Paying for dental treatment: Insurance, Discount plans, Financing and negotiating with your dentist.
There is no question that dental work can be expensive. And for many people the availability of any type of assistance that can help to lower, or at least spread out, their costs can be an important factor in determining when their treatment will be performed.
Dental expenses are usually managed using one of the options listed below. Each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. And no one approach will be the best choice, or even available, to every patient.
- Traditional dental insurance. (Indemnity policies)
- Managed care dental insurance. (HMO's, PPO's)
- Discount (Referral) dental plans.
- Dental financing programs.
- Direct patient-dentist arrangements. (Cash discounts, Payment plans)
When looking for dental coverage, here's what you should aim for.
Ideally, any type of dental plan that you consider (traditional dental insurance, HMO, PPO, Discount/Referral plan) should be designed to help to protect your dental health in the following ways.
A) It should provide generous benefits for Preventive dental services.
A fundamental characteristic of a good dental plan is that provides for regular and on going diagnostic and preventive dental care.
Most of the dental problems that a person will experience during their lifetime will be those that could have been avoided or significantly minimized if they were just diagnosed and dealt with at an early stage. Treating a dental problem before it gets out of hand can substantially reduce the amount of time, money, and effort needed to correct it.
B) It should provide benefits for Basic dental services.
Once a dental problem has been identified, it is always best to have the dental treatment that's needed to correct it performed in a timely fashion.
While it's unrealistic to expect that a dental plan would necessarily pay the entire cost of this treatment, ideally it should provide enough assistance (possibly 50 to 80% of the cost) that the care is easily within the individual's financial reach.
C) The more coverage it provides for Major dental services the better.
By structuring a dental plan so it provides generous benefits for prevention and the early detection and correction of dental disease, hopefully only a minimal amount of Major dental care will ever be needed. When it is required, however, a plan's benefits should provide enough assistance (on the order of 50% of the cost or so) so that obtaining it is possible.
When shopping, you may find that your options are limited, or at least less than ideal.
Dental insurance coverage can be hard to get.
It can be difficult for an individual (or individual family) to find a suitable dental insurance coverage on the open market. That's because companies typically prefer to sell to groups, as opposed to individuals. (An individual purchasing a policy on their own often has an immediate need and will likely use their coverage. Covered groups are more likely to include people who have no pressing needs or aren't so likely to utilize their policy's benefits.)
For this reason, most people who are given the opportunity of participating in an insurance program get it through their place of employment or an organization to which they belong. It is possible for individuals to find coverage on their own but the benefits associated with these policies are often shackled with pre-existing and wait-period clauses. Depending upon what the policy holder's immediate dental needs are, this may or may not present a problem.
Discount dental plans often seem better than they really are.
Discount (Referral) dental plans typically have an open enrollment and few program restrictions but their terms aren't always quite as advantageous as they may initially seem.
Before enrolling in one of these programs you owe it to your self to read our pages. These types of dental plans can play a needed role for some, but make sure you know what you're buying before you do.
Dental financing is usually easy to get but may have some catches.
Financing dental expenses is another way for a patient to manage their treatment costs but beware. Some of the third-party plans often offered through dentists' offices can be a great deal for some people. But for those who can't comply with their agreement's strict repayment conditions, it may prove to be a costly choice.
Negotiating directly with your dentist may produce results.
Working out some type of financial agreement (cash discount, payment plan) with your dentist can be a great way reduce or stretch out your expenses. However, and especially this day and age, finding a dentist who will agree to this type of arrangement may be difficult.
As our pages explain, as far-fetched as the idea of getting a chance to participate in this type of arrangement may be, there are some very grounded reasons why this type of set up might be good for the dentist too.