Paying for dental treatment
- What options exist? (pros / cons) / Features to look for in a good dental plan.
Dental expenses are usually managed using one of the methods listed above.
As outlined below, each tends to have its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. And no one approach will be the best choice, or even available, to every person or family.
The current state of affairs.
It can be difficult for an individual (or individual family) to find suitable coverage on the open market. That's because companies typically prefer to sell plans (Traditional, PPO, HMO) to groups, as opposed to individuals.
For this reason, most people who participate in a 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 these policies are often shackled with pre-existing and wait-period clauses. Depending upon what the insured's immediate dental needs are, this may or may not present a problem.
Policies are offered as a part of the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare). In fact, dental coverage must be available as part of a health plan for children 18 years and younger (although it does not have to be purchased).
For adults, dental coverage is available too. Although, stand-alone policies can only be purchased if you've enrolled in a health plan through the exchange also.
They may seem better than they really are.
Discount (Referral) dental plans typically have an open enrollment (anyone can join at any time) and seemingly few benefit restrictions. But to the knowledgeable eye, their terms aren't always quite as advantageous as they seem on the surface.
These plans may be suitable for some. But especially in the case where extensive work is required, you'll benefit from reading our discussion so you are aware of the types of pitfalls you may encounter.
3rd-party dental financing.
It's usually easy to get but may have some catches.
Financing dental expenses is another way to manage treatment costs. And some third-party plans offered through dental offices can be a decent deal for some patients. But as our pages explain, for those who can't comply with their strict repayment conditions, doing so may prove to be a costly choice.
Negotiating directly with your dentist.
This may work out exceptionally well for both of you.
Working out some type of creative financial arrangement (cash discount, payment plan) with your dentist can be a great way reduce or stretch out your expenses.
As our pages explain, as far-fetched as this idea may seem, there are some very grounded reasons why this type of set up might be a good deal for both of you.
Features to look for.
When evaluating any type of plan (traditional insurance, HMO, PPO, discount/referral), look for these features.
A) Generous benefits for Preventive dental services.
A fundamental characteristic of a good dental plan is that it provides for regular and on going diagnostic and preventive 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.
Unlike a medical policy whose primary purpose is to provide protection against catastrophic expenses, the goal of dental coverage is prevention and/or treating an issue early while the amount of time, money, and effort needed to correct it are small.
Use this link for details about what's ideal, or at least customary, in regard to coverage for Preventive services (what procedures are included, coverage levels, utilization frequencies).
B) Reasonable benefits for Basic dental services.
Once a problem has been identified, it's always best to have the treatment that's needed to correct it performed in a timely fashion.
While it's unrealistic to expect that a plan would necessarily pay the entire cost of this service (although some may), it should provide enough assistance that the care is easily within the individual's financial reach.
Use this link for details about ideal/customary coverage for Basic services (included procedures, benefit rates).
C) The more coverage it provides for Major dental services the better.
By structuring a plan so it provides generous benefits for prevention and the early detection and correction of problems, 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 so that obtaining it is possible.
Use this link for details about ideal/customary coverage for Major services (included procedures, benefit rates).
Continue reading about Dental Plans -
June 2003 / Last revision/evaluation: 4/29/14. (Animated-Teeth.com authorship information.)
Friedman, J. The Complete Guide to Dental Health: How to Avoid Being Overcharged and Overtreated. Consumer Reports Books. Copyright 2002.
Lake, M. How to Save Your Smile and Your Wallet: Dentistry: Myths and Realities, A Patient's Guide. BookSurge Publishing. Copyright 2006.
Brill, W. A Consumer's Guide to Dental Insurance: How to Select the Best Plan for You and Your Family. IUniverse, Inc. Copyright 2000.