With myriad choices available for health coverage, some with and some without coverage for dental care, making a decision on dental insurance can be overwhelming. When you add in the possibility of dental insurance alternatives and all the deciding factors that go into those options, it gets tougher still to come to a conclusion.
But it doesn’t need to be difficult. In fact, there are four simple and straightforward questions you can ask yourself to help decide how to best afford your oral health care. Once you review these questions yourself, think about any of your friends or family who may be dealing with this same difficult decision, and pass the list along to help them out too.
1) Do you have access to free dental insurance that fully covers everything you or your family may need?
This is the first question, because if you can answer “yes” to this one, the others are moot.
If you have access to completely free dental coverage that will cost you nothing to use, that’s absolutely your best possible choice for ensuring proper oral health care. The only additional step you need to take is to make your appointments every six months for the regular cleaning and examination, and promptly follow up on any concerns voiced by the dentist.
Of course, the scenario of free insurance is becoming more and more rare every day. Most employers simply can’t afford to carry that level of coverage for their employees, so users having to pay at least a portion of the monthly premiums - either directly or via paycheck withholdings - is the most common arrangement.
And, even if your premiums are covered in full by your employer, most insurance plans include copays, deductibles, and coverage limitations that will end up resulting in out-of-pocket expense at some point over the course of normal usage.
There are some government programs like Medicaid and Medicare that may be available for free and without copays based on your income situation, but neither Medicaid nor Medicare offers dental coverage automatically as part of standard coverage for adults.
2) What is your estimated annual out-of-pocket expense for dental care using each available plan?
Assuming you are in the overwhelming majority who ended up having to answer “no” the first question, this question requires you to do a little math.
Based on the details of any dental insurance plans available to you and some simple research with local dentists to determine their normal costs for various services, you should be able to arrive at a reasonable estimate of what you and/or your family can expect to spend each year on dental care.
At a bare minimum, you should receive the following every year:
- Two dental examinations
- Two professional dental cleanings
- One updated set of bitewing x-rays
"Most employers simply can’t afford to carry that level of coverage for their employees, so users having to pay at least a portion of the monthly premiums - either directly or via paycheck withholdings - is the most common arrangement."
A dentist may recommend additional services based on individual circumstances such as age, preexisting oral health conditions, and of course based on the results of each examination. But assuming you have relatively healthy teeth and gums and maintain good care of them through appropriate self-care (brushing, flossing, and rinsing at home) the list above represents the basic care you will need.
Based on prior services you or a family member has received, you may need to add in one or more fillings, extractions, root canals, and the like to create a more accurate estimate.
For each insurance option available to you, list out the full year’s premiums, copays for all the services you’ve included in your estimate, and take into account any deductible and/or plan limitations that will affect what you’re charged over the course of the year. Use the retail prices you determined by calling local offices to put a final annual price tag on dental care using each available option.
At this point, you’re in a position to confidently choose the dental insurance option that’s likely to cost you the least overall.
3) Have you considered a dental discount card?
This is another simple question, but it’s vitally important because many people don’t consider the possibility of a dental discount card when they’re thinking about how to obtain affordable dental care. They think about insurance, and they may even consider paying for dental services in full out of pocket, but dental discount plans aren’t on everyone’s radar.
With low monthly or annual membership fees, and guaranteed savings as high as 50% off normal retail cost on dental services, these dental discount plans offer significant savings, making dental care more affordable.
To compare costs, add a new column to your notes and factor in the membership fees and estimated out-of-pocket expenses you’d incur for all the services you’ve listed, using a dental discount plan. If the total out of pocket expense is lower than the lowest insurance option available to you, you may find that discounted dental care is the best option available.
4) Do you prefer to spend your hard-earned money or save it?
No, this isn’t meant to be sarcastic or silly. It’s just that the last question you need to ask yourself really is that simple.
To illustrate, add one final column to your notes that pulls together all the full retail costs for all the services you’re listing. Then leave it. That’s what you’re going to pay the dentist if you don’t obtain any sort of dental insurance or discounts. Obviously it’s going to be the highest number on the page, but if you’re honest with yourself it’s probably a lot higher than you expected.
That’s not a number you’re going to want to shell out this year just to have your teeth cleaned and examined. Unfortunately, that’s why a lot of people procrastinate or simply skip taking care of their oral health: they don’t want to pay that high figure, and they reason, “nothing hurts right now, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
However, when a dental issue does occur, they’re looking at much more expensive bills for emergency dental services.
So, at this point, go back through your list of coverage and discount options and decide which one suits your family’s circumstances best. Then move forward with signing up and making those appointments so you don’t end up in that same expensive situation.
To learn more about saving 20%-50% on dental services with Dental Solutions, click the link below to see how it can easily work for you.