When was your last dental check-up? The answer often depends on whether or not you have dental insurance. Roughly 50% of Americans don’t have dental insurance. Even worse, about 74% of people without dental insurance will only visit a dentist if they have an obvious dental problem.
That’s a lot of people without regular access to preventative dental care. Fortunately, options for affordable dental insurance are available.
How Does Dental Insurance Help Save on Dental Care?
Dental insurance helps lower the cost of dental visits and procedures. Policyholders pay a premium each month. They also pay a deductible for many services. A deductible is the minimum amount required from the policyholder before insurance will cover the remaining balance. For instance, if a dental procedure costs $150, but your deductible is $200, you’ll have to pay the entire amount out-of-pocket. Typically, the higher your premiums, the lower your deductibles, and vice versa.
Another fee sometimes associated with dental insurance is a co-pay. This is a set amount, instead of a percentage, required for certain procedures. Co-pays are typically required for certain office visits and prescription medications.
How Much Money Can Dental Insurance Help Me Save?
Savings will vary based on the individual dentist’s fees and the specifics of the policy. However, dental insurance coverage is generally divided into three categories:
- Preventative – These are procedures designed to identify and treat minor issues before they can develop into major problems. Preventative procedures typically include semi-annual check-ups, cleanings, X-rays, sealants and similar. Most dental insurance policies cover 100% of the costs for preventative procedures. After all, the insurance company saves money when they can avoid paying for major treatments, so preventing problems is in their financial interest.
- Basic – These are treatments for common, routine dental problems. Typical basic dental procedures include fillings, gum disease treatments, extractions and (sometimes) root canals. While the specifics vary, dental insurance usually covers about 70% to 80% of the costs for basic procedures.
- Major – These are more complex dental procedures such as bridges, crowns, inlays, dentures and (again, sometimes) root canals. Dental insurance typically covers about 50% of the costs for major procedures. Dental insurance companies definitely differ on how they classify various procedures. Before purchasing a policy, you want to understand which procedures are considered Basic and which are Major.
When is Dental Insurance a Good Investment?
Before buying a policy, crunch the numbers. Dental insurance doesn’t make financial sense for everyone. You might pay more in premiums, deductibles, and co-pays than you’ll get back in coverage.
Plus, dental insurance policies almost never cover any dental issues you had before purchasing a policy (known as “pre-existing conditions”). For instance, if you currently have a cavity, don’t purchase dental insurance with the expectation that the policy will necessarily cover any fillings.
Dental insurance provides the most benefits for those with no pre-existing conditions who mainly need preventative dental care. Basically, your annual dental needs consist of two check-ups, cleanings and maybe a filling or other minor dental procedure. But even then, make sure dental insurance is the best option for your needs.
Are Alternatives to Dental Insurance Available?
Absolutely! Dental insurance is in no way a requirement for great dental health. Other options are available to help you save on dental visits and procedures.
First, consider paying for procedures with cash or credit card. While this might sound prohibitively expensive at first, out-of-pocket dental costs are likely lower than you imagine. Many dentists offer a discount for patients who pay on their own. Insurance companies are often a time-consuming hassle for dentists to deal with. Payments made at the time of service are much easier to handle, so dentists often encourage patients to pay out-of-pocket by offering a discount.
Government and non-profit programs are another way to potentially save. While Medicare doesn’t cover many dental procedures, the program does cover some aspects of emergency dental care. In certain states, children’s dental care can be covered by the CHIP program. Non-profits such as Mission of Mercy and Remote Area Medical also provide free or low-cost dental area for all ages. Most government and non-profit programs have requirements based on income, location, and need.
Finally, California dental discount plans are a savings option available for everyone. When you join a dental discount plan, you gain access to exclusive member’s only discounts of 15% to 50% on a wide variety of services at thousands of participating dental offices throughout California. Simply present your dental discount plan during your visit for instant savings. Even better, discounts cover treatments for dental problems you currently have, which can be a major advantage over dental insurance.
While dental insurance can help you save at the dentist’s office, it’s not the only option available. Before purchasing a policy, be sure the benefits outweigh the costs. If dental insurance doesn’t make financial sense, check out dental discount plans and other options. A beautiful, healthy smile is affordable today.