Best Dental Insurance - Affordable Plans in 2018

Best Dental Insurance

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If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know the importance of going to the dentist.

Dental treatment can be incredibly expensive though – especially if you don’t have dental insurance to help cover all or part of the cost.

Unfortunately, according to the Health Policy Institute, 35.2% of adults between the ages of 19 and 64 do not have dental benefits and 62% of adults over the age of 65 do not have coverage.

That’s a significant number of Americans who are struggling to cover their own dental bills.

After all, dental care is extremely expensive. In 2012, Americans spent a total of $1.6 billion on dental treatment according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

That means that many of those who are uninsured are skipping preventative dental visits – with a Harris Interactive Poll finding that over 50% of the uninsured skipping necessary dental care because of its financial costs. But skipping out on dental care now could mean much higher costs in the future if the problems get worse.

Compare the Best Dental Plans & Insurance Companies

eHealth Logo

on Spirit Dental Insurance's secure website

Monthly Premium

Varies

In-network Dentists

Over 115,000

Cleaning Frequency

4 Months


Deductible

$100

Waiting Period

None

Full-Mouth X-Ray

60 Months

eHealth Logo

on Dental For Everyone's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low As $8.95

In-network Dentists

Over 140,000

Cleaning Frequency

Depends on Plan


Deductible

Depends on Plan

Waiting Period

Depends on Plan

Full-Mouth X-Ray

Depends on Plan

DentalPlans Logo

on Dental Plans' secure website

DentalPlans.com is a dental savings plan and not

dental insurance. Click here to learn more.

Monthly Premium

As Low As $10

In-network Dentists

Over 100,000

Cleaning Frequency

Depends on Plan


Deductible

Depends on Plan

Waiting Period

Varies

Full-Mouth X-Ray

Depends on Plan

eHealth Logo

on eHealth Dental Insurance's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low As $8.95

In-network Dentists

Depends on Plan

Cleaning Frequency

Depend on Plan


Deductible

Depends on Plan

Waiting Period

Depends on Plan

Full-Mouth X-Ray

Depends on Plan

Careington Logo

on Careington's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $19.00

In-network Dentists

Over 5,400

Cleaning Frequency

6 Months


Deductible

N/A

Waiting Period

None

Full-Mouth X-Ray

N/A

Humana Logo

on Humana's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $8.95

In-network Dentists

Over 130,000

Cleaning Frequency

6 Months


Deductible

$150

Waiting Period

None

Full-Mouth X-Ray

60 Months

Delta Dental

on Delta Dental's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $16.00

In-network Dentists

Over 140,000

Cleaning Frequency

6 Months


Deductible

Varies

Waiting Period

None

Full-Mouth X-Ray

24 Months

Guardian Dental Logo

on Guardian Dental's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $22.00

In-network Dentists

Over 100,000

Cleaning Frequency

6 Months


Deductible

Varies

Waiting Period

Varies

Full-Mouth X-Ray

60 Months

MetLife Logo

on MetLife's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $23.00

In-network Dentists

N/A

Cleaning Frequency

6 Months


Deductible

$50

Waiting Period

0 - 12 Months

Full-Mouth X-Ray

36 Months

Ameritas Logo

on Ameritas' secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $18.00

In-network Dentists

Over 85,000

Cleaning Frequency

6 - 12 Months


Deductible

$50

Waiting Period

0 - 12 Months

Full-Mouth X-Ray

60 Months

Cigna Logo

on Cigna's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $31.00

In-network Dentists

Over 85,000

Cleaning Frequency

6 Months


Deductible

$50

Waiting Period

0 - 12 Months

Full-Mouth X-Ray

60 Months

Aetna Logo

on Aetna's secure website

Monthly Premium

As Low as $25.00

In-network Dentists

Over 200,000

Cleaning Frequency

6 Months


Deductible

$50

Waiting Period

6 Months

Full-Mouth X-Ray

36 Months


11 Best Dental Plans & Insurance Companies

Spirit Dental Review

spirit-dental_logo

Spirit Dental is the online storefront for Direct Benefits, a company started in 2001 by Tom Mayer, who wanted dental coverage to be affordable for all Americans. While Direct Benefits serves as a broker for employee benefits and consultants, Spirit Dental is meant for online consumers who can buy coverage right on the website or talk to one of their many agents and providers nationwide.

Getting a quote is easy; simply enter your ZIP code and the number of people you need coverage for, and you’ll see a chart showing the tiers of service available in your area.

With the Spirit Dental PPO Plan, you can choose any provider within the Ameritas Classic network. With the Spirit Choice plan, you can choose your own dentist; there’s no network you have to stay in. If you do choose to stay within the network while a Choice plan member, you may receive additional savings and discounts.

Preventive care is 100% covered with 2 exams and 3 cleanings free per year. There is a $100 deductible that you only pay once for the life of your plan. After the deductible is met, the plans cover between 80% to 90% of all basic care and 50% to 65% of major work including crowns, bridges, implants, and root canals. Orthodontia is covered at 50% and all plans are highly affordable, with their lowest individual plan often running at less than $115 per month depending on your region. Their highest-tier plan offers a $5,000 maximum benefit per year but isn’t available in every state.

Coverage begins at enrollment; there’s no waiting period. All applicants are accepted, even if you have previous dental work or ongoing issues, you’re guaranteed acceptance in the plan. You can even bundle a vision plan with it, for another $14 per month. All rates are guaranteed not to change for at least 12 months, but you can cancel any time you like.


DentalPlans.com Review

DentalPlans Logo

DentalPlans.com is one of the leading online marketplaces for finding dental savings plans. The company has been in business since 1999 and is affiliated with more than 30 dental plan companies and has over 100,000 participating dentists around the country. The benefit of using DentalPlans.com is it allows you to access the number of different dental plans to find out which is the best deal for you.

A dental plan is not dental insurance, but is instead a way to get discounts on the care you need. Their dental plans offer savings of anywhere from 10% to 60% on dental procedures with no limits or wait times to get care. With dental plans, you also do not have to fill out time consuming paperwork - you can simply go to a dentist that you choose within their network and get the services you need.

After you are approved and sign up for a plan, you can often use it within 24 hours, but it can sometimes take up to 72 hours for it to go into effect. Some plans offer additional savings on things like prescriptions, hearing care, and vision care. Some plans also include discounts on things like cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics. These plans charge an affordable membership fee that can start as low as $10 per month. In order to get set up, you do have to pay a fee of around $15, but this cost is sometimes offset by giving you a free month on your plan.


eHealth Dental Insurance Review

eHealth Logo

eHealth Insurance was started in 1997 and it was the first platform used to sell health insurance over the internet. eHealth has over 5 million customers in 50 states. The company doesn’t provide dental insurance themselves, but acts as an insurance broker or marketplace. They have partnerships with over 180 health providers and they sell over 10,000 different health insurance products online.

They offer a quick online application and an online tool in order to make it easy to compare the best dental insurance options, and the promise that you can be approved in as little as 24 hours. Their dental insurance plans are for families, groups, or individuals. Policies start from $10.29 per month and premiums depend on the insurer that you choose.

When it comes to coverage amounts and the type of plans, there are a number of different PPO, HMO, and indemnity plans for you to choose from with differences in fees, co-insurance payments, out-of-pocket limits, and annual maximum benefits.

One example of a plan that is offered through eHealth is the Dominion Dental Services PPO Discount plan which has no deductible. They provide 100% coverage on most preventative and diagnostic procedures and 45% to 60% coverage on all other procedures including children’s orthodontics. They have no maximum annual benefit and they have no waiting period for things like cleaning, extractions, x-rays, and oral surgery but they have waiting periods but you have to use a dentist within their network.


Careington Review

Careington Logo

Carrington is a provider of discount programs for health and wellness services. It was started in 1979 and is based in Frisco, Texas. Carrington does not provide dental insurance, but rather dental plans where you can get discounts on affordable dental care by becoming a member. You have to pay monthly or annual premiums for your discount plan, but it can be as cheap as $8.95 per month or $89 per year.

This is more affordable than dental insurance and there are over 5,400 dentists currently in the Carrington network. The Carrington plan provides a discount that’s usually over 50% on preventative and routine procedures with smaller discounts on other types of procedures. The price for treatment will vary from state to state and affect the percentage of your discount, but some examples of discounts include 51% off a routine check up, 51% off the extraction of a tooth, 50% off a dental cleaning, and just 20% off adolescent braces.

Some of the benefits of a Carrington dental plan are the low fees, the fact there is no waiting, and that you can choose your own dentist amongst their network. There are also no limits on your coverage and you don't have to fill out any paperwork. Some downsides are that you will likely end up paying more for your procedures than if you had one of the best dental insurance plans.


Humana Review

Humana Logo

Humana is one of the largest providers of dental insurance in the U.S. They are based in Louisville, Kentucky and they provide plans in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Humana has a number of different types of coverage and packages so you’re able to pick a plan that’s right for you.

In order to save the most with your Humana plan, you'll have to use a dentist in their network, although they do offer you the ability to use dentists outside their network if you’re willing to pay higher fees. If you want to see a specialist, you will need to get a referral from your primary care dentist. They also offer dental savings plans which are dental discount plans rather than insurance. These plans provide discounts on your dental procedures of up to 45%.

One example of a Humana insurance plan is their Dental Loyalty Plus package that has a one time deductible of $150 per person or $450 for family. Unlike other plans where the deductible must be paid annually, their deductible lasts as long as you keep the plan. The maximum benefits of the plan in the first year are $1,000, in the second year are $1,250, and in the third year are $1,500. Preventative services are covered at 100%, basic services start with coverage at 40%, but coverage goes up to 70% by the third year, and major services start at 20% coverage and go up to 50% coverage by the third year.

Premiums for Humana plans start as low as $21 per month with a $35 enrollment fee. Some of the downsides of Humana plans are that they don't cover orthodontic procedures and sealants are also not covered for patients over the age of 14.


Delta Dental Review

Delta Dental

Delta Dental is one of the country’s best dental insurance companies. They have access to over 145,000 dentists at more than 292,000 locations. Over 60 million Americans use Delta Dental as their dental provider. They have a number of plans that provide different levels of coverage.

They provide discounts on your claims that average around 20.3% in addition to covering a percentage of your costs. Delta Dental Premier works with a network of dentist that offer lower costs on their services which equates to cheaper treatments for you. Dentist in this network are not allowed to bill you additionally after you pay your agreed co-payment or deductible.

An example of Delta Dental’s offerings is their Dental for Everyone Gold PPO plan which includes savings that change depending on what year of the plan you're in. When it comes to preventative care, they offer 60% coverage in the first year, 80% in the second year and 100% in the third year and going forward. For basic care, they offer 50% coverage in the first year, 65% of the second year, and 80% in the third year and going forward. For major care, you get 0% coverage in the first year, 30% in the second year, and 50% in the third year.

Their premiums depend on how many people are in your family. For an individual, coverage cost $41.16 per month or $123.48 quarterly or $493.92 annually. For families, those fees are bumped up to $109.86, $329.58, and $1,318.32. There are annual maximums of $1,000 per person.


Guardian Dental Review

Guardian Dental Logo

Guardian Life Insurance Company is a leading provider of life and health insurance. It was founded in 1860 and is headquartered in New York. They offer a number of affordable dental insurance plans to meet your specific needs.

One of their popular dental plans is the DentalGuard Preferred Plan. It provides 100% coverage on preventative and basic services, and 0% coverage on major or orthodontic care. If you have a premium plan, you can receive 50% coverage on those services. They do have an annual maximum of $1,000 and limits on how many cleanings or maintenance procedures that you can have in a one year period.

They work with an extensive network of dentists that you’re able to go to. Their premiums depend on the state that you live in. You can easily get a quote on their website.

The benefit of their plans are that you have flexibility to decide how much coverage you want to pay for, but the downside is that you might not think you’ll need major dental care but if you do, it could be very expensive if you don’t have any coverage.


MetLife Review

MetLife Logo

MetLife is one of the largest insurance and dental benefit providers in the world. They were founded in 1868 and are headquartered in New York. They currently have over 100 million customers. MetLife Dental provides insurance for groups and individuals.

They have a popular dental PPO plan called MetLife 2-9 Dental. They negotiate fees within their network of dentist which are lower than average and cover over 400 procedures. They offer 100% coverage on preventative care, 80% coverage on basic care, and 50% coverage on major care with a $50 deductible. Their annual maximum coverage amount is between $1,000 and $1,500.

The benefits of choosing MetLife are that they have a number of different plans available and they are well respected within the dental insurance industry. They have a broad network of dentists who work with them and they have significant coverage with a low deductible. The downside is that you have to visit dentists within their network in order to save.


Ameritas Review

Ameritas Logo

Ameritas was found in 1887 and is based in New York. It is a mutual organization which is owned by its policy owners. They offer a number of different types of dental plans and discount plans including indemnity plans.

One of their popular plans is the My Dental Plan that allows you to customize your plan for what you need. It has a $50 deductible per person. You can customize the plan for either one or two cleanings per year and choose to have preventative care covered at 80% or 100%. When it comes to basic care, they offer the choice of 50% coverage and 80% coverage. For major car, they cover either 50% or 0% depending on the plan you choose. Their annual maximums are either $500, $1,000, or $1,500.

There are no waiting periods if you were covered by another plan within 30 days of getting coverage. The main benefit of this plan is that it offers you a lot of choices around how much coverage you need which means you won’t be paying extra for coverage you won’t use.


Cigna Review

Cigna Logo

Cigna Insurance was founded in 1792 and provides things like dental, life, health, and disability insurance. They do not offer coverage in New York or Washington state. They have three different plans that provide dental coverage.

One of their popular plans is the myCigna Dental Preventive plan which provides 100% coverage for things like preventative and diagnostic care. This plan offers discounts on restoration, basic coverage and orthodontic services via its networks of dentists, no deductibles, and no maximum annual benefit.

MyCigna Dental 1000 is another plan that they offer. It has a $50 individual deductible and a family deductible of $150. The plan provides coverage for preventive care, diagnostic, and restoration care. It provides up to $1,000 worth of benefits annually and you also receive discounts on orthodontic work if you use a dentist in their network – but they don’t provide orthodontic coverage.

The other plan that Cigna offers is myCigna Dental 1500. This plan is very similar to the Dental 1000 plan. except it provides an additional $1,000 in lifetime orthodontic care and a $1,500 annual maximum.

Cigna has a large network of over 70,000 dentists to choose from. You can choose an in network or an out-of-network dentist, but you will receive greater savings if you choose a dentist within the network. Cigna provides good coverage in network but their out-of-network coverage isn’t as good as some other providers.


Aetna Review

Aetna Logo

Aetna is based in Connecticut and was founded in 1853. They have over 30 million customers worldwide. They offer a number of different types of plans including DHMO plans where you pay a lower cost for your plan, but have to see a dentist in your network and need to get preauthorization if you need to be referred for specialty care. They also offer network option plans or PPO plans. These plans are more expensive and you have to pay 50% or more of the costs of your care. While you can see a dentist outside the network with these plans, they have many PPO dentist that you can use for a discounted rate. If you go out-of-network you will have to pay and get reimbursed later. You can also choose hybrid plans that offer some of the benefits of more than one plan.

One of the drawbacks of Aetna is that at that only offer standalone dental plans in Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. The rest of their policies are offered only as part of their health insurance.


What You Should Look for in a Dental Plan

Monthly Premiums

All dental insurance plans or dental savings plans will charge a different monthly premium. These will vary depending on the number of individuals that you're enrolling in the plan, the type of plan you’re applying for, and the level of coverage you need. Most affordable dental insurance plans will charge you different prices for individuals and children and then, after a certain number of individuals, they just charge a flat family fee.

Generally, the more complete the coverage that you are buying, the more expensive your monthly premiums will be. Dental savings plans tend to have lower monthly premiums but often not by as much as you would expect. While dental saving plans can cost under $10, there are affordable dental insurance plans that can start for as little as $20 per month and so they might be the better choice. You might have the option of paying your monthly premiums in an annual lump sum. If you can afford to do so, you generally pay a lower amount overall.

Annual Enrollment Fees

The next thing that you need to look at is the yearly enrollment fee that you will be charged. This fee can vary widely between insurers. For example, Humana only charges an enrollment fee when you first enroll and not in any year afterwards. Other insurers will charge you an enrollment fee every year. These fees are generally under $50 per year, so if you find an insurer that is charging you more make sure that it’s worth it to you because you’re saving on the plan elsewhere.

Cleaning and Preventative Care Fees

Generally, the best dental insurance plans cover your cleaning and preventative care at a rate of at least 70% to 100%. These are things that everyone needs and they also prevent larger problems from developing and so most insurance companies are willing to cover these types of services at a higher percentage than other types of procedures.

However, if your insurance does not cover cleaning and preventative care at 100%, then you will have to pay the remaining costs of your visit. This can cost anywhere from $20 to over $100 depending on the type of care you’re getting and the percentage covered. If you’re getting a PHMO plan, it is easier to estimate your costs since all procedures conducted in their network will have fees, but if you’re going to your own dentist then it will simply be a percentage of whatever they charge.

Another thing to consider is that some dental insurance plans cover two cleaning visits per year while others only cover one.

Deductibles

Like most kinds of health or ancillary medical insurance, there are deductibles involved in dental insurance. Generally, the deductibles are per individual or per family depending on your plan. Some companies require that you meet the deductible on each member of your family while others have a family amount that you have to hit – no matter who the person receiving the care was. Deductibles can range anywhere from $100 to $500 or more. Obviously, the higher your deductible, the less likely you’ll be to take full advantage of your insurance.

Limits on Procedures

You’ll want to look at whether there any limits on basic, major, or preventative procedures such as cavity filling, crowns, and x-rays. Some plans will limit the amount of procedures or the types of procedures you can get. Other plans will have waiting periods for coverage on certain types of procedures.

Annual Maximums

Many plans have an annual maximum of coverage per individual. This is usually around $1,000 or $1,500. If you believe you'll need more coverage, it’s important that you get a plan that provides more.

Coverage Percentages

Dental plans will usually cover a portion of your costs on different types of dental procedures. Some plans focus more on preventative and basic dental care, but offer less coverage on major dental procedures. It's important to understand what's best for your dental health. If you routinely need a root canal or get cavities, you'll want a plan that provides better coverage on those types of procedures. In contrast, if you have relatively healthy teeth then you might not need to pay for the extra coverage.

Generally, most plans will cover 70% to 100% of preventative care, 30% to 70% of basic care, and 0% to 50% of major dental care. Some plans also offer more coverage of certain kinds of procedures after you’ve been on the plan for over a year or more.

Customer Service

You want to make sure that the plan that you get has great customer service so that if you have a problem you will be able to get the help that you need. Check their website to see whether they have a phone number, e-mail address, or instant messaging service that allows you to contact them. Do a quick internet search to see what people are saying about their customer service.

Network

Depending on the type of insurance you’re looking at, the network of your dental insurance provider could be crucially important. Check to see how many dentists they have in their network and if your current dentist is in it or if there is a dentist who has an office near you that you would want to go to. Another thing to consider is whether the insurance provider will let you go see dentists outside their network, what the costs will be, and whether you need a referral when you need to see a specialist.

Ask the Expert: Dr. Kumar Vadivel, Board Certified Periodontal Surgeon at Implants & Gumcare


Dr. Kumar Vadivel

What are some things one should look for when in the market for a dental insurance plan?

Learn which treatments are covered in each plan: Most routine dental treatments are covered under dental insurance. However, many plans do not cover things like teeth whitening or dentures. Other plans may cover these treatments, but only up to a certain limit. Make sure you know exactly what is covered before selecting a plan.

Look for a plan that has several dentists and dental practices: For a number of reasons, you may want to have more than one dentist to choose from. If you limit your choice to a single dentist or practice, what would you do if you experience issues with the office location or hours, or you may not feel comfortable with the dentist or a member of the office staff? Give your family the flexibility of having more than one option.

Waiting period: Also be aware that some insurance plans have waiting periods. In some cases, you may have to wait up to 18 months before getting coverage for certain procedures. This is usually true for more expensive dental work.

Consider the needs of each family member: Every member of your family should get preventive care like exams, X-rays, and cleanings. Kids will need extras such as fluoride treatments, sealants, and in some cases, braces. If they are active or involved in sports, they may also need mouthguards (and be more prone to accidents). Adult dental insurance is needed for things like tooth sensitivity, gum disease, and replacing any missing teeth.

Major dental work coverage: Many policies may not offer coverage for major and expensive dental procedures such as dental implants.

What are a couple of monetary considerations that must be accounted for when evaluating dental insurance plans?

Dental insurance caps: Most dental insurance policies cap coverage at $1,000 to $1,500 a year. When you reach your annual cap, you will have to pay for your dental care for the rest of the year. Given that the average cost for a crown is between $750 and $1,200, and the cost of a single implant starts at $1,500, you can exhaust your annual dental allowance fairly quickly.

Cleaning & preventative care fees: Make sure the policy pays for at least the two-times a year cleanings and once a year x-rays that are considered preventative and there are no additional fees for these cleanings and preventive care.

Why Cheap Dental Insurance Might Not be Worth It

When you're shopping for affordable dental insurance, you might be tempted to look for the most inexpensive plan and get that. But there are a lot of downsides to doing so. In fact, getting a cheap plan could actually end up costing you more in the long run.

For example, if your dental plan only covers preventative care because it's an inexpensive plan, and you need a major dental procedure like a crown, you will likely end up spending more out-of-pocket to pay for that crown than you might have if you had just gotten a better dental insurance plan.

Since buying cheap dental insurance will mean that going to the dentist could cost you more, you might also be less likely to go to the dentist or you could put the visit off if you have a problem. This could lead to bigger issues with your dental health which could lead to more expensive procedures and treatment. For example, if you put off treating a cavity, you could end up needing a root canal.

Changing Benefits and Employment Landscape

The reason why so many are uninsured might be because the economy is shifting towards more contract work, consultants, and freelancers. That’s left many people without an employer to pay the bill for things like health insurance and dental insurance. At the same time, many employers are cutting back on the benefits that they’re offering or shifting their benefits. Dental plans, which used to often be paid completely by the employer, might now be optional or require the employee to pay a significant portion of the costs. In that case, it could make more sense for you to shop for a plan that is a better fit for your needs and pay for your insurance yourself.

But for many, the perceived high cost of dental insurance is one of the key factors that is keeping them from getting a policy. Luckily, there are a number of different options for people at different price points. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, the average annual cost of coverage in 2009 (the most recent year the survey was conducted) for a dental HMO plan was around $225 per year for an individual or $445 per family, the cost of a dental PPO plan averaged around $285 for an individual and $866 per family, and indemnity plans cost an average of $288 for an individual and $666 for a family.

While those costs have likely gone up over the last few years, there are still a number of affordable dental insurance plans that might fit your needs – and ensure you don’t find yourself having to put your root canal on your credit card.

What are Dental Savings Plans?

Dental savings plans are different than dental insurance. Dental savings plans provide you with a list of dentists who will give you a discount because you’re a member of the savings plan. Usually, these are quite generous discounts and can save you a significant amount of money on your dental care. Sometimes the discount can be well over 50% for things like preventative care, but it tends to be a little less for other types of care.

Another benefit of getting a discount plan is that it kicks in quite quickly - usually around three days after you sign up. You also have more choice around dentists than you might with a dental insurance plan, there are no waiting lists to get care, and you don’t have to fill out time consuming forms to get reimbursed.

Some downsides include that these plans are not insurance and so do not fully cover preventative services or cleanings like many insurance plans do. You will always be paying a large chunk of your costs out-of-pocket.

The benefits of a dental savings plan are that they tend to be cheaper than the cost of dental insurance. Plans can start at as low as $7 to $15 per month, but some plans also have a yearly enrollment fee on top of that.

State Programs that Offer Cheap Dental Coverage

If you're struggling to find an affordable dental insurance, your state might offer some programs that could help you. Many states have assistance programs for those who are unable to pay for dental care themselves. To find out whether your state has a program, visit the National Association of Dental and Cranialfacial Research, as well as the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors. Their websites have links and information about how to get low-cost dental care in your state.

Another option for dental care is Medicaid, which covers some kinds of dental procedures if you meet the requirements. Medicare does not provide dental coverage. The ADA Foundation has provided dental care to 5.5 million children since 2003. They will direct you to a dentist that is near you. Another option is the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It provides health coverage including dental coverage to over 7 million children under 19 years of age.

Can I Get Work Done at Local Dental Schools?

Going to a local dental school can be a great option for getting low priced dental care. Dental students need to practice in order to become qualified as dentists and so there are opportunities to get dental care at very low rates. They are closely monitored by licensed dentists and so the work that you get done is going to be very good.

These dental schools either offer discounts or provide free dental services in order to get patients they can practice on. While they do all sorts of different procedures, it’s probably best to go to them for more routine care like cleanings, check ups, x-rays, and small cavities. If you have a more complex procedure to get done, you might better off going to an expert instead.

The downside of using a dental school is that it can sometimes take a lot more time to get the work done since it’s a learning environment, the hours or days that they practice are limited, and it can be hard to get your insurance coverage to pay for work performed at a dental school if you have insurance. You’ll likely have to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket and get reimbursed later.

Ask the Expert: Dr. Jennifer Silver, Dentist at Macleod Trail Dental


Dr. Jennifer Silver

Is getting dental work done at a local dental school a viable option or should one avoid it entirely?

Dental school students perform low cost services to the public in exchange for hands-on experience. You’ll end up paying less money, but the procedure could take up to double the time because a professor must observe and approve each step as you go. Dental hygiene schools also offer low-cost preventive care by supervised students in training.

Are there any other low-cost options available for dental work?

Another low cost option is to search for local community health centers where you can get dental services at a reduced cost based on your income.

Let’s say you are suffering from TMJ, or some other dental condition, it’s always worth doing a little research to see if there are any local clinical trials related to your dental ailment. Keep in mind, you are essentially turning yourself into a human guinea pig, but if you have no other way to afford dental care, it might be worth the risk.

Lastly, I recommend searching for local events hosted by Dentistry From the Heart, a non-profit organization that partners with dentists around the world to offer free dental care for a day. I recently held my first free dental care event in partnership with this non-profit organization, so I can say with confidence that it’s a great way to get high quality free dental care.

Are there any other low-cost options available for dental work?

Dental insurance plans will ask you about your lifestyle, including if you smoke. Smoking may increase your premiums because it puts you at a greater risk for dental issues.

Smoking and Dental Insurance

If you're wondering whether you will have to pay higher premiums if you’re a smoker, the bad news is that you will. Most companies will charge a surcharge to those who have smoked any time within the last five years.

That’s because smokers tend to have higher rates of gum disease and more issues with their teeth. In fact, smoking is one of the major causes of tooth loss. How much extra you'll pay will depend on the insurance company. When you have not smoked for 1 to 5 years, some insurance companies will take the surcharge off your account.

The Affordable Care Act of 2014 and Dental Insurance

If you're wondering if the Affordable Care Act of 2014, also known as Obamacare, affects dental coverage – it does. You can buy health coverage through the online health insurance marketplace that includes dental coverage. You can also purchase a standalone dental insurance plan through the health insurance marketplace, but in order to do so you have to also purchase a standalone health plan through the marketplace.

Sometimes you can get a good discount if you buy health insurance and dental insurance at the same time. Other times, you might be able to get a better deal by buying them both separately in order to fit your different needs. Like anything, its best to shop around and see what's right for you

Employer-Sponsored Dental Plans vs. Individual Plans

There can sometimes be significant differences between the dental insurance plans that employers sponsor and those that you obtain as an individual. One big (and obvious) difference is that usually employers pay for part or all of the dental insurance plan, whereas if you're buying a plan by yourself you have to pay for the whole thing. Some employers are also able to get a better deal because they're buying insurance in in bulk for all their employees. But, if you shop around, you could potentially get a plan that is similarly priced or even cheaper.

Another downside of buying your own dental insurance is that you might not be able to afford the same type of coverage, which means that you could potentially have fewer benefits than you would if you had gotten it through your employer. That might mean that you have less access to certain types of treatment or that in order to get an affordable plan with good coverage, you’ll have to choose one where you have to stay within the plan’s network.

But there are also many benefits of buying a dental insurance plan on your own. For example, when you leave your job, you can take your coverage with you - something which is almost impossible with many employer plans.

Another benefit is that you have more flexibility when it comes to choosing what type of plan you want. When you work for an employer, they choose which plan they believe would be right for the majority of their workers. But you might not need the same type of coverage as the person who works in the cubicle next to you. By buying an individual plan, you're able to customize and purchase exactly what you need. For that reason, your coverage can actually be less expensive than if you had an employer-sponsored plan – especially if you had to pay for part of your premiums.

One of the biggest downsides of paying for your own plan is that your premiums might not be pre-tax as they would be if you were paying for a plan that your employer and your contribution towards the plan was being taken off your paycheck. But, if you own your own business, you can potentially write off those expenses as a business cost and therefore get the same savings.

What Are Dental Insurance Classes?

Dental insurance companies sort the different types of dental procedures into different classes. There are five different types of classes. Class I is for diagnostic and preventative care which include things like x-rays, exams, and cleanings. Class II is for basic care and other procedures such as fillings. Class III dental care usually refers to major care and procedures such as dentures, bridges, implants, and crowns. Finally, Class IV dental procedures are orthodontics.

Different companies provide various percentages of coverage in these areas. For example, one insurance provider might cover 100% of the cost of Class I services while another might only cover 80%. Yet another plan might not provide Class IV or orthodontic coverage, but provide coverage in all other areas. It’s important that you understand what services are covered before signing up for a plan.

Ask the Expert: Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani, Owner of Yazdani Family Dentistry


Dr. Yazdani

Why would a cheap dental insurance plan not be worth it?

Cheap dental plans aren't ideal as the percentage of coverage, as well as the annual maximum coverage, is quite low. It's very easy to end up paying out of pocket for your dental care needs due to this. At the very least, I'd recommend to have an average coverage. That little extra you pay each month can end up saving you a lot more in the long run, and you won't be as hesitant to go in for a checkup.

What are the different dental insurance classes?

Dental insurance classes separate the four different types of services that your insurance plan covers.

Class I – Diagnostic and preventive care

Class II – Basic care and procedures

Class III – Major care and procedures

Class IV – Orthodontics

The amount of coverage each class has will change depending on the plan you choose. Your plan will specify your coverage rate with this format: 100-70-50. So, with this example, you would have 100% coverage for Class I, 70% coverage for Class II, and so on.

Can you explain the different types of insurance plans?

The main differences between a DHMO and DPPO is that a DHMO typically has lower premiums; however, the patient must see a dentist that is in the DHMO's network. Whereas a DPPO allows the patient to see dentists outside of the network, but the rates tend to be higher.

Can you compare and contrast employer-sponsored dental plans. vs. individual plans?

Typically speaking, an individual plan will be more expensive with fewer benefits, whereas an employer-sponsored dental plan will have a better rate with more benefit coverage. As the employer-sponsored plan covers a full office, they will have better rates because of the number of employees it covers, adding to the overall cost. Think of it like buying a product in bulk, you typically get a deal.

Different Types of Dental Plans

There are three main kinds of dental insurance plans: dental health maintenance organizations (DHMOs), dental preferred provider organizations (DPPOs), and indemnity dental insurance.

DHMO's are similar to HMOs in that their plans connect you with a network of dentists who give you care for a low monthly premium. With DHMO plans, you are required to go see dentists who are in their network, but in return you have lower costs, and no claim forms to fill out. DHMOs are great for preventative care and basic procedures. Some downsides include that there can be wait times if you need major or restorative dental care and some DHMOs don’t cover this types of treatment. You also need to go see your primary care dentist and get a referral to a specialist in order to get some specialized care.

Another kind of dental insurance plan is a DPPO which is similar to a health insurance PPO plan. What they do is they work out lower rates with dentists that are in their network who are often referred to as their preferred providers. With this plan, you can visit a dentist outside of your network, but you will not be able to get these low rates and you will likely end up paying more. Many DPPOs provide coverage of preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures, but they only provide a percentage of this care for each.

Many provide as much as 100% coverage preventative services and then less on basic procedures usually 50% to 80%, and usually 50% to 0% on major care or things like crowns. Often there is some fine print with these plans and they do not cover certain procedures. They also have a maximum annual benefit and a deductible that you have to pay before they start coverage. There also can potentially be waiting periods on certain types of procedures but you don’t always have to get a referral to see a specialist.

The final kind of dental insurance is indemnity dental coverage. These plans allow you to visit any dentist and they will pay a fee for the procedures you have done. They calculate a set amount that they’ll pay for each type of procedure and any additional amount would have to be paid by you out-of-pocket. They also have an annual maximum which can sometimes be higher than other types of plans. One of the downsides is that you have to pay for all the services upfront and submit paperwork in order to get reimbursed.