Is Dental Insurance Worth It?

Is dental insurance worth it

Don’t have dental insurance? Don’t worry. You CAN afford quality dental care without it. Besides the fact that dental insurance is very limited in coverage, not having it can actually make you a healthier patient and a smarter consumer.  So is dental insurance worth it? Read on, you may be surprised by the answer. 

Let’s be clear: If your employer is going to fully pay for your dental insurance, it’s a great perk to have. However, if you’re forced to pay for part or all of it, you may find that its benefits aren’t strong enough to outweigh the costs.

Dental Insurance has Very Limited Coverage

Many people overestimate the value of dental insurance. Dental insurance is like AAA (American Automobile Association), which provides emergency road assistance and other services to its members.

If you crash your car in a catastrophic accident, your car insurance covers the costs, not AAA. However, if you need to replace your windshield wipers, a chipped windshield or tow your car, AAA will cover the costs.

Similarly, if you have a major dental accident, like knocking out all your teeth, it’s not dental insurance that covers the costs, but homeowners insurance, health insurance or workers comp. Dental insurance will cover smaller issues, like root canals, general cleanings and tooth extractions.

Considering this, most of the procedures that you would pay for without insurance are not hugely expensive. In fact, dental treatment generally costs less than your cell phone bill when spread out over time. Here’s what else.

  • It won’t cover anything cosmetic: If you need a veneer, tooth colored crown, tooth colored filling or teeth whitening, your insurance is unlikely to pay.
  • The average plan doesn’t exceed $1,000 in coverage per year. It also generally includes cost sharing, meaning it will only cover half of a procedure, requiring you to pay the rest out of pocket.For instance, If you need a root canal, which costs between $800 and $1,200, you’ll still end up paying $400 to $600. What if you need a general cleaning, tooth extraction and filling on top of that? Now you’re insurance is going to hit that $1,000 cap, leaving you to pay for most of the procedures yourself.
  • It has long wait times for procedures: Once your insurance does approve a procedure, you’re likely to wait a while before they will pay for it. Waiting periods for more major procedures, like root canals, can be up to a year.

These are some of the major issues with dental insurance. But beyond these stipulations, not having insurance can actually benefit you in a couple of ways.

Being Uninsured can make you a Healthier Patient

There is far more known about dentistry today than ever before. For example, we know that almost all dental problems are caused by the following:

  • Sipping or drinking a lot of coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks and juice
  • Not flossing
  • Not brushing
  • Things that promote acid reflux, like bulimia or pregnancy

Keeping these things in mind, it’s pretty easy to avoid some of the most common preventable dental issues. Most other unpreventable major issues are caused by a bigger, underlying health problem.

Therefore, if you are paying out of pocket, we find patients are more likely to practice healthy dental habits so they don’t need to pay more down the road. It’s more expensive to pay for poor dental hygiene later on than to just keep your mouth healthy in the first place.

All dentist offices should be practicing early detection with their patients, finding out potential problems ahead of time and discussing how you can prevent them from manifesting. Thus, it’s easier than ever to keep your mouth healthy and avoid paying to fix your mistakes later on.

Being Uninsured can make you a Smarter Consumer

Being uninsured can make you more conscious of what you buy

Because dentistry and other medical practices often get lumped together, people have the false illusion that just as they need medical insurance, they also need dental insurance.

However, when it comes to paying for care, the two industries are vastly different. Many of the transparency issues in medicine that require insurance don’t exist in dentistry. Dentistry is fully transparent in what procedures cost and why, so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

This allows you to make more educated choices regarding your dentistry. Without insurance, you’re less likely to undergo an unnecessary procedure. Instead, you’ll research and discuss the procedure with your dentist to determine if it’s necessary. This sort of cost understanding and gives you greater control over your dental care, which helps you save money.

Along these lines, dentist offices should understand your dental wishes and only meet those needs. They shouldn’t try to sell you something that you don’t want or need.

Some dentist offices even go a step further to save you money if you’re uninsured. For instance, at Family Dental Care, we give discounts up to 10 percent for people who pay at the time of treatment without insurance. For amounts over $5,000, discounts range from 15-20%. We also set up layaway plans with our patients or allow them to spread out their payments over a full year without interest.

If you’re considering purchasing dental insurance, first consult your dentist. They can help you determine if it’s worth the investment based on your dental history and outlook.

However, as we’ve explained, you will not suffer as an uninsured patient. Not only is dental insurance extremely limited in it’s coverage, not having it can make you a smarter, healthier consumer. Don’t make a hasty decision to purchase dental insurance. You can still get great dental care at an affordable price without it.

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Dr. Russell Christian

Dr. Russell Christian, DDS, is the owner of Family Dental Care, based in Mount Horeb, WI.