What Should I Buy Instead of Dental Insurance?

What Should I Buy Instead of Dental Insurance?


When it comes to buying Cigna dental insurance, most of us don’t know where to begin. After doing some research and mulling over dental coverage options and comparing providers and cost of care, you may begin to wonder if dental insurance is even worth it. One costly procedure, like a root canal or extraction, and you’re likely to have met your annual maximum. Perhaps that’s why nearly 45 million Americans don’t even have dental insurance, as reported by the CDC in 2008.

Is dental insurance worth it?

Let’s start with how insurance works. It’s a transfer of risk. You pay a fixed amount each month, known as your premium, to your insurance provider. In the event you need to use your insurance, your provider absorbs a good portion of the risk and expenses.

This model works well with medical insurance, but dental insurance is a different story. Most dental insurance plans have an extremely low annual maximum of $1,000 to $1,500, which can be capped out with one procedure. You’re left paying anything over this amount out of pocket. Considering that braces alone can cost upward of $10,000, dental insurance can really take a bite out of your pocketbook and leave you feeling like you made an upside down investment.

It’s interesting to also note that although the cost of dental care has steadily increased over time with inflation, annual maximums haven’t increased since the 1970’s.

Does your employer offer dental insurance?

Despite the fact that dental insurance doesn’t offer as good of coverage as medical insurance, it may still be the right choice for you, especially if you can sign up for it through your employer. Many companies offer dental insurance as an employee benefit. Employer-sponsored dental plans, also known as group dental plans, are available at a reduced rate with a low monthly premium. Two types of dental plans that most employers offer are an HMO and a PPO. Preventative care, such as routine cleanings and x-rays, is usually covered at 100% on both HMO and PPO plans. If you need anything done beyond this, then you can expect to shell out some money.

What’s the difference between an HMO and a PPO?

A dental HMO (or DHMO) stands for health maintenance organization. If you sign up for a dental HMO plan, you’ll have access to limited number of dental care professionals, known as in-network providers. HMO dental plans are typically the cheapest, meaning they have the lowest monthly premium. They also don’t have an annual maximum. Instead, you’ll pay a contracted fixed amount, known as your copayment, for any services you have performed. But beware; if you visit a dentist who isn’t in your network, you’re likely to pay the full cost of care.

A dental PPO (or DPPO) stands for preferred provider organization. PPO dental plans typically have higher monthly premiums than HMOs, but your out-of-pocket expenses are cheaper. PPO dental plans also have an annual maximum that resets every year. Plus, you can visit the dentist of your choice, but you’ll receive better rates if you go to an in-network provider.

How bad are your teeth currently?

As with anything else, you don’t want to wait until you need coverage to get it. That’s about as effective as purchasing car insurance after your car has been totaled.

If your pearly whites are in good health, then you may feel more comfortable with a dental HMO plan. On the other hand, if you’ve had a history of cavities, fillings, bridges and extractions, then a dental PPO plan may be the better choice. But what if you can’t afford it? Or what if you need work done now, but your dental plan has a waiting period?

In-house dental payment options

If you need work done now, can’t afford dental insurance or don’t have access to an employer-sponsored dental plan, a dental savings plan is worth looking in to. This is also sometimes called an in-house dental payment plan because everything is done “in-house” at the dentist office. There is no third-party insurance company involved. For a nominal yearly fee that you pay directly to your dentist, you’ll receive discounts on variety of dental services.

Aside from receiving discounts on dental work, in-house dental plans require:

  • No pre-authorization for services
  • No annual maximum
  • No waiting periods
  • No deductibles

Another advantage of dental savings plans is that they offer discounts on services that traditional insurance doesn’t cover, including orthodontics, and restorative and cosmetic work. Plus, there’s no red tape to deal with.

Is a dental savings plan right for me?

Take a look at your financial situation and the overall health of your teeth. If you’ve historically had good dental health, you can probably get by with a traditional dental insurance plan. If you’re on a first name basis with your dentist, or unemployed, the alternative to dental insurance, a dental savings plan, may be the better fit due to the flexibility, affordability and savings it offers.

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