Regular visits to the dentist are essential for keeping up with your dental hygiene, but many people struggle to pay for dental care. Dental insurance provides partial or total coverage for routine and unexpected dental work, so you don’t have to avoid the dentist for fear of a massive bill. However, before you rush into buying a policy, you should understand how dental insurance works and which companies provide the most affordable dental plans.

What Is Dental Insurance?

Most health insurance plans don’t cover dental care, but dental work can be expensive. Dental insurance usually covers routine checkups and cleanings as well as more complex procedures like fillings, X-rays, crowns, and root canals. Like regular health insurance, you may have to pay a copay or deductible.

Different plans provide different coverage, but there are certain procedures that most policies don’t cover such as:

  1. Cosmetic procedures
  2. Dentures
  3. Dental implants
  4. Braces and other orthodontic treatments

The cost of dental insurance varies depending on how much coverage you have and how many people are included in your policy. One of the most common dental plans is “100-80-50,” which covers 100 percent of routine and preventive care, 80 percent of basic procedures like fillings and root canals, and 50 percent for major procedures like crowns. Plans average at $225 to $285 yearly for an individual and $445 to $850 for a family.

The Benefits of Dental Insurance

You may feel hesitant to pay for dental insurance if your teeth are currently strong and healthy. There are many benefits of dental coverage, though, and even young and healthy people should consider getting a policy.

Preventive care: Routine care is the best way to prevent dental issues in the future. During regular cleanings and checkups, your dentist will look for early signs of tooth decay or gum disease and treat the problems before they become more severe. Many people without dental insurance don’t get regular checkups, but they end up paying more for complex dental procedures that could have been avoided with preventive care. Dental insurance often covers 100 percent of routine and preventive care, so you can lower your risk of serious dental problems.

Avoid a financial crisis: It’s impossible to predict whether you or a family member will need a non-routine dental procedure. Root canals, fillings, dental implants, and other surgeries can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and you’ll be stuck paying out-of-pocket if you don’t have dental insurance. Your dental coverage may be expensive, but it’s an expected cost every month. You won’t be surprised by a bill you can’t afford to pay after an emergency dental surgery.

Peace of mind: No one wants to worry about their health or their finances. When you have dental insurance, you know that you’ll have at least some coverage if you need a procedure. This peace of mind is invaluable and will make your life much less stressful.

Popular Providers

Once you’ve decided to get dental insurance, the next step is to choose a plan. There are a wide variety of plans available from different providers, so it’s important to make an informed decision. Here are some of the most popular dental insurance providers:

Delta Dental

Delta Dental is the largest dental insurance provider in the United States and has the biggest network of dentists. They offer several different plans for individuals and for companies. Some of their most popular plans include the following:

  1. Delta Dental PPO: provides reduced fees for a large network of dentists
  2. Delta Dental Premier: a fee-for-service plan that covers all costs except copay and deductible
  3. Delta Dental PPO Plus Premier: a combination of PPO and Premier services
  4. DeltaCare USA: an HMO network that focuses on preventive care

Delta Dental is made up of 39 independent companies throughout all 50 states and Puerto Rico. They serve over one-third of all Americans who have dental insurance.

MetLife Dental

MetLife Dental offers group rates as well as coverage for individuals. Their PPO plans include a large network of dentists, but you can visit an out-of-network dentist for an extra cost. Their HMO plans also cover a large network of dentists and have no deductibles. Most plans provide total coverage for preventive care.

MetLife’s individual coverage, TakeAlong Dental, provides coverage for hundreds of services and procedures. The company advertises fees an average of 36 percent below the average dental costs. They also will provide coverage for your current dentist even if they aren’t in the MetLife network.

Guardian Dental

Guardian uses the DentalGuard Preferred Network, which is one of the largest dental networks in the country. They cover more than 130,000 providers at more than 400,000 locations. The company offers a Maximum Rollover program, which allows you to roll some of your unused benefits over for the future.

Guardian has both individual and group plans available. Most plans offer preventive care for little or no cost as well as reduced costs on procedures like crowns and root canals. With their PPO plans, you can choose to see any provider, but you’ll receive extra savings if you choose an in-network dentist. With their HMO plans, you can select a primary care dentist within Guardian’s network, and you won’t have to pay a deductible.

Aetna

Aetna offers a variety of individual and group plans. Their DMO plans have no deductible and cover most preventive and basic services with in-network dentists, and their PPO plans allow you to see any licensed dentist without a referral. Aetna also offers dental indemnity plans, which provide reimbursement for most dental services with any licensed dentist.

Unlike many dental insurance policies, Aetna’s DMO plans cover orthodontic treatment without a referral. Each plan provides different levels of coverage, though. Many of their dental plans cover oral surgery as well, so you can be reimbursed if your regular health insurance doesn’t cover the procedure.

Each dental insurance provider offers different services with a different network of dentists. To make sure you choose the best plan, you should do careful research into all the available plans. If you choose the right plan for yourself and your family, you can save money on dental care and avoid the stress of an unexpected dental bill.