Dental Insurance Alternatives for Uninsured Individuals

Nearly 45-million Americans don’t have dental insurance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statistics show that people who do have dental insurance are far more likely to visit the dentist regularly than those without coverage. Those without insurance are skipping basic preventative care, and living with painful and dangerous oral health conditions because they fear that they can’t afford treatment.

But you don’t need dental insurance to get affordable dental care. Your choices may include dental savings plans, payment plans, short-term loans, dental schools, and dental clinics.

Dental insurance isn’t always the right choice for everyone’s needs, and dentists are accustomed to working with patients who don’t have insurance. Don’t assume that you can’t afford dental care until you do a little research and explore all of your options.

Community Dental Clinics

All states are home to at least a few low-cost or no-cost dental clinics. Your local public hospital may have a community dental clinic or may be able to refer you to one. Also check with the American Dental Association (ADA) website, where you’ll find a “dental health” map that lists all of the free and low cost dental treatment programs within each state. The map will point you to dental schools, clinics, dental care access programs, and organizations devoted to helping people access affordable dental care.

You can also contact the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the nation’s primary resource for uninsured citizens or those who are at high risk of developing health problems if they don’t get medical/dental care ASAP.

Dental Schools

Dental students need to acquire on-the-job training and experience before they can be licensed. The care may not be free – most schools work on a sliding scale basis – but it is always very affordable. The tradeoff is that you’ll likely spend more time in the dentist’s chair – as students are working under supervision of a licensed dentist who needs to check their work carefully and spend plenty of time one-on-one with each student and patient¬ – and so you may need to visit the clinic numerous times to complete your treatment plan. You can find a list of dental schools here.

Dentists for Uninsured Patients

Many dentists will help uninsured patients to get the care that they need. Your dentist may have an in-house financing program, may offer discounts to uninsured patients, or may be able to plan out treatment over several months so that you don’t have to pay off a huge sum all at once. Some dentists offer treatment priced on a sliding scale, meaning they will adjust their rates to your income.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask about payment options, or to let the dentist know how much you can afford to pay for dental care per visit. You certainly won’t be the first – or the last – patient with budget concerns. Consider setting up an appointment for a checkup, and let the person who books the appointment know you have dental health issues, don’t have insurance and want to discuss a treatment plan with the dentist to understand your options.

You’ll need a checkup and x-rays, and potentially a cleaning depending on how fragile your teeth are, during that first appointment. The cost will be between $150-$270, but ask when you book the appointment as rates vary from dentist to dentist.

If you’re embarrassed about the condition of your teeth, and worried what the dental staff will think about you – stop fretting and make the appointment. Dentists want to help people to regain their health. They understand that cost, fear and other issues keep people from getting their teeth taken care of properly. And you’ll feel so much better after you take that first step toward a healthy future.

Dental Insurance for Emergencies

Dental insurance is not a good choice for emergency situations. A dental insurance policy typically imposes restrictions on what treatments they cover and whether the policy covers pre-existing conditions. With a new-to-you plan, you’ll usually have to wait six months to get coverage for basic restorative services or a year for major restorative services. And dental insurance often will not pay to restore teeth that were missing before you purchased the policy; any may not play for work that was underway prior to the policy going into effect.

Dental insurance can be a good buy if your employer provides it as a benefit, or if you want to basically “pre-pay” for basic dental care. After all, if you pay out of pocket for two checkups and cleanings and a set of X-rays, your cost, on average, will be around $375-$400, according to the American Dental Association. So, with a dental policy, you’re basically pre-paying for your essential preventive care, with a little assurance built in that if you need a couple of fillings, or chip a tooth, you’re also covered.

Dental savings plans, in contrast to insurance, have no waiting period before you can access care, and there are no restrictions on obtaining care for preexisting conditions. As a plan member you have access to a network of dentists who have agreed to offer reduced rates to members, the savings range from 10-60%. Dentists like the plans because they don’t have to deal with insurance company red tape, plan members simply pay the reduced fee directly to the dentist.

The plans available on range from $79.95-$199.95 annually. There’s a plan for every budget and dental care need, whether you want to save on braces or root canals, dental implants or dentures, basic care or complex treatments. Plus, virtually all dental savings plans on include additional free bonus benefits too, such as savings on vision and hearing care, prescriptions, and other wellness services.

Select plans provide a bundle of health and wellness services which range from telemedicine –free consultations with local doctors who can diagnose and treat common ailments (including prescribing medications), discounts on chiropractic, alternative medicine and fitness centers, and savings on lab work and medical diagnostic services.

What To Do If You’re Unemployed and Need Dental Insurance

What To Do If You’re Unemployed and Need Dental Insurance

Being between jobs is one of life’s most challenging situations. Add health insurance worries into the mix, and you have a situation that can challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally.

Some people find that taking action to manage the various aspects of a stressful situation is a good way to feel like you have taken back control over your life. A good place to start may be making a plan to ensure you have coverage for health care costs, including dental.

Your options to get help paying for healthcare are often more accessible and effective than those available for emergency dental care.

Dental Insurance and Unemployment

The first thing to think about if you’re unemployed and need dental insurance is why you think that you need the insurance. That may sound like a very silly question, but knowing what benefits you need and why you need them is the best way to figure out how to get the right coverage.

People tend to have two major reasons for wanting dental insurance: peace of mind or immediate help in paying for dental care.

Getting New (or Keeping Your Old) Dental Coverage

If you had good dental insurance coverage at your previous job, you’re probably not used to worrying about how you’ll pay for dental care. Now you want assurance that you will also be able to pay for dental care during the period of time that you’re unemployed.

And, if you have a good understanding of how dental works, you’re probably very worried about the impact of being dropped from your employer’s dental insurance plan. Dental insurance imposes waiting periods for anything but basic preventative care. You’re concerned that if you switch to a new plan and you’ll have to wait a year or more before your benefits are available again.

The good news is that you can find dental insurance on the private market that waives the waiting period if you’ve recently had dental insurance. Cigna, for example, simply asks that people provide proof of recent coverage in order to waive applicable waiting periods before benefits begin.

The key is “recent,” so it’s best to purchase another policy within a few months of job termination. Note too that your new employer may not offer dental coverage, so waiting with fingers crossed until you are working again may not be the wisest course of action.

COBRA and Dental Insurance

Under the stipulations of the “Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act” (COBRA), a law that was passed in 1985, under certain situations “your employer must offer continuation group health care coverage to you and certain family members for 18 to 36 months.” In general, businesses that employed at least 20 workers in the previous year and offer a health insurance plan are obligated to offer COBRA. You can qualify for COBRA if you quit or were fired from your job, you are moving from full-time to part time work, or you were covered by a spouse’s employment.

An employer has thirty days to notify the insurance company of your eligibility for COBRA continuation of benefits, and the insurance company then has fourteen days to provide you with information regarding the costs and benefits of the health care continuation coverage.

The bad news is that COBRA coverage tends to be very expensive, as you will pay group rates without the employer’s contribution. Still, you may wish to take advantage of COBRA if you or a family member has a pre-existing health condition. But you should also explore other options, such as a healthcare plan that offers dental coverage, from public markets such as, or discuss your options for private insurance with a broker or agent.

Even outside of the annual open enrollment period, you can obtain healthcare and dental insurance through your state’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, or through the federal marketplace ( The ACA allows those who have experienced a “Qualifying Life Event” to purchase insurance throughout the year.

A Qualifying Life Event is defined as a major change in your circumstances. This would include getting married or divorced, having a baby, or losing your existing health coverage.

You will almost certainly be able to find the least expensive coverage in the Marketplace, while private insurance may provide cost and choice benefits that public insurance doesn’t. Don’t decline COBRA until you have explored your other options, but don’t assume that COBRA is always the best choice to see you through unemployment.

Don’t delay on making an insurance decision. You need to sign up for Obamacare within 60 days of losing your employer insurance plan. Otherwise you’ll need to wait for the next annual open enrollment period or until your COBRA coverage ends (or you opt to end it early) to apply for Obamacare. You can switch to private insurance from COBRA at any time.

Dental Insurance and Dental Emergencies

Dealing with a dental emergency on top of unemployment is an extremely difficult situation. Don’t lose hope, there are affordable options for dental care. And don’t neglect your dental health until you get back on your feet financially. Gambling on your health is never a good idea.

People tend to get bad news from their dentist, and figure they’ll deal with the problem by purchasing dental insurance. Bad idea – don’t hold off on buying insurance until you absolutely need to get dental care. Dental insurance imposes “waiting periods” – a set time that has to pass before you are covered for more expensive dental treatments. So you can’t buy dental insurance today and use it to fix that throbbing tooth tomorrow.

If you absolutely have to, you may be able to postpone buying coverage for a month or two after your employer-provided insurance elapses IF you’re buying a plan (such as myCigna 1000 and myCigna 1500) that waives the waiting period if you recently had dental insurance.

Wait any longer than a month or so, and you’ll likely face a waiting period, during which time your insurer will not pay anything for most treatments or procedures. During the waiting period, preventive care, such as checkups and cleanings, will probably be covered. You may have to wait for three to six months for basic procedures, and six months to a year for major procedures. You will not be reimbursed after the waiting period is over, and your dental insurance may not cover treatments that were already in process during the waiting period.

Dental Emergencies and Dental Savings Plans

Unlike medical insurance, which really is a necessity, dental insurance may not be the right choice for everyone.

Your options for getting the care that you need during unemployment (and beyond!) include buying a dental savings plan, the affordable alternative to traditional dental insurance. Dental savings plans do not have waiting periods, annual spending caps, deductibles or exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Members of a dental savings plan can expect to pay 10%-60% less at the dentist.

Dental Savings plans can help make essential dental care affordable for people who are unemployed, or who want to save on services not covered by their insurance, or who have exhausted the low benefit payout – typically $1000-$1500 – of a traditional dental insurance plan. Many of the dental discount plans offered by also include savings on general healthcare needs, including telemedicine, vision and hearing services, prescriptions, chiropractic, and more.

Compare Dental Insurance & Discount Dental Plans

Both dental insurance and dental savings plans, an alternative to dental insurance premiums, can help you maintain your oral health and overall wellness. Which option you choose is an individual decision, which should be based on your dental care needs, budget, and preferences.

Dental Discount Plans vs. Dental Insurance


Advantages Discount Dental Plans Dental Insurance
Quick Plan Activation YES NO
Vision, Hearing & Prescription Discounts* YES NO
Single Vision Lenses YES NO
No Annual Limits YES NO
No Paperwork Hassles YES NO
No Waiting for Dental Care YES NO
Cosmetic Dentistry Savings* YES NO

Cost Of Dental Insurance

The typical cost of an individual dental insurance policy is around $350 a year. For a family, the cost is around $550, annually. Dental savings plans are typically priced at about half of that cost. Dental insurance is usually billed monthly, while dental savings plans are paid annually. Exceptions can sometimes be made regarding billing times if requested.

Dental Insurance Deductibles

Usually, insured individuals must meet their plan deductible before dental insurance begins to cover their dental care. Annual deductibles can vary from $25 to $50 per covered individual, depending on the dental insurance policy. Dental Savings Plans do not have deductibles. Members pay an annual membership fee, allowing them to pay discounted rates at participating dental providers at the time services are rendered.

Dental Insurance Caps

The majority of dental insurance plans cap the amount of reimbursement that they pay to an annual maximum, usually $1,000 to $1,500 per year. The insured individual is responsible for any costs incurred after that. This may present a challenge for people who need a significant amount of dental work done. That said, some insurers such as Cigna offers members discounted rates, as available, even after the annual cap is met.

Dental savings plans do not have annual caps.

Dental Insurance Reimbursements

Some individuals with dental insurance policies complain about the process of getting reimbursed for their dental care. Their issues include having to manage written claims procedures, exclusions on pre-existing conditions, and waiting periods for major procedures.

Dental insurance plans will frequently refuse to cover certain procedures or impose long waiting periods. For example, many dental insurance policies have exclusions on pre-existing conditions and may require a 6 to 18 month waiting period before paying for major dental treatment. Conversely, most discount dental plans are free of these limitations and activate within 3 business days, allowing plan members to join and start saving on their dental care as quickly as possible. Additionally, select discount dental plans offer significant savings on dental specialties, such as orthodontics and teeth whitening, while dental insurance policies very rarely cover these procedures.

Dental savings plans do not reimburse members, instead members pay a discounted rate at the dentist. There are no pre-existing condition exclusions or waiting periods to get care.

Dental Insurance or Dental Discount Plans?

When compared against each other, it’s easy to conclude that dental savings plans are the best buy. But it’s important to consider your (and your family’s needs, if you are purchasing a family plan) carefully first.

A good place to start is at your dentist, assuming you have one that you would prefer to continue seeing. Find out what type of plans your dentist accepts and recommends.
No regular dentist? You may want to choose a dentist by checking his or her online reviews (you can use the search engine on to find local dentists). Once you’ve found a dentist, find out what plans they accept.

Alternatively, you can find dental insurance or a dental savings plan that meets your treatment needs – whether its cosmetic surgery, implants, root canals and crowns, or basic maintenance – and then find a dentist who accepts your selected plan. Here again, is a great resource for finding dental insurance and dental savings plans by dental procedures.

Confused by all of the options? Call :DentalPlans’ dental savings experts at 844-210-2558, explain your needs, and let them help you to pick the perfect plan.

Why Suze Orman Loves Dental Savings Plans

It doesn’t make sense to pay more than you have to at the dentist. But what’s the best way to cut costs on dental and still get quality care? America’s personal financial expert, Suze Orman, says that dental savings plans provide the best bang for your dental care buck. Read on to find out why Suze recommends dental savings plans over traditional dental insurance.

:DentalPlans: Suze, were you skeptical about dental discount plans when you first heard about them?

Suze Orman: Of course I was! First of all – how was that possible that I had never heard of something that claims to save people money? And if it really does save people money why hadn’t I heard about it? I for sure thought it was just another way to get people to buy something that did not work like the claims made by the company. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

DP: What’s your take on dental savings plans now?

SO: The truth is dental savings plans are not only far more affordable to purchase than dental insurance – they can also save you more money in the long run especially if you need extensive dental work or braces.

DP: Do you feel that dental insurance is still a good buy?

SO: If your employer gives you dental insurance and you don’t really have to pay for it in some cases it’s okay. But if you need a lot of work done and have already maxed out your policy or have kids that need braces you will be shocked when you find out that most likely your dental insurance policy will not pay for it at all. So as maybe you can tell I am not a fan of dental insurance especially if you have to pay for all of it yourself.

DP: What surprised you the most about dental savings plans?

SO: First that they did exactly what they claimed to do which was to save me money on my dental work. At the time I purchased my dental savings plan in 2015 I already had a year where I needed quite a bit of dental work done. The problem with most dental insurance policies is they max out at $1500 per year so no way were they going to lay out a penny toward any more work that I needed. But on my next visit to the dentist my dental savings plan saved me $1,100.

DP: Was it easy to use your plan at the dentist?

SO: Yes. I applied online, got my card in the mail, presented it at the time of checkout at my dentist’s office and saved money. And looking back, I can’t believe how much money I wasted by not having a dental savings plan.

Find out more about dental savings plans at, or by calling 1-800-238-5163. Visit Suze’s website,, to access a wealth of resources that will help you to get smart about your money.

Learn More About Dental Savings Plans

dental savings information by suze

Suze Orman is known for giving commonsense financial advice, and telling it exactly how it is. So you’re probably figuring that if Suze loves dental savings plans, you should look into getting a plan for yourself.

You can find everything you need to know about dental savings plans on – including details on over 30+ plans, plus easy to use tools to help you choose the right plan for you. But let’s get you started with answers to the most frequently asked questions about dental savings plans.

How much can I save at the dentist with a dental savings plan?

Your savings will vary according to the plan you choose, your location, and the treatment you need. So in order to be 100% truthful we give you a wide range and say that you’ll save 10%-60% at the dentist.

You can determine what you’ll save on a specific procedure with a particular plan by looking at the plan’s fee schedule (included in the information provided on Some plans don’t allow us to publish fee schedule information online, but you can easily obtain that information by calling our customer support team at 1- 800-494-9294.

What else do dental savings plans offer?

Many of the plans on offer additional “bonus” savings on health and wellness services such as vision and hearing care, discounts on prescription medications. Select plans offer savings on telemedicine, diagnostic tests, and fitness programs.

In addition, some dental savings plans offer discounts on some dental specialties that are rarely covered by dental insurance, including cosmetic dentistry services such as veneers, teeth whitening, dental implants and more.

What is an “annual spending limit”?

That’s the annual maximum coverage provided by your dental insurance, which is sometimes referred to as the plan’s “annual cap.” Traditional dental insurance policies generally limit coverage to $1000 -$1,500 a year per person covered by the policy. It may sound like a lot, but one root canal and crown can easily wipe out your dental insurance allowance for the year. When your dental costs go over that limit, you then have to pay for your own dental care for the rest of the year.

Dental savings plans do NOT have annual spending limits.

What is a “waiting period”?

Dental insurance plans often impose 6 to 18 month waiting periods before the plan will cover major dental treatments such as crowns, root canals, bridges and dentures. Additionally, many dental insurance policies have exclusions on getting treatment for dental problems – such as a missing tooth – that were present when you joined the plan.

Dental savings plans do NOT have waiting periods or no restrictions on existing conditions. As soon as your plan is active – typically within 72 hours of purchase at the most – you can begin saving on your dental care costs.

How do I use a dental savings plan?

It’s so simple! Dental savings plan members have access to an extensive network of participating dentists and dental specialists that provide discounts on dental care at the time of service. You choose a dentist who accepts the plan, make an appointment (mention that you are savings plan member), and bring your plan ID card to the dentist.

Note that dentists can opt into and out of dental insurance plans and savings plans, so it’s always best to confirm that the dentist still accepts your insurance or plan before you show up for an appointment. Our customer service team will happily help you find a dentist who accepts your plan, confirm a dentist’s participation in your plan, and answer any other question that you may have.

What is Supplemental Dental Insurance?

Supplemental dental insurance is purchased to fill the gaps in a policy holder’s dental or medical coverage. Gaps in coverage can occur when the primary policy’s annual spending limit is reached, or when a policy doesn’t provide coverage for necessary or desired dental treatments.

And, since many health plans do not include dental coverage, dental insurance itself is often acquired as a “supplementary” policy.

This article outlines the most typical scenarios that result in a need for supplemental dental insurance such as limited or no dental insurance, or running out of dental benefits due to a need for expensive treatments such as braces, root canals, crowns and dental implants.

The article provides guidance on choosing Medicare Advantage, supplemental insurance plans, and dental savings plans and how to coordinate dental insurance benefits when using a supplemental or savings plan.

Supplemental Dental Insurance for Medicare

Medicare does not cover dental care or treatments such as cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, bridges, root canals or crowns. There are a few extremely limited exceptions to this rule – for example, if you need to be hospitalized to receive complicated or emergency dental treatment, Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) may cover inpatient costs but not the fees associated with the actual dental treatments.

Consequently, Medicare policy holders tend to look for broader health coverage through a Medicare Advantage program – a Medicare-sanctioned, regulated program offered by private health insurance providers. These plans are widely considered to be supplemental coverage, even though they are technically providing an alternative to the basic Medicare offering.

Some Medicare Advantage plans do include dental benefits, others do not. Check the plan’s documentation to determine if dental is included. Then look at how many providers are in the plan’s network, and whether your dentist accepts the plan. And check to see if the plan offers any additional benefits that matter to you as well, some Medicare Advantage plans provide vision and prescription coverage/savings along with dental.

If dental services are covered, check to see if you’ll need to pay an extra monthly premium for dental coverage, whether there is a deductible and an annual spending cap, and what your co-payment for services will be. And check to see if the plan has a waiting period before coverage is available, and whether any pre-existing dental problems you may have will be eligible for treatment under the plan.

Other options for Medicare policy owners include buying a standalone dental policy from a private insurance company, or a dental savings plan.

Insurance can be a great choice for covering basic, preventative care as coverage often includes free checkups, cleanings and x-rays annually for policy holders. Need more extensive dental care? Dental savings plans, unlike dental insurance, don’t have a low annual spending limit making these plans an excellent option for those who need restorative treatments such as root canals, crowns, dentures and other costly services. Not familiar with dental savings plans? Continue reading or cut to the chase and click here to learn more about how these plans work.

Supplemental Dental Insurance for Existing Dental Coverage

Dental insurance typically limits a plan’s annual coverage – the amount the plan will pay for each year – to $1000-$1500. T

his presents no problem if you just need preventative care and perhaps a small cavity filled. But with the average cost of a single root canal on a front tooth ranging from a low of $700 to $1,300 (depending on where you live, and what a particular dentist charges), and another $500-$1000 for a crown that’s often necessary following a root canal, it’s all too easy to exhaust your dental allowance in a single visit or two. Another dental budget-buster are braces, which cost from $3,000-$7000 or more over the course of the treatment.

Supplemental insurance would seem to be the answer if you have exceeded your dental insurance plan’s annual maximum or if your plan does not cover a needed procedure. But before you pay more for yet another insurance policy, consider potential problems and your options.

A new-to-you dental insurance plan may not cover work in progress or preexisting conditions. Plus there will almost always be months-long waiting period before you can get reimbursed for major procedures such as crowns or root canals. Remember too that dental insurance often will not pay to restore teeth that were missing before you purchased the policy, or work that was underway prior to the policy going into effect.

And it can be difficult to coordinate benefits from two dental insurance plans. Make a mistake, and your insurance claim can be denied, leaving you liable for the cost of care. That said, your dentist may be able to schedule treatments in a way that maximizes your available insurance coverage.

Your best bet when trying to figure out how to pay for expensive dental care is to talk with your dentist and see what he or she suggests. The dental practice may offer payment plans that make it easier to afford costly care, or your dentist may be aware of a supplemental policy that fits your needs perfectly, or it may just require postponing part of a treatment until after your insurance plan renews. And talk to your company’s human resources staff if the plan is employer-provided to see if they have any suggestions.

Dental Savings Plans as Supplemental Dental Insurance

Dental savings plans offer an exceptionally easy way to get affordable dental treatment quickly with no worries about annual spending limits, pre-existing conditions or waiting periods.

Some people find that their needs are best met by having both traditional dental insurance and a dental savings plan. Families with young children may want insurance to cover preventative care for the little ones, and a savings plan to make adult care more affordable. Or you might want to get a dental savings plans to bridge the gap between insurance-mandated waiting times for some procedures, or buy a dental savings plan when their dentist informs them that the care they need will cost more than their dental insurance policy’s maximum annual allowance.

In addition, some dental savings plans offer discounts on some dental specialties that are rarely covered by dental insurance, including cosmetic dentistry services like veneers, teeth whitening and more. Those who need or want these treatments often buy a dental savings plan membership to get a discounted rate on the services.

Coordinating Dental Insurance Benefits

Whether you’re using supplemental insurance, a second dental insurance policy, or a dental savings plan you should be aware of how (or if) your primary plan has any policies about coordinating benefits. This information can usually be found in your plan’s policy documents. If you can’t locate the information, speak with your dentist or the member’s service team at your insurance provider’s member service team.

Rules about benefits coordination can vary, so it is critical to get the specific details about your plan from your healthcare provider or insurance company – frankly, you may want to get the information from both. If you’re on Medicare, you can just call the Benefits Coordination & Recovery Center (BCRC) at 1-855-798-2627.

Basically, coordination of benefits comes down to deciding which insurance plan is the “primary payer” – which plan pays first. Just to make things more complicated, the payer who pays first isn’t the first one to pay – it’s the insurance company that is responsible for paying the bill up to the limits of your coverage. Anything remaining goes to the second payer, and perhaps even a third.

If you and your spouse both have dental insurance plans which cover your children, the plan belonging to the spouse whose birthday falls earlier in the year will be the primary payer. In other words, if you’re born in January and your spouse’s birthday is June, your plan is the primary payer. This can change if you’re divorced, or due to other legal issues, but it is often the typical way of deciding whose plan is primary.

Even if your family is covered by two dental insurance plans, the second plan is considered supplementary. You won’t get double of everything – 4 free cleanings as opposed to 2, for example. The secondary plan fills in the gaps left by the first plan, but do check each’s plans “non-duplication of benefits” provisions before you assume that you’re covered for services that the primary plan covers.

Dental Insurance Confusion!

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that dental insurance – any kind of insurance, really – is often not easy to understand or use. The infamous “small print,” the exclusions, inclusions, requirements and exclusions can come as a surprise when you’re already going through a difficult time.

In general, dental discount plans are easier to understand and use than dental insurance. Dental savings plans offer discounts of 10%-60% on average dental care costs. Since they are not dental insurance, dental savings plans do not have co-payments, deductibles, paperwork hassles or annual spending limits. You simply go to a dentist who is part of your plan’s network – that is, a dentist who has agreed to provide discounted dental services to plan members – and pay the reduced rate directly to the dentist. No fuss, no worries, and no confusion.

For dental insurance plans, the best thing you can do is ask plenty of questions before purchasing, and don’t hesitate to get your dentist’s opinion on which insurance plan meets your dental care needs. If you don’t have a choice about what plan you purchase, rest assured you can fill in any gaps in your dental coverage with a supplemental insurance policy or a dental savings plan.

The Future Of Dental Care

The next decade is going to be a great one for your smile. New technologies being developed now will soon enable you to maintain healthy teeth for an entire lifetime – assuming that you can afford the necessary dental treatments. Thankfully, dental savings plans make dental care affordable for everyone. And you’ll want to visit a dentist now so that your teeth are healthy enough to benefit from these new treatments.

Print New (Living!) Teeth

Some dentists are already using 3D printing to speed the process of making and fitting a new crown, bridge or dentures. In-office technology can restore your smile in hours – no more walking around for weeks with a gap in your smile or badly-fitting temporary tooth replacements.

But 3D printing will soon go well beyond the simple creation of replacement teeth. One use that’s being explored now involves replacing the standard “dead” dental crown with what is essentially a living tooth.

Dental crowns are used in conjunction with root canals to save teeth that have become infected or decayed. The treatment typically involves removing the infected parts of a tooth’s internal structure – pulp, nerves and blood vessels. Over time, cut off from its nourishment, the treated tooth can become brittle and prone to breakage. To address that problem, new research has resulted in a 3D-inspired printing process that replicates the blood vessels and nerve structure of a natural tooth. When the printed material was exposed to dental pulp cells, artificial blood vessels and dentin formed inside the tooth within a week. More research is being done, but this is a big step towards being able to fully regenerate a functioning tooth.

Grow Your Own New Teeth

Being able to print new teeth is great, but growing your own at will would be a truly wonderful thing. And we can! Recent studies have shown that humans have the same cells that allow sharks to regrow their teeth.

Sharks like the Great White lose a tooth a day, on average, and grow 30,000-50,000 teeth in a lifetime. They can do this, in part, due to a special set of cells known as dental lamina. Humans have these cells too, but sharks rely heavily on being able to regenerate teeth because they lose them quickly – shark teeth aren’t deeply rooted into the jaw like human teeth are.

Humans only use this power to create a new set of adult teeth to replace their baby teeth. Use it or lose it – and we’ve apparently lost much of our ability to replace teeth. The good news is that scientists are working hard to find ways to reactivate our dental regeneration superpowers.

Robot Dentists

Imagine a computer-controlled robot with arms capable of performing dental procedures such as drilling, extractions and suturing. Expect those robots to be wielding lasers too, which will enable them to do painless, bloodless dental surgery. But don’t expect your dentist to be replaced by a ‘bot. Technology enhances human expertise; it doesn’t replace it.

Virtual Reality

Dentists will soon be able to walk right into your mouth with virtual reality treatment tech that enables them to zoom into your cavities and slip between your teeth for a close-up view, and even virtually travel through your teeth’s structures “Fantastic Voyage” style.

Meanwhile, you’ll be in your happy place. Research has shown that dental work is far more enjoyable when a patient thinks that he or she is out cavorting in nature rather than sitting in a dental chair. And yes, it will be nature – studies have shown that patients who were zapped into an urban or fantasy environment did not get the same relaxing results.

Expect the use of virtual reality systems that transport you to a beach, forest, meadow or other natural environment of your choice to become routine in dental practices in about a decade. Dentists who treat patients who have dental phobias are likely to use the technology first.

Do-It-Yourself Dentistry

The internet went wild when Amos Dudley, a 3-D artist, printed his own plastic aligners to fix his crooked teeth. Everyone figured they could make their own braces too, until Dudley explained that the process involves “knowledge of orthodontic movement, a 3D scanner, a mold of the teeth, CAD software, a hi-res 3D printer, retainer material, and a vacuum forming machine.” Whoops.

Dental care requires an advanced skill set, so it’s unlikely we’ll be successfully doing it ourselves by 2027. But we probably will be having virtual visits with the dentist. Telemedicine is increasingly being linked to improvements in healthcare outcomes and patient satisfaction, so why not teledentistry?

In fact, teledentistry has been used since the 90s by the U.S. Military to treat troops: high resolution digital images are taken of the soldier’s mouth and transmitted to a dental specialist, who could then guide a medic through the treatment process. Some states are considering using it to enable specially trained hygienists supervised by “virtual” dentists to provide basic dental care more affordably. Your own dentist may be offering virtual checkups in a decade or so, but you’ll still have to show up in person for a cleaning.

Holistic Healthcare

From spotting early signs of disease, addressing dental issues that can cause or worsen medical concerns to providing anti-aging treatments – dentists will increasingly become part of a patient’s medical team. Our understanding of the impact of inflammation on the body’s systems will grow, and we’re likely to see dental treatment recognized as a critical part of preventive health care.

Affordable Dental Care

Predicting the future is always a risky thing, but one thing is for sure: dental care has been segregated from mainstream healthcare for too long. While we wait for dental treatment to be covered by health insurance, dental savings plans can ensure that you can afford dental care now and keep your smile and good health for decades to come.

What to Do When Your Dental Insurance is Maxed Out

Your dentist just told you that you need a root canal and a crown. No worries, you figure, you’ve got dental insurance. But wait … you’re not covered? Why? Because you’ve hit your annual cap.

That cap is the annual maximum coverage provided by your plan. Bizarrely, dental insurance policies generally limit coverage to $1000 -$1,500 a year – a rate that hasn’t changed for about forty years. To put that in perspective, back in 1970 $1,000.00 gave you the buying power of $6,273.87 in 2016.

The average cost for a crown these days is $750-$2000 per tooth, and the cost of a root canal is $750-$1,000+ per tooth (that price can soar if you need a complex root canal). Obviously you can exhaust your annual dental coverage of $1000-$1500 fairly quickly. And when your dental costs for most procedures go over that limit, you then have to pay for your own dental care out of pocket for the rest of the year.

Managing Your Dental

Pre-planning helps you get the most from your dental coverage. Don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist about scheduling treatments that meet your insurance maximums. For example, if your plan provides a year’s coverage starting in January and you need a root canal and crown that will cost about $3,000 you might be able to get $1500 worth of care in December, and finish your treatment in January. That’s assuming, of course, that you have your full annual maximum unused by the end of the first year, and are willing to exhaust your coverage at the beginning of the next year. It’s also assuming that you’re not in pain, and/or your dental issue doesn’t require treatment ASAP.

You can also ask your dentist about a payment plan for the amount that your insurance won’t cover, or you may want to consider supplemental dental insurance coverage or a dental savings plan.

Supplemental Dental Insurance Coverage

You can get a supplemental dental insurance coverage plan only for a year or two – perhaps to help pay for orthodontia (braces) or other types of expensive dental care such as dental implants or veneers. Just make sure that there’s no waiting period before coverage for the procedures you need is available.

Dental insurance typically doesn’t provide immediate coverage for pre-existing conditions. With a new-to-you plan, you’ll usually have to wait six months for basic restorative services or a year for major restorative services.

The good news is that supplemental dental insurance policies tend to have no annual spending limits and no deductibles. You can often find a plan that provides coverage for specific procedures. Supplemental plans also usually don’t have waiting periods and restrictions on preexisting conditions.

The bad news is that supplemental dental insurance policies also tend to be expensive, assume you’ll pay at least as much for your supplemental plan as you do for your primary plan. Carefully evaluate whether the savings you receive from the supplemental plan – depending on what dentist you go to you will probably pay less as an insured patient than an uninsured one – will cover the additional costs of insurance.

(Hint: it’s worth asking if your dentist offers discounts to uninsured patients. Some do since it’s easier for them to accept cash/credit than deal with insurance company red tape).

In general, the best thing to do is discuss funding options with your dentist before you purchase supplemental insurance. Your dentist may offer to discount the parts of your treatment plan that you will be paying for out of pocket. He or she may be a member of a medical insurance loan plan. Or your dentist may suggest that you consider a dental savings plan.

Consider a Dental Savings Plan

Dental discount plans enable you to save 10%-60% on your dental care. There are plans that cover all treatments – from braces to dentures. There are no annual spending caps, waiting periods, approval process or restrictions on pre-existing conditions.

Dental savings plans are very affordable. The plans available on range from $79.95-$199.95 annually. Plus, many of dental savings plans include additional free bonus benefits too, such as savings on vision and hearing care, prescriptions, and other wellness services. Select plans even include a bundle of health and wellness services which range from telemedicine –free consultations with local doctors who can diagnose and treat common ailments (including prescribing medications), discounts on chiropractic, alternative medicine and fitness centers, and savings on labwork and medical diagnostic services.

Visit to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.

The Best Supplemental Dental Insurance

If your healthcare plan doesn’t offer dental coverage, or your dental care needs exceed the limits of your dental insurance plan, you may want to consider supplemental dental insurance plans.

Depending on your circumstances, you might want a supplemental coverage plan only for a year or two – perhaps to help pay for orthodontia (braces) or expensive care such as dental implants. Or you may need continual coverage – typically people who are on Medicare choose to add a supplemental plan that covers their dental care.

This blog post will help you find the best supplemental dental insurance plan for your needs.

Medicare Supplemental Policies

Unfortunately, original Medicare has extremely limited dental coverage. Medicare Part A provides coverage if you need to be hospitalized, and Part B provides medical coverage. Dental procedures that are connected with healthcare are covered by Medicare – such as a dental cleaning performed before transplant surgery, or an extraction required as part of the treatment plan to address another disease such as medical reconstruction of the jawbone.

Medicare typically does not cover emergency dental care, even if it is performed in a hospital, but it likely will cover the hospital costs. Medicare does not routine dental care, such as dental exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, and dentures.

You should also be aware that Medigap plans, supplemental health insurance purchased from private company to pay health care costs not covered by Original Medicare. such as co-payments, deductibles, and health care if you travel outside the U.S – typically do not cover senior dental care.

For dental coverage on Medicare you have two options:

  1. Choose a Medicare Advantage Plan

Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are provided by private companies that have been approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans must provide all of all of the services that Original Medicare covers except hospice care. Medicare Advantage Plans may offer extra coverage, like vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs. Most include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). In addition to the Medicare Part B premium, people typically pay a monthly premium for the Medicare Advantage Plan. In 2016, the Part B premium is $104.90 each month.

  1. Purchase Standalone Dental Insurance and/or a Dental Savings Plan.

Both dental insurance plans and dental savings plans, an alternative to traditional dental insurance, will help make dental care affordable. Which to choose? In general, dental insurance is well-suited to people who anticipate needing preventative care – checkups and cleanings. Dental savings plans are more flexible and are especially appreciated by people who require restorative care (root canals, crowns, bridges, implants or dentures). That’s because dental insurance typically has a spending cap of $1,500-$2,000 a year, and often imposes a waiting period before coverage is available.

The cost of an individual dental insurance policy is around $350 a year. For a family, the cost is around $550, annually. Dental savings plans are typically priced at about half of that cost, and may include savings on other healthcare services such as vision and hearing.

Supplemental Dental Plans for Existing Dental Coverage

There are times when we all need extra dental coverage. The kids (or you) may need braces, or your dentist may tell you that you require treatment that will exceed your dental insurance plan’s annual coverage limit. As noted above, dental insurance typically provides only $1,500-$2,000 in coverage a year. That’s great if all you need is preventative care and perhaps a filling or two. But one root canal and a crown can drain your dental coverage for the year.

Your dentist may be able to figure out a way to schedule treatments in accordance with your dental insurance’s limitations – for example, breaking down a treatment plan to occur over several years. You may be able to get a payment plan from the dentist or a short-term loan to help you pay for treatment after your insurance is exhausted. You might also choose to get a supplemental dental insurance policy, or a dental savings plan.

Supplemental dental insurance policies tend to have no annual spending limits and no deductibles. You can often find a plan that provides coverage for specific procedures. Supplemental plans tend to have no waiting periods and no restrictions on preexisting conditions. They also tend to be expensive, assume you’ll pay as much for your supplemental plan as you do for your primary plan. Carefully evaluate whether the savings you receive from the supplemental plan – you will probably pay less as an insured patient than an uninsured one – will cover the additional costs of insurance.

In general, the best thing to do is discuss funding options with your dentist before you purchase supplemental insurance. Your dentist may offer to discount the parts of your treatment plan that you will be paying for out of pocket. He or she may be a member of a medical insurance loan plan. Or your dentist may suggest that you consider a dental savings plan.

Supplemental Insurance Through Dental Savings Plans

Dental savings plans enable you to save 10%-60% on your dental care. There are plans that cover all treatments – from braces to dentures. There are no annual spending caps, waiting periods, approval process or restrictions on pre-existing conditions.

The plans available on range from $79.95-$199.95 annually. Plus, many of the plans include additional free bonus benefits too, such as savings on vision and hearing care, prescriptions, and other wellness services. Select plans include a bundle of health and wellness services which range from telemedicine –free consultations with local doctors who can diagnose and treat common ailments (including prescribing medications), discounts on chiropractic, alternative medicine and fitness centers, and savings on labwork and medical diagnostic services.

What Is Basic Dental Insurance?

All dental insurance plans are designed to provide significant savings on preventive dental procedures but with a basic dental insurance plan, you are covered only for preventive care, which is covered at 100%. That means you don’t have to pay a penny out-of-pocket for essential services such as regular dental checkups, cleanings and a set of bitewing x-rays.

Other preventive services, depending on your insurance plan, may include fluoride application and dental sealants for children to prevent dental decay, and perhaps mouth guards and other non-orthodontic oral appliances.

And that’s it – you don’t get coverage for fillings, extractions or deep cleanings. Most dental insurance plans do cover these sorts of treatments at 80% of the cost. You also don’t get coverage for root canals, crowns, bridges, dentures or orthodontics. Typically, dental insurance covers 50% of the cost of these services (20% for braces).  If your basic insurance plan does cover more than preventive care, that coverage will be extremely limited and will likely have signifying restrictions regarding when, how often and from whom you can get dental treatment.

Why Get Basic Dental Insurance?

Most people who have basic dental coverage got their insurance as part of their job benefits package, or as a free add-on to their health insurance plan. And when you have healthy teeth and gums, getting free checkups and cleanings twice a year or so is a great deal – especially when you aren’t paying anything for that insurance plan.

Another benefit of some basic dental insurance plans is that you may get a discount on other types of dental treatments – but only if you see dentists who are in your provider’s network. Dental insurance providers typically negotiate lower fees with in-network dentists, and anyone covered by a plan – even the most basic plan – from that provider gets those reduced rates. How much of a discount can you expect? That varies by plan, but it’s usually between 10%-20%.

How Much Does Basic Dental Insurance Cost?

On average, a basic dental insurance plan costs about $20 per person, per month – so for one person that’s $240 a year. For a family, a basic dental insurance plan (for two adults and two kids), you’ll probably pay about $400 a year.

Compare that to the cost of a standard dental insurance: an individual dental insurance policy costs about $350 a year for an individual and about $550 for a family.

Is Basic Dental Insurance Worth It?

It depends on your dental care needs, and how you pay for dental insurance.

  • If your employer provides basic dental insurance for free – it’s (obviously) definitely worth it!
  • If your dental health is excellent, and you buy your own insurance – basic dental insurance may be all you need. Think of it as pre-paying for your preventive care, and as an incentive to see your dentist regularly.
  • If you have dental health issues, you’ll want more than basic dental insurance. But before you purchase a standard dental insurance plan consider your needs. If you have dental problems that need immediate treatment or will cost more than $1,000 to address, you may want to consider an alternative such as a dental savings plan.

What Are Dental Savings Plans?

Dental savings plans – sometimes called “dental discount plans” – are an affordable, flexible alternative to traditional dental insurance. Dental savings plans are a great backup plan or supplement for people who have basic dental insurance.

After you join a dental savings plan, you gain access to a network of dentists who have agreed to provide plan members with discounts of 10%-60% off the typical cost of dental services. You pay the discounted rate directly to the dentist after receiving dental care.

Dental Savings Plans vs Basic Dental Insurance?

The membership fee for a dental savings plan averages $125-$150 annually for an individual, and $175-$200 for a family – less than the cost of basic dental insurance. But with a dental savings plan, you get reduced rates on virtually all of your dental care; preventive checkups and cleanings, basic care such as fillings and root canals, and restorative care to treat dental problems, and replace damaged or missing teeth. You can also save on procedures such as orthodontics (braces) and prosthodontics (dentures, bridges and dental implants), as well as cosmetic treatments such as tooth whitening and overlays. Simply make sure to choose a dental savings plan that includes discounts on the types of dental care you need.

What makes dental savings plans especially useful for someone who has basic dental insurance is that you get discounts on all the dental treatments included in your plan as soon as the plan activates, typically within 72-hours of joining. So, if you do have a dental emergency, or need treatment that your basic insurance plan doesn’t cover, you still won’t have to pay full price for your dental care!

Find out more about the advantages of dental savings plans at

How To Buy Dental Insurance

Choosing a dental insurance plan should be much easier than getting a root canal. But finding an affordable dental insurance plan that meets your needs, now and into the future, isn’t always a painless process. This guide to dental insurance will help you to avoid unpleasant surprises by giving you the information you need to choose the best dental insurance.

Dental Insurance Basics

What is the best dental insurance?

There is no “best” dental insurance. The best insurance is a plan that will save you money on the dental care that you (and your spouse/family) needs. For some people, the best dental insurance needs to cover braces, others may want a plan that helps reduce the cost of restorative dental care.

If you have a dentist, ask him or her to recommend an insurance plan based on your dental health needs. If you currently don’t have a dentist, consider making an appointment for a check-up and consultation. After you have your treatment plan (see below for details), ask the dentist to suggest an insurance plan, and also ask if he or she can recommend alternatives – such as a dental savings plan, healthcare credit line, or a payment plan.

How do I find a dentist?

You can use a service that matches you to a local dentist, or use a dentist search tool. You can also look at reviews online, and ask your family, friends and coworkers for recommendations. If you have insurance, and are looking for a dentist that accepts your plan, check with your insurance provider.

How do I buy dental insurance?

Best case scenario is that your employer offers dental insurance as part of your benefits package, or as a voluntary benefit (“voluntary” means you pay for it, but you get a lower rate since it’s group coverage). If you are self-employed and belong to any trade organizations or other associations, you may wish to see if they offer group rate dental insurance to members.

Otherwise there are limited options available on, or your state’s own ACA marketplace. Typically, you can only purchase dental insurance on the ACA marketplaces if you also have an ACA healthcare plan. If you don’t qualify for ACA subsidies, or don’t like the dental insurance offered on the Marketplace, you can purchase private dental insurance from a broker, or online from sites such as

Is there an open enrollment period for dental insurance?

If you’re purchasing from the private market, you can buy dental insurance whenever you wish. If you are buying dental insurance via a Medicare Advantage plan you need to do so during Medicare open enrollment (October 15 to December 7 of every year). If purchasing an ACA plan, you’ll have to do so during open enrollment (dates vary, check for the latest info) or demonstrate that you qualify for a “Special Enrollment Period.” If you’re buying a group plan, you may have to purchase your plan during a specific period of time.

What is the difference between a DPPO plan and an DHMO plan?

DPPO stands for Dental Participating Provider Network. A DHMO is a Dental Health Maintenance Organization.

DHMO plans tend to be less expensive – and less flexible –  than DPPOs. With a DPPO, you don’t have an annual maximum spending limit, and you’re covered for dental care right away. You must see an in-network dentist who will be your primary provider (and it can be hard to switch dentists), you’ll need a referral to see a specialist, and there may be limits on when and how often you can get treatments.

DPPO plans are widely accepted at dental practices nationwide, and although you’ll save more with in-network dentists, you can go out-of-network if you choose.  Most DPPO plans don’t require referrals before you can see a specialist. There is an annual deductible of $50-$100, and the typical annual maximum coverage limit is $1000- $1500. If you reach your spending limit, you’ll need to pay for your care out of pocket for the rest of the year. DPPO plans have waiting periods before new members are covered for all basic and major dental procedures. Typically waiting periods can be 6-12 months, but in some cases can extend to two years.

What is fee-for-service insurance?

Also known as indemnity insurance, this is the most expensive type of dental insurance. You can see any dentist you choose, and you pay the dentist in full at the time of treatment and are later reimbursed a set amount by your insurance company. These plans often have a higher annual maximum spending limit – $2,500- $3,500+, and may have a shorter than usual waiting period than DPPO plans (check plan details, as this can vary). Indemnity insurance plans were once the only option for dental insurance, but these plans are now increasingly harder to find.

What kind of dental insurance covers everything?

Sadly, there is no type of dental insurance that covers “everything.” Most will not cover treatments for dental problems that you have prior to joining the plan, and many do not cover dental implants or cosmetic treatments. Dental savings plans, an alternative to traditional dental insurance, typically do cover care for existing dental issues as well as dental implants and cosmetic procedures.

What is a fee schedule?

A fee schedule is a list of dentist’s rates for various treatments. When used in reference to dental insurance or dental savings plans, the fee schedule will also list the plan holder or dental savings plan member’s reduced rates for dental care. Check fee schedules of any dental insurance or savings plan that you are considering to see how much money you can save on dental care.

What is a treatment plan?

This is a document that details what dental treatments you need, the ADA billing codes associated with those treatments, and the costs of the treatments based on whether you will pay out of pocket, with a particular insurance plan or with a dental savings plan. Compare the costs listed on your treatment plan to those listed on an insurance or dental savings plans’ fee schedule to see how much money you may be able to save.

Dental Insurance Costs

I have Medicare, do i have dental insurance?

Medicare does not cover dental, unless dental care is required as part of a small number of healthcare procedures (example: prior to receiving an organ transplant). Frankly, the list of allowed dental care treatments are so limited that its best to assume you have no coverage for dental care under traditional Medicare. Medicare recipients can obtain dental care coverage through some Medicare Advantage plans, or by purchasing private dental insurance or a dental savings plan.

I have Medicaid, do i have dental insurance?

The short answer is that it depends on what state you live in. For individuals age 21 or under, Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit provides preventive and diagnostic dental care. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, dental care under Medicaid for minors “must include at a minimum, relief of pain and infections, restoration of teeth and maintenance of dental health.” What is “medically necessary” is determined by the state, but may not be limited only to emergency services.

For adults, age 21 and older, states have complete control over what dental services – if any- to provide to Medicare recipients. Most states provide emergency-only dental services, and less than half provide anything that approaches comprehensive dental care.

I have an ACA (Obamacare) health plan. Do I have dental insurance?

Only if you chose a plan that includes dental insurance, or purchased a stand-alone dental plan along with your ACA healthcare coverage. Fewer than 1% of all the health insurance plans on the exchange include adult dental coverage.

Can I be turned down for dental insurance?

It is unlikely that you will be turned down for dental insurance. Your claims may be denied, though. Claims can be denied for many reasons, including preexisting conditions, non-coverage of specific services, waiting period limitations, patient age or treatment frequency limitations, or mistakes that your dentist/dentist’s staff made when processing the claim. If your insurance company refuses the claim, you must pay the total cost of care out of pocket. Dental savings plans eliminate reimbursement aggravations since you pay the discounted fee directly to the dentist.

Dental Emergencies and Dental Insurance

Can I buy dental insurance today and use it tomorrow?

If you purchase a DPPO plan you may be able to use it immediately for a checkup, cleaning and basic x-rays. For anything outside of preventive care, you’ll need to wait for 3-6 months for basic care (fillings, extractions) and 12-24 months for major restorative care. If you were previously covered by dental insurance for a year prior to purchasing a new plan, you may be able to get the waiting period waived – ask before you purchase the new plan.

If you have an DHMO plan, there will probably not be any set waiting periods, but you may not be able to be seen by your in-network dentist immediately and your plan may limit how frequently you can get various types of care.

But I really need dental care right now!

Ask your dentist about payment plans, apply for a line of credit or a short-term loan, or consider joining a dental savings plan. Most dental savings plans activate within 24 hours of purchase, and you can use the plan to save on virtually all dental treatments right away.

To find out more about dental savings plans, visit