Here’s what you need to know to choose the best dental insurance or dental savings plan – from saving on the cost of the plan, reducing the cost of dental care and avoiding unpleasant surprises at the dentist.
Dental checkups and cleanings are the most common type of preventive dental care. Regular checkups enable your dentist to spot and fix little dental issues before they become big problems. Cleanings help prevent dental problems from occurring by removing plaque and tartar from both above and below the gum line. The areas between your teeth will also be cleaned, and your teeth will be polished to create a slippery surface that fights the build-up of plaque.
Your checkup may also include “bitewing” X-rays, which allow the dentist to check for hidden decay and infections, as well as how your teeth line up (your “bite”). Depending on your dental health, you may need bitewing X-rays twice a year, annually or just every two years.
Treatments that fix less-complex dental problems, such as filling cavities, simple tooth extractions (as compared to wisdom teeth extractions, which are usually more complicated), some types of deep cleanings to treat periodontal disease, and root canals.
That said, “basic” dental care is a term used by dental insurance and dental savings plan providers to determine what a plan member will pay for specific services. Your plan may include additional – or fewer – services under its basic category. Check plan details before purchasing to know what treatments are considered basic care, and which are classified as “major” or “restorative” procedures. Dental insurance pays 80% of basic treatments, and only 50% of restorative treatments, so choosing a plan that includes more treatments under the basic category can be a good idea, depending on your dental health.
These are treatments that restore the function, health and/or appearance of your teeth. Dental crowns, bridges, partial and complete dentures are typically included here. Orthodontics and dental implants would be considered restorative care by most dentists, but are often not covered by dental insurance. Dental savings plans are more likely to include discounts for a wider range of restorative care.
Preventing dental disease, or treating it early, results in reduced costs over the long run. That small cavity that may cost $200 or less to fix can turn into a $800-dollar root canal – or a $1,500 replacement tooth. It’s important to remember that dental problems don’t go away when ignored, they progress to more serious oral diseases. Many people think that when the pain of decay fades the tooth has healed. But what that probably means is that the tooth’s pulp and nerve is dying or dead – but that won’t stop the infection from progressing into your gums – and, potentially, your bloodstream.
Dental insurance is designed to provide significant savings on preventive care. Typically, you get two checkups and cleanings at no cost annually with the majority of dental insurance plans. One set of bitewing X-rays annually may also be included. Preventive care is usually covered at 100% even before you meet your annual deductible (which is about $50 annually) After you meet your deductible, basic care is covered at 80% (your insurance pays 80% of the cost of the treatment, you pay 20%) and restorative care is covered at 50%.
Be aware though that once you have hit your annual maximum spending limit ($1000-$1,500 for most individual plans) you’ll have to pay out of pocket for your dental expenses – along with paying your monthly insurance premium - until your plan renews. You can expect to pay about $325 annually for individual dental insurance.
Dental savings plans provide discounts on dental care. Plan members pay the discounted rate directly to a participating dentist. These discounts range from 10%-60%, depending primarily on the plan chosen and the specific dental procedure.
Where dental insurance focuses on preventive care, dental savings plans are a good choice for people who need basic and restorative care. Dental savings plans do not have restrictions regarding annual spending, so members can use their plan to save at the dentist as often as they wish. And, unlike dental insurance, there is no 6-12 month waiting period before plan members can save on restorative care treatments. Additionally, many dental savings plans offer discounts on orthodontics and dental implants. You can expect to pay about $140 annually for an individual dental savings plan.
That depends on your dental care needs. If you have a dentist, ask what types of plans they accept and which one would be the best for you. If you don’t have a dentist, you can simply choose one that accepts your preferred plan. You can use this dentist search tool to easily find dentists near you and the dental plans that they accept.
You can ask an insurance agent about the best deals available. Just make sure that the plan you select adequately covers your dental care needs. And you can easily purchase plans online, at sites like dentalplans.com, where you’ll find tools that let you compare plans based on costs and savings for the dental treatments you need. Signing up for emails/newsletters from sites that sell plans and searching the internet for promo codes is also a great way to find special offers that will enable you to get a great dental plan at an affordable price.
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