Dental Insurance – What You Need to Know

Dental insurance is usually offered through employer-sponsored group plans, but it may also be purchased individually or as part of a larger health plan. Most dental insurance plans include a deductible, benefit caps and monthly premiums.


The key to finding a good dental plan is to understand what is covered and excluded. Look for a dental PPO or DPPO with a large network of providers.

Preventive care

Dental insurance plans typically come with a monthly premium, which is deducted from the employee’s paycheck or paid by the employer. These plans also have deductibles and coinsurance payments. Some plans may also include a dental yearly maximum and lifetime maximum. These limits are determined by the plan administrator and reflect a wide variation in fees charged by dentists throughout the country.

Most plans provide coverage for preventive visits twice a year with low or no out-of-pocket cost. Some policies may also cover fillings, extractions, and oral surgery. Many plans also provide a mechanism for resolving disputes between third parties, patients and dentists.

The type of dental coverage you choose depends on the needs of your family and budget. Some plans offer a preferred provider organization (PPO) option, which provides a list of dentists that will charge a reduced rate for services. Other plans offer a dental health maintenance organization (DHMO) option, which is similar to a health insurance HMO but usually only covers care from dentists who are contracted with the plan. Some plans also offer an indemnity product, which is similar to traditional insurance but generally has a higher annual limit than PPO plans and a maximum lifetime maximum.

Major care

With a little planning and budgeting, Dental insurance can be an excellent way to help offset the costs of major procedures. While not all procedures are covered, the majority of basic and comprehensive plans cover preventative care, as well as some restorative procedures such as fillings and extractions.

Like health insurance, Dental policies typically have a deductible and coinsurance. A deductible is the amount that the policyholder pays out of pocket before the insurer starts paying for coverage, and it generally resets annually. A coinsurance is a set percentage that the policyholder must pay for each procedure, after the deductible has been met. Coinsurance is often more common with Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans than with Dental Health Maintenance Organizations or dental indemnity products.

Additionally, most Dental plans limit how much they will spend on a given treatment by dividing procedures into categories such as “Preventive,” “Basic,” and “Major.” While most procedures are assigned to one of these three categories, every plan may classify treatments differently. Additionally, some plans may institute waiting periods or not cover certain procedures at all.


Exclusions from dental insurance can seem like insurmountable obstacles, but with strategic planning and a clear understanding of your policy, you can navigate them. Firstly, it’s essential to understand your policy’s deductible. This is the amount you pay out-of-pocket before the insurance provider starts paying for procedures. Typically, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Preventive care is generally not subject to a deductible, but there may be limits on how many cleanings or other treatments are covered in a year.

In addition, it’s important to be aware of the annual maximums, waiting periods and pre-existing condition exclusions. These limitations can impact your finances and limit the quality of care you receive. A common limitation is the “missing tooth clause,” which excludes the cost of replacing teeth that were missing prior to subscribing to a plan.

Exclusions can also prompt you to financially plan ahead, saving for procedures that are generally excluded or seeking alternative methods of finance, such as assistance programs or low-cost clinics. By making these financial arrangements ahead of time, you can avoid having to resort to expensive dental treatment later on.


A co-payment is a predetermined amount of the dentist’s charge that the insurance company expects the patient to pay after meeting their deductible. The amount varies among plans. It can also vary by treatment category. To get a more accurate idea of the costs of each procedure, you should request an estimate from your dentist.

Some dental benefit plans use table or schedule of allowance programs, which define a set fee for each type of service. The plan then pays the dentist up to the “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee limit for that particular service. The remaining balance is billed to the patient.

Other plans have a negotiated discount with the dentist, which is based on the fee that the plan sets. The advantage of these types of plans is that they have a high degree of predictability. However, they limit the choice of dentists and they do not always offer a family maximum on coverage. Dental Preferred Provider Organizations (DPPO) and Dental Health Maintenance Organizations (DHMO) are examples of these types of plans.

Choosing a dentist

Whether you have dental insurance through your employer or purchase it independently, a quality dentist is a key component of the plan. Choosing the right one can help you feel at ease and save you money in the long run. Ask for recommendations from family and friends, and always read the fine print of a dental plan before making a decision.

Often, dental plans require a waiting period before major restorative procedures are covered. They may also have a deductible or annual maximum, which is the amount they will pay for a given procedure in a year. The annual maximum will reset if you need additional care.

A dental health maintenance organization (DHMO) is similar to a health insurance HMO, but it includes fewer dentists than a Preferred Provider Organization (DPPO) plan. Its premiums are usually lower, but you can only visit dentists within the network for services that meet your coverage criteria. This type of plan typically has lower annual maximums, but consumers can face higher out-of-pocket costs if they have to meet the deductible and coinsurance before reaching the maximum.