Do I Really Need Dental Insurance?
You absolutely need health insurance. It’s not just about covering the occasional doctor’s appointment – it’s a safety net if an accident occurs. You don’t want to be saddled with thousands of dollars in medical expenses if you’re in a car accident or suddenly face a serious illness. Medical insurance is non negotiable.
But what about dental insurance?
Let’s get one thing straight: Attaching the word “insurance” to the end of another word doesn’t make it an instant necessity. That’s why most of us don’t fall for insurance scams. But dental health is closely tied to our overall wellbeing. But does that automatically mean everyone should have it?
Short answer: Not necessarily. If you’re experiencing some issues with your oral health, you shouldn’t shy away from getting it checked out just because you don’t have dental insurance. You especially shouldn’t be apprehensive about at least getting it checked out by a dentist to make sure it’s not something very serious. But dental insurance may not be necessary for every person – it comes down to the level of the care you need, and how much you’re willing to pay for a plan.
64 percent of Americans have dental insurance, most of them through AARP, Medicaid, Tricare (for military families)or the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program. While that’s a significant proportion of the country, that still leaves 36 percent of Americans who are living without it. Most of these plans have an average deductible of $50 and a yearly maximum of $1,000. This “yearly maximum” indicates how much an insurance company will cover per calendar year. Whatever services you require over that maximum will come out of your own pocket.
If you’re currently without dental insurance, it’s important you know how to distinguish between the three primary types:
- Indemnity Plan – You choose a provider of your choice, the plan will pay for a percentage of your dental fees.
- PPO – Preferred Provider Organization. A group of practitioners agree to reduce fees within their network. You can visit practitioners within this network for reduced fees. You can visit out-of-network dentists, but it’ll cost more.
- HMO – Health Maintenance Organization. They cut costs by requiring members to only use providers within the network.
If dental insurance is included in your health care plan from your workplace, it will likely fall into one of those three categories.
If you’re deciding whether or not you should opt for dental insurance independently, it’s important to have a firm understanding of your yearly dental budget. Once you know what potential coverage would be, you can determine if it’s worth the investments. A normal coverage plan looks something like this:
- Preventative care: Cleanings, X-rays, etc. 100 Percent covered.
- Basic procedures: Fillings, extractions, etc. 70-80 Percent covered.
- Major procedures: Crowns, bridges, implants, root canals, etc. Usually 50 Percent or less covered.
Cosmetic care normally isn’t covered at all.
Whether or not dental insurance is worth it really depends on what plan you’re on and the level of services you require. If you’re only going in for one or two cleanings a year, and your at-home preventative care is optimal, dental insurance may not be worth the investment. On the other hand, if you have frequent oral problems or are seeking coverage for your family, it could be worth the yearly premium.
When determining if the cost of a plan is worth the price tag, you should consider the annual price of the premiums, the cost of the dental care you need, your policy’s limit on how much it will pay in benefits, and the policy coverage.
It’s pretty easy to calculate how much you should expect to pay on dental care yearly. These prices tend to fluctuate yearly, but they’ll usually stay around this scale:
Teeth cleaning: $85
White filling: $150
Root canal: Up to $900
If you really only need a cleaning or two per year, you may not need to invest in a full dental plan. On the flip side, if you consistently require very expensive procedures, you’ll probably exhaust your yearly maximum pretty early and then pay for everything out of pocket anyway.
That’s not to dissuade anyone from seeking insurance – for some families, it’s a great investment when you’re booking cleanings for the whole family. There are, however, other methods to budget your dental care without a plan. Here are some money-saving alternatives:
It could be less expensive to pay for your care out of your own pocket. Many dentists offer discounts for individuals without dental insurance who pay for their appointment up front and in full.
You can save a lot of money by simply taking great care of your teeth. Keeping up with brushing and flossing can prevent many problems. But if you suspect an issue is developing, don’t just try to fix it yourself – always consult a professional!
Find a Discount Dental Plan
This will take a little research. You can find some pretty cheap dental insurance plans just by looking around online. Be wary of low-cost plans that are also low-value. On the other hand, don’t invest in a high-cost plan just for the sake of it. You should always research the details of a plan prior to investing.
Find a Dentist Who Offers Discounts
Some dentist will offer slight discounts for patients without dental insurance, especially if they can pay in full on the day of their appointment. Make sure to check out possible payment plans as well if this isn’t an option.
Low-Cost or Free Clinics
Some communities offer free dental clinics where anyone can go in for dental care. The best place to look is often dental schools – The University of Washington offers free dental treatment through their school!
Oftentimes, treatments in urban areas are slightly more expensive. Get out of the city to find cheaper fees!
Here’s the bottom line: Dental insurance isn’t worth it if you don’t use it. If dentists visits aren’t a normal part of your year, dental insurance won’t do you very good. You should always know your budget and your needs and plan accordingly, and remember: There’s not one strategy or plan that works for everyone.
At Paradigm, we’re fully equipped to work with our patients who come into our office without insurance! We offer a 3 percent discounts for patients who can pay in full on the day of their appointment and do not have insurance. We can also come up with a payment plan to accommodate your needs. We believe everyone has a right to comprehensive dental care, so we’ll do whatever we can do make sure you receive the treatment you need.