Having toothache is never fun, and neither is paying expensive out-of-pocket costs for dental treatment. If you're new to oral care coverage, you may be wondering where to start when it comes to learning how to pick the right dental insurance plan for you. That may be because there are so many different options available now, many of which feature in our guide to the best dental insurance providers, or because all those premiums and deductibles can quickly become confusing.
Ideally, you'll begin by making a list of your needs, including those of any family member you are also looking to secure coverage for. Everyone's needs and financial situations are different, and there are different types of dental insurance so what's right for you won't be suitable for the next person, and vice versa.
Here's what to keep in mind when picking the right dental insurance plan for you, and why oral care coverage shouldn't just be an afterthought compared to the best health insurance...
Consider in your family who needs dental insurance
If you're looking for dental insurance, you may not be looking just for yourself. For example, you and your spouse may be able to get a family plan, and if you have a child, you'll likely want to extend coverage to them too. Ultimately, the number of people on your chosen dental insurance plan determines how much you'll pay each month.
As with all health concerns, prevention is better than cure - which is why we always champion brushing properly with the best electric toothbrush - so consider a dental plan that gives you access to affordable preventive care procedures. These may include hygienist cleaning sessions and regular teeth check-ups. Your children may need extra attention, such as fluoride treatments or braces, so keep those in mind when looking at a prospective plan too.
For most adults and seniors, dental insurance helps cover the cost of treatments associated with gum disease, tooth maintenance and replacement, and treating pesky tooth sensitivity. Be honest about the current health of your teeth and gums, and what kind of ongoing care you may need.
Also take into consideration how much work you need done on your teeth, if any, as this may also reduce the number of policy options that fit your exact needs.
Look at all of the costs and treatment caps
The overall monthly cost of any plan is likely to be a big deciding factor for most people, so pay attention to the small print of the plan you're considering to ensure there are no extra costs you're unaware of. That means looking at the deductibles, or the amount you'll have to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance takes over.
Also take a look at the maximum annual limit, as many dental insurance providers cap the amount they'll pay each year for treatment. What happens when you reach that maximum cap? You end up paying for the rest of the costs. So if you or a family member has ongoing dental needs, the maximum annual limit could be the singular most important factor for you when choosing a plan.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some plans may have waiting periods built into your contract. For example, you may have to wait several months or longer before securing coverage for more expensive dental work.
Make sure your dentist is 'in-network?
For those of you who already have a dentist and don't want to switch oral health practitioners, check that your potential new coverage provider considers your dentist to be 'in-network.' To find out, call the provider or your dentist's administrative office.
If you don't have a dentist at this time, pick a dental insurance plan with a wide variety of in-network dentists. Why? Simply so that you have a greater pool to choose from when it comes to where you live and your dental care requirements. Take a look at our tips on how to find a dentist if you'd like some help with your search.
Remember, not all dental insurance companies offer the same plans in every state. To avoid disappointment and wasting your time, focus only on the plans available in your zip code. You'll find this search function on the website of all major providers.
Learn which dental treatments are covered
Dental health insurance providers offer different tiers of coverage, and each of those will include different types and levels of dental care and treatment. It may sound obvious, but if you need specific dental work carried out, make sure your new plan covers it. For example, it's common that some adult orthodontic procedures are not covered by dental insurance policies unless there's a medical reason for them.
You'll find that most standard (routine) dental treatments are covered under dental insurance, but dentures and teeth whitening might be not - or only up to a specific cost limit. For the latter, we'd recommend taking a look at the best teeth whitening kits if you'd like to whiten your teeth at home.
Read existing customer reviews before purchasing
As with any product or service, it's important to read reviews from existing customers to ensure there are no red flags with the dental coverage or customer service. We'd recommend reading the customer reviews on the website of the provider you're considering going with, and, if you're able, ask your dentist for their advice on a particular insurance provider during your next check-up.
If you have any questions about a provider's policy, it's best to contact the administrator for an updated quote or to clarify any points you're unsure of. Read our explainer on 'what is dental insurance' to learn more about this.
For more wellness coverage needs, also take a look at our guide to the best vision insurance companies.