Do You Need Dental Coverage?

By Tim Parker | June 15, 2012 AAA
Do You Need Dental Coverage?

Your health insurance covers just about everything except your teeth. When it's time to head to the dentist, your health insurance likely turns a blind eye to your ailing chompers, but that's not to say that a trip to the dentist isn't going to take a bite out of your wallet. Much like your car, it doesn't take much to spend a thousand dollars or more. A crown may cost $1,500, and a root canal might run you $300 to $1,000. Even a simple cleaning will likely come in at more than $100. Dentists aren't cheap and that's why dental insurance coverage may be appropriate for you.

Not Insurance
Delta Dental, one of the largest providers of dental coverage, prefers to call its coverage, "dental benefits." While the technicalities may not be important to you, how the plans work is something worth understanding. With health insurance, you pay your deductible and then a significantly smaller portion of the rest of the bill. Dental coverage is the opposite. You receive a certain amount of coverage, and after that you're on your own to pay the balance of the bill. Once you hit your yearly maximum, you have to either wait until next year for more work or pay the expenses from your own wallet.

Why so Low?
If a root canal and crown combo could cost you $2,500 or more, why are the annual coverage maximums so low? A Delta Dental spokesperson says that the premiums individuals and businesses would be charged for a much higher maximum might be too cost prohibitive. Plus, according to the National Association of Dental Providers, less than 3% of those covered by dental benefit plans reach the current maximums.

The Cost
First, ask your employer if dental coverage is available for you and your family. Many companies offer these plans along with traditional health insurance offerings. If you're forced to pay for your own coverage, expect to pay between $12 and $50 per person, per month. Other plans allow you to pay a yearly fee that qualifies you for discounted rates at member dentists. These plans often cost between $75 and $100 per person each year. According to The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, each plan comes out to about the same out-of-pocket costs once all dental bills are paid. Like any insurance product, shopping around for the best rate and terms will take some time, but they may result in significant cost savings over time.

The Alternative
It's true that your teeth may cost you an arm and a leg, but if 97% of the population spends less than the maximum benefit of $2,000 each year, why not set aside that money to cover those costs if they arise? Why pay for an insurance-type product if you're financially able to serve as your own insurance company? This may also be a good use for your emergency fund.

The Bottom Line
Your teeth can get expensive, especially as you get older. For this reason, dental coverage may be appropriate for you and your family. Ask your employer if it offers coverage. If the company doesn't, check online for the best rates and call and speak to each of the providers. Ask to see the policy before enrolling and make sure that your dental benefits provider will cover your trips to your dentist.

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