What Is Dental Insurance?
Dental insurance provides a range of coverage for various dental procedures including preventive care and more involved services like fillings, crowns, and root canals. Like other types of insurance, dental insurance requires you to pay a monthly insurance premium, and you may also pay an annual or lifetime deductible as well as copayments when you visit a dentist for care.
Still, dental insurance works differently than health insurance in terms of how much coverage you can receive. Where the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) meant limits can no longer apply to health care coverage in any given year, dental insurance plans often come with annual limits as low as $750 or $1,000 per person. Once your annual maximum benefit amount is met, you will have to pay for dental care out of pocket. Also note that dental insurance frequently comes with waiting periods that can vary depending on the type of care you need.
Make sure you don’t confuse dental insurance with dental discount plans. Dental discount plans only offer reduced pricing on services for dentists in a specific network.
What Does Dental Insurance Typically Include?
Dental insurance plans can vary widely, and this includes what they will and will not include. For this reason, you should read over the terms and conditions of any plan you’re considering to make sure that basic care like fillings as well as major services like crowns and bridges are included in your coverage.
For the most part, the majority of dental insurance plans cover preventive care like cleanings and X-rays at 100%, although waiting periods may apply. Coverage for basic services like fillings, root canals, and tooth extractions is also included, although it’s normally limited to a percentage of the cost (i.e., 50%). You can also buy coverage that includes major services like crowns, bridges, dental implants, and orthodontics, although plans that cover major services tend to cost more and limit the payout to 50% in most cases.
What Does Dental Insurance Typically Exclude?
Dental insurance doesn’t normally cover cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening, and you may also struggle to find coverage for pre-existing conditions such as missing teeth. Some plans leave out major services like dental implants and orthodontic care altogether. Make sure to read over your dental insurance policy to see what it includes and excludes.
What Are the Expected Costs of Dental Insurance?
The cost of dental insurance varies widely depending on where you live, your age, and the plan you select. However, it may be possible to find a plan that costs less than $20 per month for an individual depending on your state and county.
Note that less expensive dental insurance plans tend to cover only a small percentage of services and come with low annual benefit limits. More robust plans can easily cost more like $40 to $60 per month for an individual, although you’ll get more coverage, higher annual benefit amounts, and more included services in return.
Is Paying for Dental Insurance Worth It?
Only you can decide if paying for dental insurance is worth it. However, you should take the time to run some basic cost analysis to determine how much you would pay for dental insurance premiums, copayments, and deductibles per year versus how much you’ve actually paid for dental care in previous years.
According to an analysis from the American Dental Association, most people would actually be better off paying for dental care out of pocket. “For the majority of adults, total copayments, coinsurance, and premiums exceed the ‘market’ value of their dental care,” they write.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll get a lot more value out of your dental insurance plan if you actually use it. The ADA says that more than one out of three adults with dental insurance don’t use their plan, which could be part of the reason many aren’t getting enough value for the money they invest in dental insurance each month.
How We Chose the Best Dental Insurance Companies
We looked at more than 20 dental insurance plans to come up with the providers in our ranking. Not only did we look for plans with the broadest networks of dentists available, but we also looked for plans with reasonable annual benefit maximums and the potential for low premiums. While many of the plans on our list come with waiting periods, we tried to select providers that don’t list cumbersome waiting periods that make using coverage difficult.
We also looked for dental insurance companies with strong ratings in terms of their financial strength, mostly by comparing ratings from Standard & Poor’s and AM Best.
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