One of the smartest things you can do is insure your mouth. But how do you know what the best dental insurance is?
Honestly, it depends on what you need and what you can afford.
But whether you need a tooth extraction, a cavity filled, a regular cleaning, or even an implant, dental insurance can cover most or all of the costs.
But let’s back up for a second: what does a dental insurance policy do exactly?
At its most basic, dental insurance is similar to (but not exactly like) health insurance. You pay a monthly premium and get certain oral health services covered, whether completely or partially with a co-pay. We’ll get into the details of how insurance works below.
Top 5 Dental Insurance Companies
First, let’s get to the main question you’re probably asking, “How do I know what insurance plan to choose?”
You’re not alone in asking this question. So below, we’ll cover the top 5 dental insurance plans on the market right now.
Spirit Dental gets it. They have affordable plans, a super easy signup process, and guaranteed acceptance. What more could you want in a dental insurance company?
Operating under Direct Benefits, Inc., Spirit Dental offers individual and small group private dental, disability, life, and vision insurance.
As for the cost, they have plans with annual premiums that start at $1,200 for the first year, then go to $2,500 the second year, and then go to $5,000 in the third year and each year after that. Alternatively, you may be able to get a flat annual rate of either $1,200 or $5,000, depending on where you live.
Humana is one of the most well-known and trusted insurance companies out there. Their dental plans are more geared toward older folks and those with Medicare.
After the one-time enrollment fee of $35 (and other fees totaling $1.70), you’ll pay a monthly premium of $21.24. This comes with an annual maximum of $1,000 (excluding discounts).
Guardian is another very trusted name in the dental world, providing plans for individuals, employees, and groups. Convenience is a big thing with them — they don’t require you to fill out claim forms, and they pay claims in less than two days.
On the low end, you can get a plan for $22 a month with an annual maximum of $1,500. The more people on your plan (up to three), the more you can save.
Cigna has everything from super simple, cheap plans to more pricey, comprehensive plans. Although it has a dentist network that’s on the smaller side, it still covers a lot of services out-of-network.
With Cigna, you can save up to 39% on a plan with three people. You can spend as little as $31 per month, which is not a bad deal.
Metlife offers individual, group, and employee PPO dental plans as well as plans you can take with you if you transfer jobs. With low premiums and even emergency dental care, MetLife is another trusted name in the health world.
You can grab a plan for as little as $23 a month with a $50 deductible, and this includes regular twice-a-year cleanings and an X-ray every 36 months.
Do You Need Dental Insurance?
By the end of 2016, about 33% of Americans did not have dental benefits. That’s a lot of people. And now you may be wondering, “Should I join that group of uninsured Americans?”
As you can probably tell, the monthly premiums vary depending on your location, insurance company, and the plan you choose. Even though the cost of insurance may concern you, the cost of dental work without insurance is even more concerning.
Also, dental insurance is not exactly like health insurance. The idea of insurance is to protect you from the worst-case scenario, and the worst-case scenario with dental issues is much less risky than with health issues.
Typically, you spend somewhere around $600 a year on premiums. If you have a normal year with regular cleanings and exams and no insurance, you’d probably spend around $400. So if you do have insurance and nothing serious happens in terms of your oral health, you’ll actually end up losing $200 for the year.
But that’s assuming you’ll have a good year of oral health.
If you do need extra work to be done — like filling a cavity, a root canal, or even a crown — it would be better if you already have an insurance plan.
But remember, dental insurance plans have annual maximums, usually around $1,000. This means that once your dental care exceeds $1,000 for the year, you pay everything above that. In addition to that, you’re still responsible for paying the co-pays, which can be up to 10% on preventative care, up to 20% for fillings, and up to 50% for root canals.
Also, keep in mind that not every dental insurance plan covers orthodontic or cosmetic services (like braces or dental implants). So if you think you’ll need these things in the near future, you may want to find a plan that will cover them. For example, if you’re a senior citizen, it’s likely that you’ll need extra oral care as enamel degrades as we age.
Is Dental Insurance Worth It?
Well, think of it like this: by the time you need dental work, it may be too late to get a plan.
Many dental plans have waiting periods, so if you wait until you need dental care, too much time may pass for you to get the problem fixed in time. This was implemented by the insurance companies to keep people from doing this (insurance companies do have to make money).
So for example, you may not be covered for a root canal for the first year you have insurance — the reason they do this is because people who need a root canal need one immediately. If there were no waiting periods, people could very easily take advantage of insurance companies (which would then go out of business.
An alternative (or supplement) to dental insurance is getting a discount dental plan. These are not insurance plans, but discount plans that can help you save up to 60% on any and all dental services. And the annual price for the plan is often cheaper than insurance (usually under $200 a year, sometimes under $100 a year).
So the verdict? It’s smarter to get some sort of dental coverage now, whether it’s insurance or a discount plan.
Good Dental Insurance – What Should It Be?
If you decide to get dental insurance, what should you look for? What are the characteristics and costs of good dental insurance?
PPO plans (preferred provider organization) are the most popular type of plans. They allow you to see dentists outside of your designated (or “preferred”) network and even cover some of the costs, but you’ll usually get a discounted rate if you see a dentist within the preferred network.
HMO plans, on the other hand, only cover dental care costs if you visit professionals within a limited network. You will not get any coverage help if you go to dentists who do not participate in the network for you plan.
And finally, there are indemnity plans. These plans let you see any dentist you like and covers a percentage of the cost. However, there are no special discounts for seeing certain doctors (as with a PPO).
Dental Insurance Coverage
This comes down to what you need, or what you think you’ll need.
But ideally, you’ll want an insurance plan that fully covers routine care — regular cleanings, exams, and X-rays. It should also have some sort of coverage for other common but not regular dental services, like cavity fillings and root canals.
As for extra services, like orthodontic and cosmetic procedures. If you find a plan that covers those types of care, you’ll probably be looking at a much higher premium.
Dental Insurance Cost
The best-case scenario is to find a plan with a very low premium that covers all the basic services. Based on the plans we covered above, you can find a decent plan for $20-30 per month and have all of the regular services covered.
You’ll also want to look for a plan with a high annual maximum. That way, it will be less likely that you will have to pay out-of-pocket expenses.
- Dental insurance helps cover basic dental services as well as some complex services and procedures
- Most people will be able to find a dental insurance plan that fits their needs, it’s just a matter of doing the research
- Every person should have dental coverage, whether it’s dental insurance or a discount dental plan
- Out of the three types of insurance plans (PPO, HMO, indemnity), it’s important to know what services are covered and how much the premium is
- It’s also important to know how much you could potentially end up paying in the worst-case scenario (see what the annual maximum is)