is Cheaper

Pooling resources saves money. Coverage is substantially cheaper when you purchase dental insurance through a group, such as your employment or coverage programs like AARP or the Affordable Care Act marketplace or public insurance like Medicaid. Not only do they cost less, but the coverage is often better than what you could purchase on your own. Read the fine print about what’s covered and what’s not as policies can vary significantly.

Individual Policies May Have Waiting Periods

If you cannot participate in group coverage, you can purchase an individual plan for you and your family. These tend to be more expensive and the coverage is not as good. Be aware that many of these individual policies have waiting periods for certain treatments. If you sign up for a policy in anticipation of a needed treatment, look into seeing how soon they will cover it. While preventative dentistry such as checkups and cleanings will likely be at least partially covered, root canals, crowns and bridges or other extensive procedures may not be included for a little while.

Some Policies Require Dental Networks

Many insurance policies such as PPO and HMO require you to be seen by a dentist in their network. If you have a preferred family dentist, ask what insurance plans they work with. Check with a potential insurer to see if your dentist is covered.

Higher Premiums Tend to Pay Off Long Term

Typically with dental insurance you get what you pay for. A higher premium may seem steep at the outset, but the coverage tends to be better so you’ll save more in the long run — especially if you have a family or anticipate needing a lot of work done.

Talk to your dentist about what type of insurance you have. They may be able to work with you in scheduling treatments in line with your budget and dental needs.

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