Proper care of teeth and gums involves much more than simply brushing your teeth twice a day. Proper dental care also involves routine exams and professional cleanings. Wear and tear of daily life means that as we age, our teeth will need to be restored with procedures such as filings and crowns.
Years ago, people accepted tooth loss as a fact of life. Today, with the advent of new and improved dental materials and procedures, it is possible to maintain our natural teeth throughout a lifetime, or to replace lost teeth with natural looking dentures and implants. But modern dentistry comes at a cost. During the past 50 years, the cost of dental care has increased much faster than inflation. To help cover these rising costs, dental insurance was introduced and through the years, became a mainstay of the dental care industry.
The Benefits of Dental Insurance
- Dental insurance typically covers the cost of routine preventative care, such as exams, x-rays and cleanings. This coverage encourages people to use preventative services, which can pay off in better overall dental health and the need for fewer costly procedures.
- Peace-of-mind; having dental insurance means people worry less about the cost of their dental care. The prospect of major dental work becomes less financially daunting.
- Dental insurance allows you to use any dentist.
The Negatives of Dental Insurance
- High premiums – you will rarely come out ahead financially. At best, dental insurance is a method to finance dental care.
- Annual benefit limits – typically $1000 to $1500. This means that if you need extensive dental work, only a fraction of your treatment may be covered during a policy year.
- Exclusions – items which are not covered. Cosmetic dentistry, which may include orthodontics and implants, is often not covered because these types of procedures are not considered “necessary” for dental health.
- “Maximum allowable charge” – the maximum amount an insurance policy will allow for a given dental procedure. Often, this maximum allowable charge is less than what a dentist actually charges.
- Claim forms – paperwork required for reimbursement can be time consuming and confusing.
The bottom line is dental insurance companies must collect more in total premium than they pay out in benefits. Otherwise, they lose money and soon go out of business. Over the years, as the cost of dental care increased, insurance companies were forced to raise premiums, while placing more and more restrictions on their policies. Soon, low cost dental insurance had become a thing of the past.
Given these financial realities, a new way to make dental care more affordable was needed. In the 1970’s, discount dental plans emerged and their popularity has grown ever since. Often referred to as “insurance,” the fact is that these plans are not dental insurance. They work in an entirely different manner. One of the oldest and largest of such plans is the Careington dental plan. Using Careington as an example, here’s how a discount dental plan works.
By leveraging the cumulative purchasing power of over 8,000,000 members, Careington acts like a giant buying club for dental services. On behalf of its members, Careington negotiates discounts of 20% to 60% off all care at participating dentists. In return, participating dentists receive a steady stream of new customers.
Discount dental plans offer the following advantages:
- Low cost – monthly premiums are much less, typically one-third or less than the cost of dental insurance.
- No annual limits on savings.
- No claim forms are required. Discounts are given by the dentist at time of service.
- Plan members save on all dental conditions, including cosmetic dentistry.
- Unlike dental insurance, members are able to save on pre-existing conditions with no waiting periods required.
The main drawback of discount dental plans is that plan members must use participating dentists for all savings. Therefore, these plans are not for everyone. Be sure there is a suitable selection of plan dentists in your area before you join any plan. With a suitable selection of plan dentists nearby, a discount dental plan is a modern and effective substitute for low-cost dental insurance.