How to Buy Individual Dental Insurance

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Woman with perfect smile in a dentist office
Image Credit: Dreamstime

If you’re concerned about buying dental insurance and worried about the price, you’re not alone.

According to WhyDental.org, more than 71 million Americans had no dental coverage in 2017 — the latest year for which stats are available from the National Association of Dental Plans.

Yet you may be able to buy dental insurance for less than you’d expect if you know how to shop smartly.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Buying Dental Insurance

There’s an old saying: “Good health starts in the mouth.” That really underscores the importance of oral health.

In this article, we’re going to take you step-by-step through the process of comparison shopping for dental insurance so you can get an affordable policy in place if you don’t already have one.

Table of Contents

  1. Determine Who Needs Coverage
  2. Identify Any Pre-Existing Conditions
  3. Start Shopping
  4. Compare Quotes
  5. Make Your First Monthly Premium Payment

1. Determine Who Needs Coverage

The first thing to do when you want to buy dental insurance is determine who needs coverage. Is it just you? Or is it for you and a spouse or a dependent child?

The answer to that question will determine whether you need to search for an individual plan or a family plan.

Remember, you may be able to get free dental coverage for your child in select states.

The Smile Programs is the nation’s largest in-school dental program. It offers free preventive and restorative care to some 500,000 underserved children across the country each year.

That could help you save on your family’s dental health care, possibly making it so that you only need to purchase an individual policy.

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2. Identify If You Have Pre-Existing Conditions

You’re probably familiar with the idea of pre-existing conditions from the world of traditional medical insurance. But did you know it is also very relevant when it comes to dental insurance?

Most dental insurance plans have certain pre-existing conditions they won’t cover. Some examples include:

  • Replacement of teeth that were missing prior to purchasing the policy
  • Cosmetic procedures like tooth whitening
  • Any kind of dental implant
  • Braces
  • Other orthodontic care

In addition to certain exclusions, most dental insurance plans also have waiting periods that you will have to factor in. Typically, these waiting periods apply not to routine care but to certain procedures.

For example, when you first purchase a policy, it’s not uncommon to be able to immediately get a routine cleaning. But you may find you have to wait six months or more to deal with a filling, crown or bridge.

This varies by insurer. Be sure you know the waiting period, if any, for the plan you select and what specific procedures it applies to.

3. Start Shopping

Once you’re ready to get started actually shopping for dental insurance, you should focus on websites that cater to people buying coverage for themselves or their family:

We should note that on HealthCare.gov, certain health plans sold through the exchange are bundled with dental insurance. You can also purchase standalone dental plans. However, you can’t buy a Marketplace dental plan separately unless you’re buying a health plan at the same time.

4. Compare Quotes

Once you get a few quotes together, it’s time to compare them. Look at the total cost, including monthly premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and annual limits. Remember to also pay attention to what’s excluded and waiting periods, if applicable.

Keep in mind that the typical dental insurance plan costs about $350 a year or around $29 a month, according to DentalPlans.com.

We pulled quick quotes for an individual in metro Atlanta through DentalPlans.com. All plans had an annual deductible of $50 per person. Here’s what we were quoted:

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  1. Humana Complete Dental Insurance* – Starting at $42.99/month
  2. Renaissance Dental Insurance Plan III** – $42.93/month
  3. Delta Dental PPO Individual Premium Plan*** – $41.16/month
  4. Delta Dental PPO Individual Basic Plan** – $22.31/month

* Annual maximum benefit of $1,250
** Annual maximum benefit of $1,000
*** Annual maximum benefit of $1,500

Let’s say you wanted to focus on the two lowest quotes here — the Delta Basic vs. the Delta Premium. The next step is to look into the coverage details of the two plans side-by-side. That way you can determine if paying a higher monthly premium is warranted.

DentalPlans.com quotes for Delta Dental PPO Individual Basic Plan (left) vs. Delta Dental PPO Individual Premium Plan (right)

For example, if you needed prosthodontics (bridges, dentures, implants), major services (crowns, inlays, onlays, cast restorations) or orthodontics, you’d be out of luck with the Basic Plan on the left. They’re not an included benefit. Yet they’d be covered at 50% if you select the plan on the right with the higher premium.

So, the choice of which plan to enroll in will usually depend on your individual dental needs.

Before making your final decision, you may want to visit the website of your top one or two contenders directly, rather than through a multi-quote site. You may find you’re offered different plans and some may be more affordably priced.

5. Make Your First Monthly Premium Payment

Once you’ve made your selection, the final step is to seal the deal by paying your first monthly premium. You may wish to do this as an auto-deduction from a checking or savings account to make sure this bill gets paid every month in a timely manner.

You may have heard money expert Clark Howard in the past talking about the dangers of allowing a company to automatically deduct money this way on a monthly basis. This is especially true whether you’re talking about a utility company, a health club, a mortgage lender, a cable provider or a cell provider. But because dental health is important, you get a pass on Clark’s usual rule.

Final Thought

Once you’ve gone through the process of shopping for individual dental insurance, hopefully you’ll arrive at a quote that comfortably fits in your budget.

Dental health is so key to your overall health — don’t let the opportunity to get it pass you by.

Meanwhile, if you have additional questions about this insurance or any other kind, consider reaching out to our Consumer Action Center.

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Contact Clark’s Consumer Action Center — a FREE helpline open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m and Friday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST. We have volunteers available to answer YOUR concerns! Call Team Clark at 404-892-8227.

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