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Best Dental Insurance for 2016

Who offers the best cheap dental insurance?

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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

  • Pros
  • No claims process
  • No referral needed for out of network visits
  • Waive waiting periods if you have prior coverage
  • Cons
  • 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

  • Pros
  • Large network of dentists
  • No waiting period before getting care
  • Online sign-ups
  • Cheaper than traditional dental insurance
  • Cons
  • 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

  • Pros
  • Affordable discount fees
  • No waiting period or paperwork
  • Cheaper than traditional dental insurance
  • Cons
  • 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

  • Pros
  • Affordable Premiums
  • User friendly site
  • Helpful online tools
  • Large network of dentists
  • Cons
  • 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

  • Pros
  • Excellent customer service
  • Wide range of plans
  • Good available discounts
  • Cons
  • 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.

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Questions & Answers About Best Dental Insurance

What dental insurance or plan is right for me?

The best plan for you will depend on the state of your oral health and what you are looking for in long-term care. There are now options between having dental insurance and opting out for a dental discount plan. You must also consider what it will cost you and if you can comfortably fit that into your monthly budget and if the coverage is exactly what you need for the present as well as for your future challenges. You may want to choose a higher deductible on your plan depending on how often you want to seek care. You must take into consideration the location and type of dentists in your area. Are there enough of them and are there enough of whose specialty you might seek out?

Is a dental discount plan the right choice for me?

Dental discount plans differ from traditional dental insurance plans and coverage. A dental discount plan is like joining a shopping club where you pay a membership fee to take advantage of certain products and discounts. You generally pay an annual fee to become a member of the dental discount plan. This will allow you to choose from a wide variety of dentists who are participating in the discount plan. By joining this discount plan, the dentists have agreed to charge a certain discount for their services and procedures. You are only paying for the access to a particular network of dentists. Because of this, you have no paperwork to do or claims forms to fill out. Your coverage is never capped at a certain amount and there are no deductibles to reach. Cosmetic surgery is generally available with such discount plans whereas such procedures are not covered in a traditional dental insurance plan.

Are there differences between a discount plan and a dental insurance plan?

With a dental discount plan, your coverage usually begins within three days and there are no specified limits on the use of the plan. When you pay your annual fee to a discount plan, you will receive a membership card which you present at the time of service. That is all you have to do. There are no claims forms to be filled out. Unlike with certain dental insurance plans, discount plans have no restrictions for pre-existing conditions or other health related situations. Nothing is "covered" and paid for with a discount plan unlike insurance which will pay for certain procedures and care. With the insurance plan, however, there are limits and there are deductibles as well as waiting periods for certain dental or surgical procedures. Unlike discount plans, many things are not covered like cosmetic surgery and there is paperwork to be filled out. With insurance plans, pre-existing conditions will suffer exclusions and limitations and you will pay monthly premiums for specifically outlined care.

What will a discount plan or an insurance plan cost me?

Costs for both dental discount plans as well as full dental insurance plans can vary due to region as well as insurance company. Generally, discount dental plans will run anywhere between $95 and $120 every year for a membership. This provides you with access to their network of dentists who will provide services at a discount. These discounts can range from 10% percent up to as much as 60% on certain procedures and care. Dental insurance plans are typically offered by an employer and can range from $166-$326 per year for an individual with family plans costing in the range of $325-$667 per year. Usually a dental insurance plan pays 100% for basic preventative care with certain discounts offered for other procedures and surgeries.

What are the differences between a dental DHMO, POS, and PPO?

A DHMO is a Dental Health Maintenance Organization and works similar to health insurance HMO's. There is a certain network of dental providers who belong to the DHMO and you must stay within that network. If you venture out of that defined network of providers, you will likely be responsible for the entire amount of the work you have done.

A POS is a Point of Service plan. This type of dental plan offers the flexibility to venture out of the pre-defined network of a DHMO. There will be more out of pocket costs when you leave the DHMO network but it does provide more options for you.

A PPO is a Preferred Provider Organization. It, too, operates a network but these network providers have agreed to offer specific discounts to members of the PPO. You can go out of the network but will generally only be reimbursed for the discounted fee on the care you received from an out of network provider.

Would I be better off buying an indemnity plan?

An indemnity dental plan is a traditional type of pay as you go plan. There are no networks or specified providers you must choose from. You can go to any dental professional of your choosing. There will be some indemnity insurance plans that will ask you to become pre-certified before having a particular procedure done but, for the most part, you will not need anyone's authorization or referral when you choose your dental care provider. While you will pay a deductible, your coverage under such a plan is generally an 80-20 split with the insurance company usually paying 80% of the incurred costs. These plans also tend to have a maximum out of pocket limit. Once you have exceeded that, the plan usually picks up 100% of the costs after that.

How do deductibles actually affect my care?

Your deductible is the dollar amount that you are required to pay during the course of a year before your insurance actually kicks in and begins to cover certain care. For instance, if you choose a $100 deductible, you will have to pay out the first $100 of your dental care before your plan becomes activated. Your deductible doesn't apply to just any care or procedures you have done, however. If you choose to have some cosmetic surgery done and such work is not covered under your plan, the expense you pay out will not be taken off your deductible amount. Your deductible is credited only with care that is covered by your plan.

How does coinsurance and office co-payments work?

Co-payments are generally one set amount that you must pay upon your visit to a dentist or other dental specialist. A co-payment situation may also apply to a certain procedure or basic maintenance situation. Most dental insurance plans have deductibles that can range from anywhere between $5 and $25 or more. Coinsurance is a plan whereby your dental insurance plan will offer to pay a certain percentage of your office visit or procedure fee. If your office visit is $25, the coinsurance option in your plan may pay a certain amount of that such as $10. Coinsurance generally sets a certain percentage such as you're paying 10% of the office visit charges.

Who and what will actually be covered by my dental insurance plan?

This situation varies by individual and also by their family situation. This is where you need to spend some time reading and sifting through the various alternatives and options with regard to coverage. If your employer actually offers several plans, you must decide what your present and future needs will be for both yourself and your family. What in fact is covered is spelled out specifically in your plan's policy. Dentists usually don't know what your insurance will cover or not. It becomes your responsibility to know what coverage you have and what gaps you need to fill. Your policy will tell you exactly what is and isn't covered. In this way, you can effectively plan and determine what other coverage you may need to get to help with certain situations that your plan doesn't cover.

What coverage is there if both I and my spouse have a dental plan?

As standard coverage goes, both you and your spouse are each covered by your individual plan. Neither of you are covered for dental care under the other's plan. If you have children, however, it tends to depend on the insurance regulations specified by your particular state government. Generally speaking, however, there is a "birthday rule" that comes into effect in most states. Whichever spouse's birthday falls the earliest in the year is, generally, the insurance policy that will cover the children. This standard is recognized by the American Dental Association as the easiest and most efficient way of coordinating dental benefits in a family situation. Be sure to check your policies to see which would be most beneficial to your family.

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In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.

Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.