As a child, I had what you might call a strange aspiration. I wanted to become a dentist. Most kids hate going to the dentist because of all the needles and drills, but twice a year I had a wide smile on my face because I knew that it was dental visit day.
I would start the day knowing that I was getting out of school early, which is always a day to look forward to. Once I finally made it to the dentist, there was always that enjoyable 30 minute waiting period where I could read my favorite “Highlights” magazine and find all of the missing objects on the back page. When my turn came up, I was in and out in 15 minutes. While a cleaning and a couple of x-rays tingled, it was well worth the price of an enjoyable day.
Somewhere along the line, my adoration for molars, incisors, bicuspids and canines faded away. Now being older and a wee-bit wiser, I have grown to be like most Americans in hating the dentist. Check-ups take valuable work time out of my day. And after leaving my office job, I no longer have a dental plan, which is where I’m going with this article in case you were wondering.
This is the first time in my life since I’ve had big boy teeth that I haven’t carried dental insurance. It’s also the first time I’ve done research on the subject, and shopping for a dental plan has proven to be quite the task. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find an all inclusive dental plan. Meaning that whenever I needed a procedure, there were going to be out of pocket expenses.
Different types of plans provide different types of coverages, so the first step would be to better understand the types of plans available. As far as discount dental insurance is concerned, there are three major plan types:
- Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) : A DHMO provides coverage to individuals who choose dentists that are part of the DHMO plan. These plans are generally the cheapest, but restrict the dentists you can visit.
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A PPO is a little less strictive in that it allows you to choose your favorite dentist. The plan details are usually the same as a DHMO, and you should check with your dentist to confirm that they will abide by your PPO plan.
- Indemnity Plan: An indemnity plan is the most straightforward of all dental plans in that you pay a higher than average premium. In return, you receive a standard discount on all dental procedures. A typical indemnity dental plan would cost $20 a month and cover 70% of all dental costs, no matter the procedure.
The next step in my journey took me to DentalPlans.com, where I was able to compare a large number of dental insurance quotes for free. An example of the comparison page is below:
The premiums for all of the plans you see on this page are relatively inexpensive and range between $8 and $15 a month. You’ll notice a tab selector at the top of the page which allows you to not only compare routine work, but also things like crowns, root canals and extractions. Unlike medical plans, dental plans do not carry things like deductible amounts or co-insurance, so the figures you see above are fairly straight forward. Most plans cover between 30% and 70% of all dental procedures, so you might be thinking that if you have to have a few procedures done, picking up a plan can save you thousands in just a few weeks. Think again my friend.
Every single discount plan I could find, including ones that are paid for by employers, allow for only $1,000-$2,000 worth of annual coverage. This means that when you have used up $1,000-$2,000 worth of dental discounts, you are now paying full price for any other procedures or visits made within a calendar year. I tried to find a more expensive, all inclusive dental plan but came up empty. It got me wondering if having only $1,000 worth of coverage is worth the cost of carrying a dental plan.
Even though there is a limit to the amount of coverage I can obtain each year, spending just over $100 a year for $1,000 a year is the right investment. Right now, I certainly don’t need anything more than two yearly checkups, but I don’t want to be caught with an extreme tooth-ache without having that insurance to fall back on. Even if you don’t think you need dental insurance, the benefits exponentially outweigh the costs, so don’t go another minute without making your whites pearly.