If you are thinking about buying private dental insurance because you don’t receive it through employer benefits, it might not be worth the cost even if you need extensive dental work. This article will help you decide if you should jump right in with private dental insurance.
Dental health is a concern for a lot of people. One in four Americans does not have dental insurance. Those over 65 years of age, only half of them have coverage, according to the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP).
About two-thirds of those who do have coverage get it from work. If offered, it almost always makes sense to accept it because employers subsidize the monthly premiums and they can negotiate lower rates for dentists in their network. The employee’s contribution toward the premium is generally pretty low. This makes it a pretty appealing option.
Getting regular dental checkups is important for your overall health. Untreated conditions can lead to serious health problems. Getting routine dental care can prevent more serious and costly treatments down the road, says Dave Preble, D.D.S., senior vice president of the American Dental Association’s Practice Institute.
But when employer insurance isn’t an option, there are other ways you can get dental care that can be more affordable than paying the premiums for insurance on your own.
How Dental Insurance Works
Employer-provided and stand-alone plans operate pretty much the same way. Benefits vary. Plans typically cover 100 percent of preventive care, such as regular check-ups and cleaning. They will cover 80 percent of basic services like filling cavities and pulling teeth, and 50 percent of extensive work, such as root canals, bridges, and crowns.
Most plans have annual deductibles of $50 to $100 and usually limit annual coverage amounts, with a median cap of $1,500, according to the National Association of Dental Plans.
Whether you have an employer-provided plan or a private one, you’ll still pay a lot out of pocket if you need extensive work. And if you buy dental insurance and wind up needing only basic care, you could end up paying more in monthly premiums than if you paid for the individual services yourself.
The problem is, that the cheapest plans often don’t have a robust provider network, so it may be difficult finding a dentist who takes that insurance.
Given the high cost of dentistry, it’s easy to see how paying for a plan with a low annual max plus a monthly premium may not make sense.
Given all that, “it’s hard to make paying for private dental coverage seem worthwhile,” he says. “If you’re one of those people who doesn’t need a lot of dental work, you are likely to save money by paying out of pocket.”
But there is one exception to the common thinking. If one having coverage will make them more likely to go to the dentist, that’s an important argument in favor of buying dental insurance, says Preble.
Though limited, some major dental work may be covered by your health insurance, such as a serious dental procedure that requires hospitalization or treatment in an emergency room for a mouth injury because of an accident.
How to Save Money On Dental Care
With or without dental insurance, there are many ways to make dental care more affordable.
1 – Get coverage if you can. Employer-subsidized plans are the best way to get dental care covered for working adults. For seniors over sixty-five, Medicare insurance doesn’t cover dental services, but they can buy a private Medicare Advantage plan with a supplemental plan for dental coverage. Some states also provide a dental benefit to adults who have Medicaid.
If you’re a veteran and have a service-connected disability, you may be eligible for free comprehensive dental care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Other veterans can buy dental insurance at a reduced rate.
2 – Create a dental emergency fund. Put money aside that you might have used for premiums. With a flexible spending account, which is available only with workplace healthcare plans, you can put away money to pay for medical expenses, including dental, that your insurer doesn’t cover.
3 – Go to a dental school. You could pay thirty percent to forty percent less on dental services at university dental schools compared to private practices. You will get care from students supervised by dentists but the downside is that it’s very time consuming.
4 – Consider a dental savings plan. There are membership programs, where you can pay $80 to $200 a month to get access to a network of dentists who offer discounts. Check the number of dentists locally that participate. You can search for a savings plan at DentalPlans.com.
5 – Check a community health center. Some offer dental care and charge on a sliding scale based on your income. But they may have limited services and, possibly, waiting lists.
6 – Spread out services. Many employer plans provide 100 percent coverage for getting a checkup twice a year. If you’re paying on your own and in good dental health, once a year may just be enough according to American Dental Association guidelines, says Preble.
No matter which way you decide to go. Make sure that you take your dental health very seriously. There are many ways to help in getting payment assistance on these dental bills.
A dentist like Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg cares for his patients unlike any other dentist in the South Florida, primarily the Plantation area. Whether you are getting extensive work done like a root canal, Invisalign, crowns, or full dentures, or lighter work such as whitening, fillings, or preventative oral care, this is your dentist’s office.
Dr. Rosenberg is a Miami, Florida native who received his undergrad degree from Emory University and got his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Georgetown University Dental School. He has been in private practice for over 20 years. Dr. Rosenberg is President-Elect of the Broward County Dental Association. He is Vice President of the Broward Dental Research Clinic where has been on the board of directors for five years. He is a member of the Intracoastal Study Club. Professional memberships include the American Dental Association, the Florida Dental Association, the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association, and the Broward County Dental Association.