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Is Dental Insurance Right for You?

Most health insurance policies don't include dental as part of the main coverage. Along with vision insurance, dental insurance is usually an optional add-on to your medical policy. This leads to the question of whether it is worth it for you to purchase dental insurance. After all, instead of paying your insurance premium every month, you could be saving the money and using it to pay for the dental coverage you do need each year, or to spend on something else.

About Dental Insurance

Dental insurance comes in many types of policies, just like medical insurance. You can choose from deductibles, co-pays, annual limits, and network service provider options to get the monthly payment and coverage best for you. In general, dental policies often cover a large portion of preventive care, which includes cleanings and x-rays, and a smaller portion of restorative or cosmetic procedures. Some dental insurance at least partially covers orthodontics, but many policies do not cover it at all. Therefore, even with insurance, you may end up paying a hefty portion of your dental costs.

Calculating Out-of-Pocket Cost With and Without Insurance

Before purchasing dental insurance, consider a cost comparison of your usual dental services with and without insurance. To calculate your cost without dental insurance, list the dental services you had during the past five years. Estimate the total retail cost of the services, if you were to pay out of pocket without any dental insurance. Divide the result by five to learn your average annual out-of-pocket cost for dental services without insurance.

Then do the same calculation, but consider what you would be paying if you had the dental insurance policy you are considering purchasing. Look up the co-pays for the dental procedures you received, and determine the annual maximum to see if you would have run out of insurance in years when you had a lot of dental work done. Once you figure out what you would have paid at the dental office, add the annual cost of the insurance itself to calculate your total out-of-pocket cost.

Considering Financial Risk

In general, dental insurance has a relatively low monthly cost, but also a relatively low total benefit if you max out what you can get each year. Therefore, the financial risk of not getting insurance could be just $1,000, if that's the maximum the policy will cover each year. This is a small risk when compared to medical insurance, which can cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in procedures each year.

Households that live paycheck to paycheck may not be able to take on even a small amount of financial risk, though. If having fixed monthly costs for insurance, plus small co-pays when you need work, will help you stay on budget, then getting insurance can be a wise choice for you. However, if you have an emergency savings account that you can draw on for dental costs, then you may be able to get by without insurance.

Projecting Dental Work

Your past dental history and the current condition of your teeth can provide clues as to whether you may need significant dental work in the future. If you have gone to the dentist routinely and just gotten cleanings and x-rays, with no cavities, fillings, or other dental procedures, it's likely that you have healthy teeth and will continue to only need basic care in the future. If, on the other hand, you are prone to cavities and needed more significant work like crowns or root canals, this isn't very likely to change in the future. Having insurance that will help you pay for these projected costs may be a wise choice for you.

Choosing the Right Policy

When you want to purchase dental insurance, now the task is to choose the right policy. Although the low monthly premiums may appeal to you, these low-cost policies also generally have low coverage. Consider your anticipated out-of-pocket costs with each policy to help make the choice. Also look at your budget and determine what monthly premium you could reasonably pay, and what savings you have to cover any costs above that. The last thing to consider with dental insurance is that most policies have set providers that you can choose from. If you already have a great dentist and want to stay with that provider, make sure your policy covers work done with that dentist.

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