In the search for dental coverage, there are many personal factors to evaluate and plans to decide among. Ideally, the best dental plan would be 100% employer paid because it amounts to free dental insurance for an employee, though employers include the cost when calculating salary offers. However, most folks don’t have that option available to them, retirees in particular. Dental insurance is a large cost for employers to bear, and especially with high unemployment nationally, employers have less incentive to offer such plans in order to give them the edge in attracting skilled workers because there is a surplus of applicants in most fields. This trend may change as the economy recovers, but the reality is that most consumers are going to be responsible for paying their own premiums on plans with limited coverage and spending caps.
Voluntary plans offered by employers cost more for employees and often include waiting periods of 6 to 18 months for any major work in order to discourage members from buying the plan just to get a discount on an immediate procedure and canceling the plan after, which would raise costs further for everyone who opts in. That waiting period can be very problematic when many needed procedures must be performed as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration and physical pain.
Ultimately, individual dental insurance plans are little more than a pre-paid savings plan because they can only cover a portion of any major dental procedures. The limitations of dental plans are yearly spending caps at about $1000, after which the cost of all dental work must be paid out of pocket, and sometimes limits on the number of procedures covered per year. That is more than enough for a person who only needs twice yearly cleanings, but anyone in need of other dental procedures will be looking at anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars due, and not every necessary procedure will be covered by insurance in the first place, such as implants which are often tagged as a cosmetic choice. With age, bones and teeth weaken and need more restorative care to maintain one’s quality of life,and dental work in particular doesn’t run cheap. Retiring to accept Social Security and other benefits often means giving up insurance through one’s employer, and Medicare won’t fill the gap by covering dental procedures except in rare cases.
Possible alternatives to dental insurance include discount dental programs, which provide a percentage savings on most procedures with a low yearly premium. These programs work in conjunction with existing coverage, including Medicare, without interfering with or jeopardizing any benefits. They are also a good stand-alone option in place of individual dental insurance plans that can be prohibitively expensive unless offered through an employer.
Whereas insurance companies aim to make the most money by paying out the least, using standards that require they cover only the least expensive possible treatment alternative that is professionally acceptable, discount dental programs can be applied toward higher cost treatments to help consumers afford the best care available. This means that an insurance plan might only cover removable dentures, which can be uncomfortable and allow food to be trapped beneath them, risking infection, but a discount dental program can be used toward the cost of permanent implants, which have the feel and strength of natural teeth and require less maintenance over time.
Additional benefits of discount dental programs include short and simple online applications, little to no waiting period, 15% discounts or more on dental procedures, no spending caps,no yearly or lifetime coverage limits, and acceptance by a variety of providers: dentists, periodontists, oral surgeons, pedodontics, and prosthodontics. There are many different discount dental programs available to choose from based on individual needs. The information about each plan is easily available to peruse online.