We hear a lot about the growing number of Americans who lack health insurance. Right now, the number is close to 50 million people. But did you know that twice that many Americans lack dental insurance plans. They are even rarer than medical plans! Some companies do not offer them. Other uncoached people may be unemployed or self-employed, and so they lack dental benefits. In addition, Medicare does not cover many dental services, so many seniors look for additional coverage.
However, some dental services are very expensive. Some people may even put off getting regular checks or having small problems fixed because they are worried about the bill. When regular checks, teeth cleaning, or routine fillings get neglected, then small problems can grow into large ones. It is important to figure out how you can afford dental care.
Dental Insurance Policies
A typical dental insurance policy will cover many routine services. You should be able to have checksups, teeth cleanings, and even normal fillings attended to by paying a small deductible or copay. If you need more expensive services like crowns or bridges, it will probably mean you have to be concerned about a yearly maximum which many policies have.
Be sure and check into the details of any policy you plan on buying to make sure you understand how it handles covered services, and how much you will have to pay if the services are covered. Also note the plan's yearly maximum payout. And finally, take note of which services are not covered at all.
What services are not covered? The answer to that question depends upon the policy. But many dental policies do not cover cosmetic dentistry or orthodontic braces. If you are buying a policy to help you cover those expenses, be sure the policy you pick will help you.
Also note that some plans pose waiting periods on some covered services. For example, a dental plan may cover routine fillings right away, but force you to be insured for 12 months before crowns will be covered.
Many dental policies also have a network or dental providers. This means you will get the highest level of coverage if you stick to that network or participating providers. Sometimes you will get a better deal on unclosed services because of the network.
Dental Discount Plans vs. Dental Insurance
You may also explore another alternative to an actual dental insurance policy. A dental discount plan is not insurance, but does help members save money by giving them a network of providers who agree to charge lower prices to people who join the plans. They are typically much cheaper than policies, and there is usually no waiting period.
In addition if there are participating specialists on the plan, you may be able to find cheaper cosmetic or orthodontic services, even if they are not covered by your dental policy.
You can search the network. Your own dentists, or dentists in your area, may already participate. Sometimes buying an actual dental insurance policy is the right thing to do. But after you consider deductibles, copayments, monthly premiums, and yearly coverage limits, you may find that a discount dental plan works out just as well.
by Marilyn Katz