Should You Consider Supplemental Dental Insurance Coverage?

By:    Updated: April 5,2017

Supplemental dental insurance offers coverage that helps reduce the cost of a variety of procedures. It may help with braces, dentures and other orthodontia, in addition to reducing the cost of preventative care. Before looking into how to get dental insurance coverage, it is important to know what benefits are offered by your employer. If a comprehensive dental plan is included in your benefits package, you may not need supplemental insurance. Here are five questions to ask before you decide:

1. Do I have primary dental insurance?

If your employer offers dental care as part of your healthcare package, supplemental insurance may be a waste of time. Unlike supplemental health insurance policies, many dental insurance companies include a clause in their contracts that denies duplicate coverage. If your employer-provided dental plan pays out on the service, your supplemental may not.

2. Is dental insurance important? 

Dental health plays a pivotal role in total body health. Research shows that 90 percent of systemic diseases have indicators in the mouth. A healthy mouth often means a healthy you. Given that good dental hygiene can help reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, it is safe to say that dental insurance is an important aspect of living a long and healthy life.

3. What does dental care cost? 

When you walk into a dentist's office without insurance, you are probably looking at a bill upwards of $300, just for a basic office visit, x-rays and a cleaning. A crown or root canal typically runs upwards of $1,500, and fillings cost more than $150 each. A single year of dental visits could leave you facing thousands in medial bills.

4. What does supplemental dental insurance cover? 

Think of supplemental dental insurance as similar to your primary health insurance. It comes in a variety of different levels of coverage, with different annual maximums and expected out-of-pocket costs. Some plans cover 80 percent of covered procedures in-network, but only 50 percent out-of-network. Many plans have a three-tiered system, with varying levels of coverage, depending on the procedure. For example, many plans cover preventative care at 100 percent, in-network. Preventative care might include office visits, cleanings and x-rays. The second tier often includes fillings and extractions, while the third tier might cover crowns, oral surgery and root canals. For second- and third-tier services, there may be a waiting period.

5. How to get dental insurance coverage and what to watch for? 

Enrolling in a dental insurance plan can be as easy as running an online search, filling out a form and making your first payment. Before doing that, keep in mind that in addition to the waiting period, some plans only cover first- and second-tier services. There may also be an annual maximum amount you can spend through your insurance. Most plans have a maximum of either $1,000 or $1,500 per person. For the uninsured, that might only cover a single procedure, but since insurance companies negotiate allowable charges, the same dollars stretch a lot farther for those with dental insurance. 

Alternatives to Supplemental Dental Insurance

It may be difficult to find the value in paying a higher monthly premium for dental coverage, particularly if your teeth are generally in good shape. A possible alternative might be one of the many Dental Discount Plans. Many insurance companies offer discount plans that guarantee members a lower payment schedule from their dental office. These plans might charge an annual fee or monthly premium, but the cost could be less than half of what you would pay for insurance.

Dental Discount or Supplemental Dental Insurance?

Dental insurance helps minimize the out-of-pocket cost of covered dental procedures by paying the difference between the actual charges and your co-pay. Dental discount plans guarantee you a specific price for each procedure. If you visit the dentist regularly and need a fair amount of work, insurance is probably the better deal. If you only need occasional preventive care, a dental discount plan may actually help you save money.

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