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How Can Dental Insurance Protect You?

The American Dental Association recommends seeing a dental professional at least once every six months for a cleaning and exam. Good dental health can help to prevent several other health issues, including heart disease and diabetes.

Dentists prefer to prevent dental problems, rather than simply fix them after they occur. Regular dental check-ups allow dentists to identify signs of dental disease before they progress, making them more difficult and expensive to fix.

Many people avoid going to the dentist for financial reasons. The average cost of preventative dental services, including exam and cleaning, depends on the area in which a person lives. Annual cleaning and exams run between $100 and $200 per visit. Add in dental x-rays ($30 to $100) and topical sealant used for children to help prevent cavities, and a routine visit can push close to $300.

In comparison, 42 percent of Americans do not have any form of dental insurance, making even a $100 visit to the dentist unaffordable. Those who do have dental insurance generally have it through an employer. However, there are many options on the market for those who wish to purchase their own dental insurance. The cost of the plan depends on the coverage included within it.

Most dental plans are set up in a similar fashion as health insurance plans, offering monthly premiums, deductibles and covered services. Some dental plans offer networks of approved providers at a savings. There are several kinds of plans available:

  • Preferred Provider Organization, or PPO. This type of plan offers a network of dentists who have agreed to accept payment at contracted rates from the insurer. PPO plans generally have a deductible that must be met prior to the insurer picking up the additional cost. Once the deductible is met, plans which reimburse 80, 90 or 100 percent of the cost are available. This plan will protect the patient by allowing them to know up-front how much they will be expected to cover out-of-pocket at the dentist each visit.
  • Discount Provider Organization, or DPO. These plans provide dental professionals who are willing to provide their services to patients at a discounted rate for a monthly or annual fee. This kind of plan generally does not include a deductible or payment plan; however, the patient will be responsible for the majority of the costs.
  • Dental Health Maintenance Organization, or DHMO. This plan is the dental equivalent to a medical HMO plan. DHMOs do not generally have deductibles, but rather use a co-pay system that determines the amount of money the patient will be responsible for paying at the time of service. Only dentists within the DHMO network may be used with this plan; otherwise, the patient will be responsible for the full out-of-pocket expense of the visit.

While no dental insurance plan is perfect, the alternative is less desirable. Allowing your dental health to erode to the point of needing major dental repairs is never a wise or financial sound decision. The more damage you have to your teeth, the more expensive the bill will be, with or without insurance. The best way to use dental insurance to protect your teeth and mouth is to take full advantage of it, engaging in preventative visits for routine check-ups and cleanings.

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