Is Dental Insurance Worth It?

Choosing a health insurance policy is straight forward.  You choose a deductible. Your monthly premium goes up if you choose a lower deductible and your monthly premium goes down if you choose a higher deductible.

But dental insurance works differently.  With annual maximum limits and limited coverage, you may wonder if you need it at all? Is dental insurance worth it for you?

Does dental insurance save you money? Or can you skip dental insurance and self-insure?

Let us take a deep dive.

How much does dental insurance cost per year?

Dental insurance costs about $350 per year.  The cost varies depending on your state.

You can buy dental insurance through your employer or on your own. In most cases, buying it through your employer will be cheaper as the policy is likely to be subsidized by your employer.

How does dental insurance work?

Most dental insurance policies cover exams, two annual cleanings and X-rays free of cost. Any procedures beyond that is split between the insurance provider and the patient on a fixed percentage basis.

Dental policies also have an annual maximum benefit.  The limit varies based on policy but is usually around $2000.  The insurance policy will not pay out more than $2000.  Once that limit is reached, you are responsible for all dental expenses.

What does dental insurance cover?

Dental insurance provides 100/80/50 coverage.  It covers the cost of certain procedures at 100%, others 80% and some others at 50%.  You are responsible for the portion that is not covered by insurance.

100% coverage – Covers preventive care such as X-rays and cleanings.  Typically, two cleanings annually are covered at no cost to you

80% coverage – fillings, restrictions, and periodontal procedure

50% coverage for major complicated procedures such as crowns, root canals, bridges or implants.

These are just broad guidelines.  Be sure to check individual policies to confirm coverage.

What the different types of dental insurance plans?

There are three common types of insurance plans.  The plans offer different benefits and vary in cost.

Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) – Limits what dentists you can see. It is usually the cheapest dental insurance policy you can get.  These plans have no annual limit on coverage.

Dental Preferred Provider Organization (DPPO) –  You will pay less if you choose dentists that are on the plan. You can choose an out-of-network dentist but you will pay more. These plans have deductibles and co-pays.

Dental Indemnity Insurance Plans – Most expensive dental plan. You have the option to see any dentist and receive full coverage. You are responsible for co-pays and deductibles.

Should you get a dental insurance policy?

Think ahead and be prepared to do some math.

If you are healthy and you only anticipate two cleanings in a year, call your dentist and ask how much it would cost.  Let’s say that your dentist quotes you $300 for those services for a year and your insurance costs $450. You are better off skipping insurance.

If you think you will need additional dental care, work with your dentist to identify what procedures you will need in the next year. Then work out the costs with and without insurance.  That will tell you whether an insurance policy is worth it for you.

Bottom Line

If you have no dental problems and all you need is an annual check and cleaning every year, you can get by without dental insurance. If you have dental problems or you anticipate major procedures in the next year, dental insurance can save you money.  Work with your dentist, identify problems early and work out the cost with and without insurance to see if an insurance policy is worth it.


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