Some types of insurance such as health insurance are an obvious must-have for most. But when it comes to dental insurance, the answer is less decisive. Which can leave you wondering: Is dental insurance worth it?
Let’s explore the details of dental insurance so that you can decide whether or not it is the right fit for your mouth and your budget.
How much does dental insurance cost?
So, the big question - how much does dental insurance cost? As with all insurance costs, the amount you pay will vary widely based on your area, insurance provider, and preexisting conditions.
Typical dental premiums can range from $20 to $50 per month for an individual or $50 to $150 per year for a family. That amounts to $240 to $1,800, which will vary based on your dependent and the type of plan you can access. In any case, that cost could significantly impact your budget.
It’s easy to see how dental insurance could take a bite out of any budget.
What does a dental premium cover?
The exact coverage your dental insurance plan offers will vary based on your individual plan. But there are some general coverage guidelines you can expect to see. There is a breakdown of coverage with the average plan into three distinct parts -- preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures.
So, what's covered? In many cases, preventative care is 100% covered. This coverage might include the cost of regular cleaning and exams to check on your dental health each year. For most, regular cleanings equate to two covered cleanings per year.
Next up are basic procedures. Although these aren’t entirely covered, you’ll typically only need to pay 20% to 30% of the cost. Since the cost of a filing to typically well over $100, having dental insurance could come in handy.
Last but not least, dental insurance will help you out with major procedures. Although most insurance plans cover just 50% or less of the cost, that could still save you hundreds of dollars.
What are the different types of dental plans to choose from
The coverage and flexibility you have in your dental insurance plan will vary widely. One of the biggest factors is the type of plan you choose. And the type of plan will dramatically impact whether or not dental insurance is worth it.
Here are the three different types of dental plans to choose from:
A fee-for-service plan, or indemnity plan, allows you to work with any dental provider. The insurer will cover a percentage of the fee. The ability to choose your own provider is a big win for many.
This is especially true if you already have a dentist you like that isn’t available through your PPO and HMO options. But the cost of these premiums is often much higher than the other plans.
Preferred provider organization plans
A PPO, or Preferred Provider Organization plan, offers you a better price if you stick with an in-network provider. Although you aren’t required to see a preferred provider, you’ll be able to save on costs if you stick to the list.
You are able to seek care from an out-of-network provider if you want to. But you’ll have to pay more when you see them. Plus, many of these plans come with a maximum reimbursement amount for out-of-network visits each year.
With a PPO, you have the best of both worlds. You’ll have choices in your providers. But you won’t have to overpay for a visit.
Health maintenance organization plans
Finally, there are HMO or Health Maintenance Organization plans. An HMO will require you to visit dentists within their insurance network. If you are comfortable with limited providers, the cost savings of this plan are exceptional.
Before you dive into an HMO dental plan, I highly recommend checking out the list of providers. Unfortunately, the list can be very limited. Although the cost savings potential is high, you might miss out on the chance to work with a dentist you feel comfortable with.
How to get the most out of dental insurance
The decision of whether or not dental insurance is worth it will vary based on your situation. But if you decide to go with insurance, it is a smart move to think ahead. Consider asking your current dentist what procedures are on your horizon. With an idea of the type of dental work you’ll need in the future, you can seek out a plan that works best for your needs.
But of course, there is always the possibility that you’ll have an unexpected dental procedure that might not be covered. As with all insurances, keep your personal risk tolerance in mind. If you want to avoid a major expense, you might decide to go with more comprehensive dental coverage.
Once you have your dental coverage in place, take some time to pursue the directory of providers. You can seek the best dentists in your network to save on costs without skimping on quality.
What do dental services cost without insurance?
The costs of dental services without insurance will vary based on your state and provider. But regardless of where you live, the expenses can add up quickly.
Here’s a look at some of the costs for the most common dental services:
- Basic cleaning: $75 to $200
- Dental x-rays: $100 to $250
- Amalgam filling: $50 to $150
- Tooth-colored filling: $90 to $250
- Gold filling: $350 to $4,500
- Dental crown: $500 to $2,000
- Tooth extraction: $75 to $800
- Root canal: $500 to $1,500
Depending on your dental needs, these costs can pile up.
Is dental insurance worth it and should you have it?
So, is dental insurance worth it? The answer to whether or not dental insurance is worth it will vary based on your unique situation. (Kind of like renters insurance.) The only way to find out is to dig into the numbers for your particular area. Take some time to compare the costs of services in your area to the cost of a dental insurance plan.
In some cases, you might come out ahead with the basic cleanings and X-rays. In others, dental insurance premiums can cancel out the cost of savings. But you’ll need to do a little bit of digging around about the dental costs in your area to find out.
If you decide to go without dental insurance, then I highly recommend ensuring your emergency fund is fully stashed. Although you might not run into any unexpected dental expenses, you never know when you’ll need to visit a dentist for a tooth-related emergency. Need help building out an emergency fund? Check out our quick guide.
Dental insurance can be worth it when needed!
Dental insurance can be helpful when facing major dental costs. But you’ll need to weigh the costs in your area to decide if the premiums are worth it. Remember to try to check with in-network providers to save on costs and choose the plan that's best for you and your budget.
Learn how to create a budget that includes all of your expenses (including dental insurance) with our completely free budgeting course! For more financial guidance and tips, tune in to the Clever Girls Know podcast and YouTube channel!