More than half of adults have put off dental care due to cost. But while delaying procedures might save money upfront, it often leads to a much bigger expense down the road. For example, it costs less to have a cavity filled now than to have a root canal later.
Unfortunately, many dental insurance plans require a waiting period for certain services, meaning treatments like fillings and root canals won’t be covered for six months to a year or longer after the policy's start date. This could create complications if you don’t already have dental insurance when a time-sensitive problem arises.
But it doesn’t mean you’re entirely out of luck. Some dental insurance companies offer plans with no waiting periods so that you can get coverage for preventive, basic, and major services—and sometimes even orthodontics—without having to wait a single day. We scoured the market for these policies and found seven with reasonable premiums and great benefits that you can start taking advantage of the moment you begin coverage.
The 7 Best Dental Insurance Plans With No Waiting Period of 2021
Best Overall: Humana
No waiting period for all covered services
Choose from two different plan types
260,000 in-network dentists
Poor coverage for orthodontics
Higher coinsurance than some competitors
Limits on preventive services
Not only does health insurance provider Humana offer no waiting periods with three of its six dental plans, but the options and benefits available are also some of the best in the industry. Those who want coverage to begin immediately can choose from multiple PPO plans and a dental discount plan with some of the lowest premiums we were able to find from any provider.
Humana’s Preventive Value Individual and Dental Loyalty Plus plans both provide PPO coverage for which we were quoted reasonable rates. Preventive Value Individual is designed for those who only need preventive and basic services, while Dental Loyalty Plus adds major service coverage. Both plans pay for 100% of preventive services, although there’s a limit to these; for example, you can only get two cleanings and one fluoride treatment per year. Coinsurance rates for basic and major services vary but decrease every year you stay with the plan if you choose Dental Loyalty Plus. For example, you’ll pay for 80% of major services like root canals in the first year, but just 50% after three years. Neither of these PPO plans covers orthodontics.
Finally, Dental Savings Plus is an extremely affordable dental discount plan that costs just $6.99 per month. It’s important to note that this is different from a traditional dental insurance plan in that no routine services like checkups and cleanings are included. Instead, the plan offers discounts of 20% to 40% when you visit one of the 160,000 participating dental care locations. This includes a 20% discount on orthodontics, which is actually a better deal than the coinsurance offered by some more expensive dental insurance plans.
Why We Chose It: Humana offers the most diverse dental insurance options with no waiting period, with three different plan types to choose from. Factor that in with affordable premiums, low deductibles, and a huge network of providers, and this insurer easily comes out on top as best overall option in our review.
Best Preventive Care: Denali Dental
Four cleanings and two exams included annually
Low lifetime deductible
Up to $6,000 annual maximum
Coinsurance rates are high initially
Orthodontics not covered on lower-cost plans
If you like to stay on top of preventive care for your teeth, Denali Dental offers no-wait plans that include four cleanings per year, more than any other provider. The three plans—named Ridge, Peak, and Summit—are priced by geographic area and can be more or less expensive depending on where you live. You can get a quote on their website.
While monthly premiums may be high, Denali Dental’s loyalty incentives might make the cost worth it for anyone who intends to stay with the same provider for several years. Each plan honors a lifetime deductible of $100 to $250, unlike other insurers that reset their deductibles every year. Denali Dental also lowers coinsurance payments and increases annual maximums for every year that you stay with the company, with benefits reaching their full potential in the fourth year of coverage. For example, annual maximums start at $750 to $1,200 in year one but go as high as $2,500 to $6,000 in year four. And while you’ll have to pay 70% to 90% coinsurance for basic and major services in the first year, this drops to 40% to 50% by the fourth year.
One downside: Denali Dental’s Peak plan only covers 80% of preventive services such as exams and cleanings, which means you’ll have to pay the other 20% out of pocket. This is the only PPO plan we encountered out of all evaluated providers that didn’t offer 100% coverage on preventive services. Thankfully, the Ridge and Summit plans both cover 100% of preventive services, so your four annual cleanings will be completely free of charge.
Why We Chose It: Denali Dental is best for preventive care of all the insurers in our review because the company covers more preventive care services than any other provider, which means you can get your teeth cleaned up to four times per calendar year from one policy.
Best Basic Coverage: UnitedHealthcare
Affordable monthly premiums
Low coinsurance fees for basic services
No wait for preventive and basic coverage
Six-month waiting period for major services on some plans
Only one plan covers orthodontics
Poor coverage for major services
Even with good oral hygiene and routine preventive care, most people need basic dental services such as fillings and root canals at some point. If you’re looking for insurance to cover one of these treatments, you don’t want to wait six months to a year for the policy to take effect. In this case, we recommend UnitedHealthcare. Seven of the provider’s ten dental plans have no waiting period for both preventive and basic services.
UnitedHealthcare’s dental insurance policies are categorized into two levels: Primary and Premier. All Premier policies cover major services with either no wait or a six-month wait. One plan covers orthodontics, but coverage won’t begin until 12 months after the policy start date.
Coinsurance rates for preventive and basic services are very competitive. All policies cover 100% of preventive services, and out-of-pocket costs go down each year for all other procedures. For many plans, you’ll pay 50% of basic service costs in the first year, then 35% the next year, and dropping to just 20% by the third year.
Why We Chose It: UnitedHealthcare is our review's best for basic coverage with several affordable choices that cover all of your basic dental needs, and most of UnitedHealthcare’s dental insurance policies impose no waiting period for these basic services, accompanied by low coinsurance rates that decrease every year you stay with the provider.
Best Major Coverage: Spirit Dental
No waiting periods for any covered procedures
One-time deductible of $100
Annual limits up to $5,000
High out-of-pocket costs for orthodontics
Expensive monthly premiums
Less favorable terms in the first year
No one wants to think about undergoing major dental work like crowns, implants, and procedures that require anesthesia. But when these expensive treatments come up, having an insurance policy that covers them can at least provide some financial peace of mind. Spirit Dental is one of the few dental insurance companies that doesn’t impose a waiting period for major services on any of its policies.
You can quickly get a quote on Spirit's website to see what your premiums would be. Each plan has a single lifetime deductible of just $100 per person, and plans are distinguished by annual maximums, which range from $750 to $5,000. You can choose between in-network and out-of-network coverage, although the latter will result in higher monthly premiums.
One downside is that, even though there’s no wait for major services, the policy will only cover 10% to 25% of the cost of these procedures for the first year, which eventually increases to 50% to 65% in the third year of coverage. However, this is in line with or better than coinsurance rates offered by competitors.
Why We Chose It: Spirit Dental is our best for major coverage, as it offers eight policies with no waiting period and competitive coinsurance rates for major services. Diverse coverage options allow you to find the right balance between monthly premiums, annual maximums, and out-of-network flexibility.
Best for Orthodontics: Ameritas
No waiting for any services, including orthodontics on many plans
All plans include orthodontic coverage
High coverage rates after one year
$1,000 lifetime maximum on orthodontics
Lower cost plans limited to in-network providers
Finding a dental insurance plan that covers orthodontics can be a challenge, and those that do typically require waiting periods that can span up to two years. Ameritas offers four policies with no waiting periods on orthodontics, and although out-of-pocket costs are 85% in the first year, they drop to just 50% after this. There is a lifetime maximum of $1,000 on orthodontic procedures, which is standard for most dental insurance policies.
For other types of care, all four Ameritas dental plans follow the same coinsurance rate schedule. Preventive care is covered entirely with a limit of two exams and cleanings per year. Basic services carry a 35% coinsurance rate in the first year and a 20% rate for every subsequent year, while major services are billed with an 80% coinsurance rate in the first year and a 50% rate after that.
Ameritas policies come with a $50 annual deductible and an annual maximum of $1,000 or $2,000 depending on the plan. Half are limited to in-network providers, while the other half allows you to choose any dentist—although it’s worth noting that Ameritas operates one of the largest dental provider networks in the U.S.
Why We Chose It: Ameritas offers the best terms for orthodontics with no waiting periods and coinsurance rates starting at 85% but dropping to 50% after one year, making this company the best for orthodontia in this review.
Best for Veterans: MetLife
Affordable coverage for veterans and their dependents
146,000 provider network
Annual maximums as high as $3,500
Must be enrolled in the VA health care program for the veterans dental plan
Only two policy options available
24-month waiting period for orthodontics
Insurance provider MetLife enforces waiting periods for most of its policies, but these are waived for retired service members through the Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Program (VADIP). Open to any veteran enrolled in the VA health care program, these dental policies are available at two coverage levels: Basic and High. For a the standard plan, a single veteran will be charged between $28.89 and $33.80. For the high plan, a single veteran will be charged between $61.14 and $71.53.
MetLife VADIP policies have $50 annual deductibles with maximums from $1,300 to $3,500. The plan covers 100% of preventive care, 50% to 70% of basic services, and 30% to 50% of major services. Orthodontics are only covered under the High coverage option at a rate of 50%, although there is a fairly long waiting period of 24 months. However, there’s no wait for any other services.
MetLife is a global insurance provider with over 150 years of experience in home, auto, life, and health insurance. The company holds an A+ (Superior) rating from AM Best, indicating solid financial strength. MetLife’s dental network includes over 146,000 providers, one of the largest in the country.
Why We Chose It: If you’re receiving VA health benefits, MetLife’s VADIP dental insurance plans offer no waiting periods alongside other perks for veterans and is the best we found here for veterans.
Best Affordable Coverage: Delta Dental
No deductibles or annual maximums
Copays by procedure
Relatively low premiums
Only one plan with no waiting period
Premiums must be paid for the year upfront
Doesn’t cover some procedures like implants
Delta Dental is one of the largest dental providers in the country, serving more than 80 million people and maintaining a network of over 156,000 dentists. By focusing exclusively on dental insurance, Delta Dental can offer lower prices than many competitors. A variety of plans is available for both individuals and companies.
Delta Dental only offers one policy with no waiting periods, but with a low monthly premium, it is incredibly affordable. This HMO plan, named DeltaCare® USA, works with a copay structure instead of the coinsurance rates associated with PPO plans. Copays are listed by procedure and are fairly reasonable; you’ll only pay $20 out of pocket for cleanings, with exams and X-rays free of charge, while fillings cost $25 to $120, and root canals are $240 to $400. There are no deductibles or annual maximums.
This Delta Dental plan doesn’t cover some services like implants, although teeth whitening is included with a copay of $125. The plan will also cover 25% of orthodontics for both adults and children, which is a rare find since many policies limit orthodontic work to individuals under the age of 19. Just note that you’ll have to pay for the entire year’s premiums upfront with an annual payment of $150, plus a $10 enrollment fee.
Why We Chose It: DeltaCare® USA is an extremely affordable plan making its provider Delta Dental our choice for best affordable coverage. Copays are just $20 for up to two cleanings per year, and there’s no charge for exams and X-rays.
What Is Dental Insurance With No Waiting Period?
Many dental insurance policies impose a waiting period of months or even years before certain services are covered, meaning you might have to choose between putting off essential procedures or paying the full cost out of pocket. Dental insurance with no waiting period begins coverage on day one so you don’t have to wait.
Do All Dental Insurance Plans Have a Waiting Period?
Not all dental insurance plans have a waiting period, and many place waiting periods on some types of procedures but not others. For example, it’s much more common to see a waiting period for major services than it is for preventive care.
Why Do Dental Plans Have Waiting Periods?
Waiting periods on dental plans are designed to prevent people from putting off paying for coverage until they have a costly problem that needs to be fixed. This helps dental insurance companies stay profitable by collecting premiums before they have to start paying for expensive procedures.
What Are the Expected Costs of Dental Insurance With No Waiting Period?
The quotes we received for dental insurance plans with no waiting periods were anywhere from $7 to $75 per month depending on the coverage, limits, and deductibles. If you choose a plan with no deductible, keep in mind that you may face higher monthly premiums or have to pay more in coinsurance for the first year or two.
How We Chose the Dental Insurance Companies
To choose the best dental insurance plans with no waiting periods, we primarily looked at several factors related to cost, such as monthly premiums, copays or coinsurance rates, annual limits, and deductibles. We also evaluated which types of services were covered under each policy and whether any limits were imposed on certain procedures, such as annual cleanings. Finally, we looked at the size of the insurance network to see how many dentists there are to choose from with each provider.
Kaiser Family Foundation. “Data Notes: Americans’ Challenges with Health Care Costs.” Accessed December 7, 2020.
AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of MetLife, Inc. and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed December 9, 2020.