If you do not currently have dental coverage through your employer, then getting a dental insurance policy can help you defray the costs of expensive dental care. You should be aware, however, that such plans only pay a certain amount of your total dental expenses, and shoulders more of the cost for preventive procedures such as checkups and cleaning than for treatments.
Many dental insurers also require you to pay your dental bills first and file for reimbursement afterwards. If you decide to go ahead and purchase a policy, here are some tips on buying dental insurance to ensure that you get the coverage that you need.
The first thing to consider is what type of dental plan to buy. A ‘fee-for-service’ plan allows you to keep seeing your own dentist and will pay a share of your dental bills; a managed care plan, on the other hand, may require you to see only dentists who are members of the insurer’s network while setting a cap on reimbursement for dental services.
If you are required to see only certain dentists, make sure that you are not restricted to off-peak scheduling and can make appointments at any time that is convenient for you. You should also check if the insurer will allow you to shift dentists if you are not happy with the first one you see.
If you are allowed to continue seeing your regular dentist, you should look at the insurer’s usual, customary and reasonable fee schedule and compare it against what your dentist charges; this is a list of procedures and the maximum amount the plan covers, above which you will have to shoulder the excess. Most importantly, make sure that you and your dentist are allowed to dictate your treatment, since many insurers include provisions that require you to get only the most inexpensive treatment options.
The second thing to consider when looking at dental insurance plans is if the policy covers the dental procedures that you need. For example, if you need a root canal, check if the insurer classifies it as a major or basic procedure; many carriers do not pay for major procedures and if they consider a root canal as major, it may not be covered under the provisions of the plan.
The third thing when assessing dental insurance plans to consider is how much dental coverage you actually need. If you are young and your teeth are in good shape, you could probably go with a plan that has less extensive coverage but covers the whole amount of, or most of the cost of, preventive care. This will ensure that you only pay for coverage that you actually need. On the other hand, if you anticipate requiring major dental surgery in the future, you should get a plan with higher coverage limits even if you have to shoulder bigger premiums.
There are many online resources that allow you to compare various dental insurance policies. Before making a final decision, however, make sure that you understand all the provisions of the plan and are happy with them.