Best Dental Plans
Keeping your health at its best means keeping up with your dental health, so it's important to find the best dental insurance. About 114 million Americans don't have dental insurance. However, it's a key part of your overall well-being, as poor dental health is connected to an array of other health problems. For example, research reveals a link existing between gum disease and other conditions such as heart disease, pre-term birth, stroke and diabetes.
Clearly, it's important to keep your teeth and gums clean, which you can achieve with twice yearly dental check-up and cleanings. This link between oral health and general physical health and well-being has both lifestyle and cost implications. A study by the leading dental insurance provider, Cigna, shows a 27.5% medical savings when gum disease is treated.
It's no secret that the cost of dental service can add up quickly. This can be stressful for families, as well as individuals on a limited budget or fixed income. Fortunately there are dental insurance and dental plan products available that are designed to deliver quality dental care at a fair price. When shopping for a dental insurance or dental plan product, you'll encounter many companies trumpeting their plan as the highest quality plan at the deepest discounts.
It's important to keep your particular dental needs and budget in mind when shopping for a dental service product. Here is our primer on navigating the dental insurance marketplace.
Best Dental Insurance: What to Consider
Dental insurance products come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The primary distinction is the difference between traditional dental insurance and dental discount plans, and their coverage and cost structures. In both cases, the plan grants access to a network of affiliated dentists. For some shoppers, the key consideration is access to specific dental services such as orthodontia or crowns. In the end, you'll want a dental insurance product that works for you at a price you can afford from a reliable company. Here's an expansion of these points to consider as you shop the dental insurance marketplace:
Best Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Plans
With traditional dental insurance, you pay a monthly premium and a deductible amount before the insurance begins to pay. After you pay the deductible, policies do vary a lot on co-pay requirements. There are insurance products with no co-pay, and others where you pay a high percentage for dental services. The highest-tier products offer the best coverage, and yes the monthly premiums are high too.
There is often a coverage cap on dental insurance; you likely would face a yearly cap of $1,200 to $1,500 per year. When you exceed that amount, you pay for dental care out of pocket. If you do buy dental insurance, there is the security of oversight from you state's department of insurance, good to know if you have a complaint. To point out the obvious, the best deal on dental insurance is to have it covered, at least in part, by your employer, but fewer people have that luxury these days.
Discount dental plans require payment of an annual membership fee, then provide subsequent access to discount services from providers in the plan's network. There are no yearly caps on coverage or deductibles, and no claim forms to fill out for reimbursement. You can use a discount plan for cosmetic dentistry, which is generally not covered by dental insurance.
Best Dental Plans - Provider Networks
Each insurance company or discount plan maintains it's own network of dental practitioners providing services for members at prices they agree to honor. These dental networks vary in size and quality. Some of the networks regional, some are national, and in the case of Cigna Dental Insurance, their network is international. As you consider dental insurance and dental plan companies and products, conduct a check to see if they have network dentists available in your area.
With both insurance companies and dental discount plans, your dental bills are cheaper when you visit providers within their network. Some plans limit care to their network only, while others allow you to visit providers outside the network. Check to see if a referral or prior approval is necessary to visit a dentist out of the network.
For those with dental insurance visiting a dentist outside the network, you pay the dentist at the time of service, and the insurance company reimburses you. Some insurance companies are stingy with these reimbursements, and look for reasons to disallow them.
Best Dental Insurance - Coverage Options
A typical dental insurance plan may offer complete coverage for basic preventive dentistry, including two annual oral exams, cleanings and X-rays, plus fluoride treatments for kids and older adults. Specific dental procedures such as fillings or specialty dentistry are covered in part by the insurance company, with you paying the difference.
Discount Dental Plans usually list the services covered and their prices at their website, allowing you to see what their fees are before you sign up. If the fee schedule is not available online, request a copy before you buy.
Coverage options vary widely, especially with dental insurance products. It is critical to carefully research and understand what services are covered prior to enrolling in a plan. It is also important to verify that your preferred dentist is a provider for the plan you are considering.
Best Dental Insurance Plans - Costs and Fees
Dental insurance typically costs $166 to $326 per person yearly, and $325 to $667 a year for an individual and family, according to the National Association of Dental Plans. In some cases, employers provide access to dental insurance and pay part of the monthly premium.
The dental insurance industry is known for coverage covering 100 percent of basic preventive care, 80 percent of standard procedures such as fillings and root canals, and 50 percent for crowns and other major specialty procedures. Of course this varies by provider.
Dental insurance tends to offer a discount on orthodontia. The higher-tier products cover more of the expense of visiting the orthodontist, but you pay higher monthly premiums for such plans.
Dental discount plans charge an annual fee that runs from about $95 to $120 per year. Members then gain access to dental care at rates that are discounted from 10 to 60 percent, with the dental plan providing a list of prices for specific procedures. You pay the discount fee at the time of the service. Orthodontia typically comes at a 20% discount.
Top Dental Insurance - Specialty Providers
Dental insurance plans may or may not provide coverage when it comes to specialty dentistry services like periodontal maintenance or root canals. Some insurance companies require prior approval or a referral to visit a specialty dental service provider. A waiting period may apply before members can visit specialty providers.
Dental discount plans usually provide access to specialty dental practitioners. It's important to confirm the fee prior to the visit for service. The advantage of the discount plan over insurance is that there is no waiting period for specialty services; you just make your appointment and go.
Best Dental Insurance - Reputation & Service
Are you ready to buy a dental insurance or dental discount plan product? Be sure you check the reputation of their network dentists that you plan to visit. It's also important to look into the customer service record of any company you are considering. Do they pay their claims? A great way to answer these questions is to look at independent consumer reviews of both dentists and the companies themselves.
The Best Dental Insurance
Here are some of the best providers of dental insurance or dental discount plans in the country, each with its own offerings. The variety of coverage offered and range of prices means that you should be able to find a company that fits your dental service needs and budget.
Cigna Dental Insurance
- No claims process
- No referral needed for out of network visits
- Waive waiting periods if you have prior coverage
- Plans not available in every state
Cigna Dental Insuranceoffers dental preferred provider organization (PPO) plans to people of all ages. With a Cigna dental plan, you get coverage for many dental procedures and services, including routine cleanings, X-rays and much more. Cigna Dental has a large network of dentists who accept their insurance and they offer a choice of three dental insurance plans.
Avia Dental Insurance
- Large network of dentists
- No waiting period before getting care
- Online sign-ups
- Cheaper than traditional dental insurance
- Only available in 21 states
Avia Dental Plan is a fee for service plan, providing it's members with considerable discounts on dental services. Avia has a large network of established dental practices that members can choose from, with these dentists offering discounts that at times exceed 50%. The service providers go through a credentialing process, meeting high quality standards to become a part of the Avia network.
Careington Dental Insurance
- Affordable discount fees
- No waiting period or paperwork
- Cheaper than traditional dental insurance
- Not as much coverage as a traditional dental insurance
Careington Dental & Vision Plus discount plan helps reduce overall health care cost via substantial discounts on dental and vision care. Members take advantage of significant savings on a wide range of dental procedures. The Careington dental plan is accepted by one of the largest national dental networks, focused on neighborhood dentists. They offer a transparent pricing, with their fee-per-service price schedules.
Aetna Dental Insurance
- Affordable Premiums
- User friendly site
- Helpful online tools
- Large network of dentists
- No short term policy
Aetna Dental insurance offers several coverage options for individuals, families and groups. They have the nation's largest network of dentists for members to choose from, and their website offers a great user-friendly array of online tools to manage your account with, from choosing a dentist to managing your claims. Most people covered by Aetna Dental get access to their dental insurance plans via their employer.
United Concordia Dental Insurance
- Excellent customer service
- Wide range of plans
- Good available discounts
- Network not as wide as other providers
United Concordia Dental has over 40 years of expertise providing dental insurance. They help almost 7.5 million members nationwide access excellent dental health care. There are more than 97,000 dentists available at 302,000 access points via United Concordia. Members choose from flexible flexible dental coverage options, and can customize an affordable dental plan for themselves and their families.
Best Dental Insurance Recap
When considering which dental insurance or dental discount plan to choose, first and foremost keep in mind what will work for your needs. Determine the specific coverage you and your family require, and keep your budget for dental care in mind. Are you looking mainly for preventive care, or do you have children ready for braces, or a need for more costly specialty procedures? How urgent are special needs, as wait time can be a factor.
Before you buy a dental care product, conduct a due diligence check to ensure that there are dentists in your area that are part of the plan's provider network.