You only get two sets of teeth: your baby teeth and then your permanent adult teeth. Taking care of those teeth can be costly, but considering the alternatives of having to do without teeth, it is usually worth it to figure out a way to maintain those pearly whites. Yet going to the dentist can be quite the expensive trip. And it can be frustrating to have to decide between an expensive option while you’re laying back in the chair, mouth full of dental equipment. Thankfully, most people have access to dental insurance to help offset some of the costs of expensive dental care.
But even if you have access to dental insurance, it might not be worth it. How can you tell?
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How to Determine If Dental Insurance is Worth the Cost
It all comes down to the math. Here are two things to do.
Calculate Premium Paid to Potential Benefit
Knowing your prospective dental policy inside and out will help you determine whether or not you should pay for the insurance. If you’re paying $240 per year ($20 per month) for $500 in limited coverage, you might want to look elsewhere.
- Preventative Care – You should know whether or not prevention treatment like cleanings are 100% covered or if you’ll have to pay out of pocket for them.
- Specialty Care – You need to know how much specialty items like root canals will cost and if they have separate co-pays or deductibles.
- Emergency Care – Emergency care is a third critical area to know the costs of and can make having insurance worthwhile.
Once you know how much your coverage will cost you in premiums, deductibles, and co-pays you can contrast that to how much benefit you’ll receive. As long as what you’re paying in premiums is equal or less to the benefit you get, it is usually worth it especially if you consider having access to affordable emergency care.
Get Full Cost Disclosure
To help you determine how much you might need to cover with insurance, you need to speak with your dentist about full costs. The office manager may be hesitant to tell you how much they charge on insurance versus how much they charge for non-insured, but if you can get the information it will be very valuable in figuring out whether or not your insurance is worth it. You can explain to the dentist office that you understand they charge insurance more, but ask what your portion would be if you used your insurance plan.
Can You Go Without Dental Insurance?
Thinking about going without dental insurance? Here are some tips to make it possible for you.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Pain
In almost every facet of life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of pain. Get your car’s oil changed ($30) so the engine doesn’t seize up ($3,000). Exercise regularly (free) to avoid heart disease (expensive and deadly).
Likewise, brushing your teeth regularly, flossing regularly, and using fluoride wash can help keep your teeth in top condition. Get your teeth cleaned two times per year to avoid going an entire year without discovering a problem. The small cost of a cleaning is worth not knowing about an issue that could be cheap to fix up front, but costly to fix after a lot of damage is done.
Pay Full Price and With Cash
You can try negotiating with your dentist to pay with cash up front for any procedures. Doctors and dentists have to send a lot of non-insurance bills to collections. Ask for a 10 to 25% discount up front if you will pay with cash. This won’t eliminate a huge chunk of costs, but every little bit helps.
Go to a Dental School
You can try going to a dental school to get services ranging from regular cleaning to root canals done. However, keep in mind that you are dealing with students who are training on your teeth. Sometimes the cost savings from going to a trade school is offset by the amount of time you have to wait to get an appointment. But if you can schedule things well in advance, this is a great way to save on dental procedures.
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He’s building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for RothIRA.com, Discover Bank, and many others.