While you may consider health insurance a necessity, you may not feel the same way about dental insurance. That is unfortunate because like most of your health, your dental health is something you probably won’t value as much until it is at risk. You probably don’t realize how important your teeth and gums are to your confidence, professional appearance and general health, and that is why having a dental plan is critical.
In recent years, researchers have learned that the health of your teeth, gums and underlying bone are strongly related to the health of other organs including your heart and brain. Poor dental health can be major contributors to heart attack, stroke and diabetes. So, proper dental care that includes regular trips to your dentist should be a part of your overall health regimen.
In the U.S. almost 57 percent of Americans under 65 years of age have dental insurance. That is considerably more than in the past, when only the wealthy could afford to see dentists regularly. If you still question if dental insurance is right for you, consider that in the past, dental emergencies and tooth loss were far more common. Poor oral health has been linked to kidney disease, leukemia and pancreatic cancer.
How Dental Insurance Protects Your Teeth
You probably already know that visiting your dentist at least twice a year for routine cleaning and inspection is recommended by the major dental organizations but you may not realize why those visits are so important. First of all, those cleanings remove buildup that brushing and flossing miss. This tartar can cause gum inflammation, gum recession and tooth loss. It may also lead to bacterial infection that can attack your jawbones, leading to bone loss and a prematurely wrinkled appearance. Most frightening of all, the infection may spread to other organs causing a heart attack or stroke.
By getting a dental insurance policy, most of your routine dental visits will be entirely covered. This may not be enough to prompt you to visit your dentist on schedule every time, but it removes the obstacle of cost. Having access to dental care is often a privilege that produces very real health benefits. The dentally insured have an 8 percent lower likelihood of losing all of their teeth and are more likely to avoid extractions and denture use.
As you age, the likelihood that you will develop a serious dental issue rises significantly. Not only is there greater pain and discomfort caused by dental issues among older Americans, with almost one third of people 65 or older with untreated dental problems, but serious issues like oral cancer kills more than 8,000 seniors annually.
Dental health is not just an issue for older people. Many children often need proper dental care to develop their smile. Almost 70 percent of the U.S. population could benefit from orthodontic care which would realign teeth. Improperly fitting teeth can not only produce an unaesthetic smile but also create physiological issues like a poor bite or poorly developed jaws. Many dental plans cover orthodontic treatments which are critical to proper childhood development.
Insurance Protects Your Finances
For many people, dental insurance with monthly premiums ranging from $20 to $50 may seem like a luxury that is unnecessary. For the most part that is true, but if you develop a tooth or gum issue, then you will be enormously grateful that you have insurance. While routine cleanings and exams are not that expensive, many common dental procedures are quite pricey. A root canal may cost you more than a $1,000 and a crown can cost upwards of $1,500. More involved surgeries or prosthetics may be several thousand dollars.
While in a typical year, you are unlikely to need your dental insurance to cover such pricey procedures, chances are that you probably will eventually. It may not seem like a smart strategy to pay hundreds of dollars annually to cover a couple of routine exams, but you should remember that you are paying for protection from a catastrophic dental emergency. Like health insurance, dental insurance is an investment that is well worth the cost.
Perhaps, most importantly, dental insurance helps you correct small oral health issues before they snowball into much more serious and expensive ones. By treating minor issues like plaque buildup on a regular basis, you are minimizing the need for expensive procedures later on in life. Consider your dental insurance premiums a way to preserve your beautiful smile and overall health.
Which Dental Plan is Right for You
Before you sign on to a new dental policy, there are some things you should know. Most dental plans cost around $350 for an individual or $550 for a family each year. This usually covers 100 percent of two exams, cleanings and X-rays for the year, as well as about 80 percent of basic treatments including fillings and 50 percent of pricier procedures like crowns. Most policies will only start paying out for the costlier procedures once you have remained enrolled for at least 12 months.
Most dental plans usually have an annual limit. On most plans, this annual limit is usually around $1,000 to $1,500. Once you reach your annual limit, you must pay any excess expenses out of your own pocket. This may seem low to you, but otherwise, dental plans would cost considerably more to maintain. You should also keep in mind that most years, you will never come close to reaching your policy limit.
Your policy will also likely require other contributions from you in the form of deductibles or co-insurance. A deductible is usually about $50 per dentist visit, and you must pay this amount before your insurer covers additional costs. Co-insurance is usually a percentage of the dental expenses you must pay alongside your insurer; this percentage usually rises if you see a dentist outside of your insurer’s network.
Shop around with local insurers before you settle on a plan. You should discuss your family’s needs with an agent to learn what is available and which plan best satisfies your needs.