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Dental procedures can get expensive, and good dental insurance can help defray those costs, but not all dental insurances are alike. What may work best for one person could be too much   or too little   for someone else.

Finding the best insurance company for your needs takes a little homework. While we have reviewed the top ten dental insurance providers, you will profit by taking time to consider your own needs in order to find the best plan for you.

What are Your Needs?

Before you start delving into rates and deductibles, determine exactly what it is that you need from dental insurance. There are many factors that go into this:

Age: People in their 20s and 30s generally need less dental care than children or older adults. Seniors have special needs from age to medical problems   even some medications can cause your teeth to suffer. As a result, older adults may want coverage that allows for more cleanings, and covers treatment for gum disease and dentures or implants. Children, especially teens, need extra care as their teeth grow, including sealants or orthodontics. Pregnant women benefit form extra cleanings and may have dental issues associated with their changing hormones.

Health: Diabetes, cardiac issues or other conditions that require you to take medication can affect your teeth as well as your body. Prescriptions that cause dry mouth are of particular concern, as they allow bacteria to grow in your mouth.

Habits: Do you brush and floss regularly? Avoid sweets? Then, chances are you may not need as much in the way of dental care and can get by with a cheaper plan that only has an annual cleaning and a higher deductible. Smokers, on the other hand, benefit from extra care. Also, if you know yourself well enough to realize you won't take advantage of the six-month cleanings regularly, look for cheaper plans that have annual cleanings. Why pay for something you won't use?

History and Genetics: Some people are born with bad teeth; their baby teeth were never replaced with adult teeth or their mouths are naturally more acidic. If your genetics and dental history are already against you, a stronger coverage is to your benefit.

Individual or Family? As noted, dental needs change when kids are in the picture. If you don't yet have a family but anticipate one in the near future, you may want to see what the family plans offered by the companies are and ask how easy it is to switch when the time comes.

Research the Companies

Next, research the different companies in order to narrow down your choices. You ll want to look for important things like available features, tools, costs and co-pay prices. A few non-monetary things you ll want to look for include:

  • Network. If you already have a dentist you like, find out what insurance they take. Otherwise, look at the networks offered by the insurances to make sure they have dentists in your area. If you are in a job that moves a lot, you'll want to look for national networks. Some plans make considerations for dentists outside the network.
  • Online Tools. Check for tools like a dentist finder, online enrollment, the ability to track a claim online, and online payment options.
  • Customer Service Options. Do they have FAQs, email addresses, telephone numbers and online chat options to better serve their customers?
  • Website Information. Look for sites that give detailed information about their coverage and are easy to contact with questions. The better informed you are, the better able you are to make a great decision.
  • Site Security. Look for the website's address to have https rather than http. This shows they secure transmissions and protect your information.
  • Premiums vs. Co-pays. If you can handle a larger co-pay, you may want to choose a lower premium. We've found that often costs balance out, so it can be a matter of how and when you want to pay.
  • Flexibility. How easy is it to upgrade if you have a change in your condition, such as a child or an increased need for dental care? (Suddenly, those twice-a year-cleanings are important.)
  • Specialists. If you need work that calls for a specialist   such as a root canal   will the insurance cover it? Do you have to work within the company's network? Does your dentist need to give you a referral?
  • Obligation. How easily can you drop coverage if you aren't satisfied or find a better company?
  • Coverage Cap. Most dental insurance companies offer $1,000 to $1,500 annually in coverage, which is the maximum amount that can be paid out to dentists. If you anticipate needing extra care, look for a higher cap.

Check Out the Companies

One you've picked a few candidates, call the insurance agents and ask questions to clarify the kind of coverage you can get. Double check information you could not find online and ask how current the online information is. Be sure to mention any special conditions, medical issues or even bad habits that might affect the kind of care you need.

Alternately, you can instantly obtain a quote online by simple submitting your name, gender and zip code. Most will provide you a choice of several plans available in your area, and if you have further questions, you can contact an agent.

If you've done this much homework, you've most likely not only found the best candidates as far as dental insurance companies, but the best plans for you.

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