You might not believe me if I told you the number of people who are more worried about insurance for their teeth than the rest of their body.
Even more surprising, those people who want to make sure their teeth are always taken care of don’t go to the dentist that often.
To help prevent you from making a potential mistake insuring your teeth, let’s breakdown the actual cost to do so.
You might think it’s crazy, but I start almost every conversation with a client about dental insurance by saying “it’s going to sound like I’m trying to not sell you the policy.”
To be honest, a lot of the time I am.
Because here’s what you have to do to get the most out of any dental policy.
- Go to the dentist religiously every six months.
- See a dentist that is in your dental insurance network.
- Not need more than $1,000 worth of work.
The True Cost of Dental Insurance
Generally speaking, most individual dental policies (ones you buy on your own not provider by your job) are very similar.
A policy that is going to give you the widest range of coverage will normally cost around $30 a month per person.
Here’s what you normally get for that price:
- A small deductible of $50-$100.
- Free checkups and cleanings every six months (twice per year).
- 80/20 coinsurance on basic services like fillings.
- 50/50 coinsurance for major services like root canals.
- Annual policy maximum of $1,000 per year, no matter how severe your tooth disaster.
Dental Insurance Waiting Periods
The crazy part about all of that is, most policies have waiting periods for those basic and major services.
The preventative stuff, like checkups and cleanings don’t have waiting periods. So you can buy the policy today and getting your teeth shined tomorrow.
But if you have a mild tooth emergency and need a filling or root canal asap, then you are going to need to wait 6-12 months before it will be covered on the policy.
I know, it sounds crazy and you might have stepped on your cat's tail in anger, but there’s a pretty good reason these waiting periods exist.
Why Do Dental Insurance Policies Have Waiting Periods?
The same reason dental policies have waiting periods is the same reason health insurance has open enrollment.
This is the only way an insurance company can protect themselves from you buying the dental policy today and getting major dental work done tomorrow. Then canceling the policy by the end of the week.
If everyone in the country paid $30 to the dental insurance company then had them pay $1,000 to a dentist, there would be no money to pay for anything.
Insurance companies can’t just give you $970 for dental treatment, they would go out of business if they did.
It’s like going into Walmart and spending $30 for $1,000 worth of stuff. If that happened, how long do you think they would be in business or at least start having their greeters tackle people at the door?
Crunching the Dental Insurance Numbers
Let’s go back to that general $30 a month price tag.
If you paid for a dental policy for the entire year at $30 a month that would cost you $360.
The tricker question is, do you know how much two checkups and cleanings cost without dental insurance?
Depending on where you live and the dentist you see, you can generally expect to pay somewhere between $150-$180 per visit.
If you take $180 and multiply it by two, guess how much those checkups and cleanings cost without dental insurance?
Yep, you got it, $360.
That means the monthly cost of your dental insurance is strictly financing the cost of your checkups and cleanings. Those things they’re “giving you” for free.
So remember at the beginning I told you one of the things you had to do to get the most out of your policy was religiously go to the dentist every six months?
Now you see why it’s so important to go to the dentist every six month if you have dental insurance.
If you skip just one preventive visit you’re wasting $180.
When you really get down to it, your dental policy is really just a payment plan for your checkups and cleanings.
If anything major happens you’ve got an extra $1,000 waiting to help out.
If I really want to play devil's advocate, think about the last time you had major dental work done?
If it’s been longer than three years, the cost of that $30 a month dental policy will cost you $1,080.
A More Cost Effective, Less Demanding Option
Over the last year I’ve discovered a more flexible option.
If you’re not good at actually getting to the dentist and want to do a little better than a $1,000 annual max limit than a dental discount card will probably make more sense for you.
Not only will it potentially protect your wallet from higher dental bills, it will also cost you and your family substantially less per month.
Not only that, you’ll also have access to several other discount benefits including vision and prescription medication beyond the dental.
If that wasn’t crazy enough, you’ll also be able to have as many virtual office visits with a doctor on smartphone or computer as you need. They can even prescribe medication during those visits if medically necessary.
The nail in your traditional dental policies coffin is that there aren’t waiting periods to suffer through.
With your discount card, you can start using the benefits as soon as you receive the membership materials in the mail.
If you received your card in the mail today, you can have your teeth fixed tomorrow. That is of course if your dentist schedule allows for such short notice. Which if your dentist is anything like mine, is highly unlikely.
How Big Are These Dental Discounts?
Now we are getting somewhere.
Let’s take the cost of a root canal. If you ask Google what the average cost of that service is it will tell you between $700 - $900 depending on the tooth that needs canaling.
For our example, let’s say the total cost of a root canal in the premolar tooth (bicuspid) excluding final restoration is $942. Your discount card can knock that price down to $610 saving you $332.
That’s a 35 percent savings off the original bill.
The Bottom Line
If you need help paying for dental treatment and don’t want to feel enslaved to scheduling your visits every six months, there’s obviously a bigger bang for your buck with the discount package.
Especially after you consider all the other benefits you get access to with that discount card.
The virtual doctor's visit (telehealth) is more than worth the $15 monthly price alone.
Toss in the fact that anyone in your family can use the card and the math is overwhelming stacked against a traditional dental policy.
Free yourself from dental insurance and get a lot more in the process.
Joey is the third generation to join the family business. He's the agency’s primary content creator and all around web guy. When Joey isn’t talking about insurance on the internet, or helping clients he’s probably spending time with his family. In other rare spare moments he could be found obsessing over one of the local Cleveland sports teams, struggling to stay awake late enough to play video games or trying to remember how to play the bass guitar.