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Dental Insurance: Is It Worth It?

Updated on August 27, 2015

Chew It Over

Yesterday, my mom and I got caught up on our daily call, before she rushed me off the phone as she headed into her dentist appointment. It was only one in a line of scheduled appointments, leaving her frustrated at the amount of damage and time being spent on her mouth. She was headed in for a bridge, a relatively painless procedure, made even more painful by the cost. In an effort to refrain from spilling about how much it cost, I’ll just say it was upward of $1000 and lower than $2000, leaving my mom with a nice little hole in her pocket. The craziest, most heart breaking thing of all? That price tag is with dental insurance already added in. Dentistry is expensive and is made even more so by the lack of people going for bi-annual checkups. If you’re still on the fence about getting dental insurance, let me break the benefits of it down for you.

Do You Have Dental Insurance?

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The 100-80-50

In case you didn’t notice, the dentist and all that comes with it can be extremely expensive. Paying out of pocket for even a check up can run you anywhere from $150 to $500 dollars depending on how deep the cleaning is and whether or not you have any x-rays taken. With dental insurance, however, you’re able to cut this cost to practically nothing, paying only a small price for a thorough cleaning. Most reputable dental insurances work along the 100-80-50 rule.

  • 100% or close to of your dental cleanings and preventative procedures are covered by your insurance
  • 80% or close to of your dental fillings and other basic procedures such as root canals are covered by your insurance
  • 50% or close to of all major procedures or dental surgeries are covered by your insurance

This means that instead of paying something like $1,400 for a crown you’ll only be paying roughly $700. If that isn’t worth the insurance then I don’t know what is.

Is It Worth the Risk?

A misconception about dental insurance is that it’s overly expensive. Of course, my argument for that is what’s more expensive in the long run: $6,000 worth of work or something as low as $450 a year? I’d say that the choice seems pretty simple but it’s still not for everyone. As with regular health insurance, an investment in dental insurance is made not for the appointments that you make for prevention. If that were the case many of us could spend $150 twice a year on our teeth. The real reason for dental insurance is for when something goes wrong—like really wrong. Mouth pains aside, when a tooth is cracked and an infection occurs, you’re at risk of an abscess that can threaten not only your tooth but your livelihood as well. It can lead to painful doctor visits, surgeries, and time spent away from work, all resulting in a loss of cash flow. When it comes down to it, paying $500 a year is better than having to, or being unable to, pay for when something really goes wrong out of your pocket. Instead, put your teeth and therefore your health in good hands by avoiding the risk of being unable to afford dental care.

Over the Year

Another perk of dental insurance? While it may cost you, dental insurance, like health insurance, can be spread out over the course of a year. This means that you will not be required to pay a lump sum up front unless this is what you choose to do. Dental insurances, much like any other insurance, will work with you on your payment plan. This will provide you with some flexibility in how many times a year you make a payment. Whether once a year, twice a year, or spread out over the course of twelve months, so long as you continue with your payments your insurance will help you find something that works for you.

As A Part of Your Health Insurance

When the affordable care act came out, many people were excited to have all of their healthcare concerns addressed in one easy way. While that isn’t the case with all people, the affordable care act did make a point to not include health insurance in the lineup of procedures covered. This means that with 35% of the adult population refuting their annual checkups, they still don’t have the coverage they might have been hoping for when the affordable care act came out. Likewise, many jobs offer health insurance plans that will cover you in the event of an emergency. Yet, these too, more often than not, leave off dental insurance coverage. Instead of banking on your job to cover you in the event of an emergency, choose to do your research on your own. There are many health insurance companies that offer dental as well for an additional low monthly cost. For those already paying an exorbitant monthly fee, this addition will typically be low, meaning it will hardly be noticed when you go to make your monthly health insurance payment. Discuss with your current insurance provider what their dental plans cover, how much work they’ll help with, and how much of a deductible you will face yearly.

Still Nervous?

Know that if you’re still on the fence and think that it might not be worth it that you’re not alone. On average those under forty, with a bachelor’s degree, and incomes upward of $40,000 a year, are most likely to invest in dental insurance. But guess what: they aren’t the only people who need to be worried about their teeth!

People afraid of taking the plunge on dental insurance are afraid for three main reasons:

  1. It’s not affordable
  2. It’s not covered by their employer—and therefore unaffordable
  3. It isn’t necessary

If I’ve shown you anything, however, it’s that health insurance can indeed be affordable, even when not offered by your employer. Researching what dental insurance is right for you and at what cost, is key in finding not only an affordable plan, but one that won’t leave you feeling like you’ve spent a ton of money on nothing throughout the year. As to it not being necessary? I ask how many people you've known who have time and again faced a dental emergency, only to pay out of pocket for thousands of dollars worth of work. It happens more than you think and usually to those who don’t think they have anything to worry about.

My recommendation for those still filled with uncertainty is to not only do your homework beforehand, but to look into credit cards, such as Care Credit. Many dentists accept these cards as a form of payment, allowing you to spread out the out-of-pocket cost across six or twelve months, depending on the price paid. This will make affording treatment easier and puts less of a strain on your wallet.

Considering Waiting?

Thinking that perhaps you like the sound of dental insurance but will wait until something serious happens before drinking the kool-aid completely? Good luck. You won’t be the first person to have attempted this, nor will you be the last. Dental insurance providers are aware of those people who are looking for a quick fix but plan on stopping their insurance the moment they’ve gotten the help they need. This means that they’ve set stringent rules in place, preventing such a thing from occurring. If you crack a tooth or need a bridge placed and sign up for dental insurance while scheduling your appointment for the following week, you and your bank account will be shocked to find that you won’t be covered. Insurance companies will require that you spend a year on their plan before you schedule any major procedures, meaning that you and your wallet will be out of luck.

From my own personal experience, I’d say wholeheartedly to yes, make the investment and settle into a dental insurance company you love. Your teeth, after all, are one of—if not the—first thing that people see when they talk to you. They’re what you chew with, what you talk with, and what you smile brightly with. So why not treat not only your health, but those pearly whites to a little TLC—everything from your teeth to your wallet will be glad you did.


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