Medical research is increasingly discovering the strong relationship between a person’s oral health and their overall well-being. Oral infections have been linked with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory, infections, breast cancer and premature births.
One theory is that your body’s immune system is weakened when it’s constantly stressed by the presence of gum disease, tooth decay and inflammation. Consequently, you are less able to manage other diseases. Additionally, since the mouth is the gateway to the body, infections that take root there are easily passed through the entire system, affecting everything from digestion to heart health.
Many people are aware of this issue, and want to be proactive about taking care of their teeth and gums. But the high cost of dental care – and limited coverage offered by many dental insurance plans- thwarts their good intentions. Thankfully, it’s possible to get affordable dental care if you explore all of the options available.
Dental Insurance or Self Insurance?
Dental insurance is a great choice for people who need preventive care. That’s because a standard dental insurance plan provides “100-80-50” coverage, which refers to the percentage of particular services that the plan will cover. Most plans cover 100% of the cost of preventive care, 80% of the cost of basic services such as fillings, and 50% of the cost of more complex procedures such as dentures or dental crowns.
Getting preventive care now will save you money later. For every dollar spent in preventive services an estimated $50 is saved on more expensive, complicated procedures, according to a recent PBS interview of Dr. James Stephens, president of the California Dental Association. But dental insurance may not meet your needs if you have significant, existing dental problems. Besides percentage limits on more complex treatments, the majority of dental insurance plans only offer coverage up to a specific yearly limit. Typically that limit is $1,000-$1,500 annually. When your reimbursable dental costs go over that limit, you are responsible for paying your dental care costs for the rest of the year.
Additionally there will almost always be months-long waiting period before insurance will cover major procedures such as crowns or root canals. And it often will not pay to restore teeth that were missing before you purchased the policy.
The typical cost of an individual dental insurance policy is around $350 a year. For a family, the cost is around $550, annually. If you pay out of pocket for two checkups and cleanings and a set of X-rays, your cost, on average, will be around $375-$400, according to the American Dental Association.
Do the math and it’s easy to see that for most people, dental insurance amounts to pre-paying for dental care. That may be fine, depending on a specific person or family’s needs. It’s equally valid to “self-insure,” and simply bank the monthly premiums in a health savings account rather than paying them to an insurance company. One factor to keep in mind is that dental insurance plans often negotiate rates with the dentists within their networks, so you may miss out on lower prices if you self-insure. But many dentists are open to negotiating discounts directly with uninsured patients, which may cut rates as much as 20%.
What is a Dental Savings Plan
Another option to make dental care affordable is a dental savings plan, which offers discounts of 10%-60% on average dental care rates, for members who pay an annual fee.
Dental savings plans are an affordable alternative to insurance, have no annual caps, no waiting period is applied for accessing care, and no restrictions on obtaining care for preexisting conditions. As soon as the dental savings plan is activated (typically within 3 days of purchase) members are able to save on any of the procedures covered by the plan that they selected.
Services covered by dental savings plans may include annual cleanings, x-rays, crowns, root canals – even the cosmetic and orthodontic procedures that are not typically covered by dental insurance. Some dental savings plans also offer reduced fees on vision and hearing care.
Which to choose – Dental Insurance or a Dental Savings Plan?
In most cases you’ll go with whatever type of plan your employer or professional association offers. If you have a choice, or are buying your own insurance, talk to your dentist and see what plans the office accepts and recommends. If you don’t have a dentist, or don’t mind going to a new dentist, you can shop for a plan that offers the coverage that you need, at a price that you can afford.
:DentalPlans offers dental savings plans and dental insurance, and the dentalplans.com website enables you to easily compare all available plans by price, procedure, and local dentists. You don’t have to buy a plan to take advantage of the wealth of information dentalplans.com offers on dental health, affordable dental care, and how to deal with dental emergencies.