Compare Dental Insurance

Learn how our experts identify and compare the essential factors of dental insurance to find the best option for you. From coverage and benefit limits to cost and reviews, we research everything you need to know to make a decision.
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Dental Insurance

What every informed consumer needs to know...

If you’ve ever had dental work done, particularly major procedures such as crowns or implants, then you know that it can be very expensive. If you don’t have access to dental insurance through your job, you may have to purchase it on your own.

However, like with all insurance, knowing whether or not you need dental insurance is all about weighing the risk. Individuals who take fantastic care of their teeth and aren’t prone to specific dental conditions may find that it’s much cheaper to just pay for checkups and annual deep cleanings out-of-pocket instead of paying the same amount for dental insurance. However, if you require additional procedures beyond routine preventative care, dental insurance can really help you save. In this overview, we'll show you what you should know about dental insurance and how to pick a policy that will fit your needs.

 

How we Compare Dental Insurance

Coverage - 20%
Benefit Limits - 15%
Plan Options - 15%
Customer Service - 20%
Cost - 15%
Reviews - 15%

Coverage Compared

Most dental insurance plans have coverage that breaks down into four distinct classes, based on the necessity, severity and complexity of the work needed. Your portion of the cost of dental care depends on which class the procedure is categorized as by your insurance provider. Outlining dental insurance coverage can be confusing, because a dental procedure may be considered Class I under one provider’s policies, but be considered a Class II or III by another. Let’s take a look at how these service classes usually break down.

Class I (Preventive Care): This would include basic preventive dental care measures, such as periodic exams, general cleaning, deep cleaning, X-rays, sealants (sometimes dependent upon age), and fluoride treatments. This type of care is 100% covered by most of the Top 10 insurance providers, with up to two visits per year.

Class II (Basic Procedures): Common examples of Class II procedures would be fillings, tooth extractions, root canals, anesthesia and Periodontics (gum disease treatment). However, root canals for example are considered a Class III procedure by about half of the Top 10 companies, so if you are prone to certain dental issues, it’s critical to make sure you know how that particular treatment is covered. How much of the cost will be covered also depends on the provider and how the procedure is categorized, but basic procedures are commonly 80% covered (after the deductible) by the insurance company.

Class III (Major Procedures): Common major procedures would be crowns, bridges, dentures (partial or complete), extensive oral surgeries, and any necessary implants. But again, some of these could be classified as Class II, dependent upon how it’s outlined by each specific plan or insurance provider. Major procedures are usually 50% covered by insurance, which means that is potentially a lot of out-of-pocket money wasted or saved, based upon your specific situation and dental history.

Class IV (Orthodontia): Orthodontic care involves the use of devices, such as braces, to correct abnormalities of the teeth and jaw. This type of coverage is highly variable by provider, and there is usually an age limit in place (commonly dependents age 19 and younger are eligible). Check with specific insurance companies for more information on orthodontia coverage.

Dental Insurance with the Best Coverage:  Guardian CoverageeHealth CoverageDental Plans Coverage
eHealthDental PlansDelta DentalGuardianHumanaMetlifeAmeritasCIGNAAetnaCareington
Class I: Prevention and Diagnostic 100%100%100%100%100%100% no deductible100% (network) - 90% (non-network)100%100%100%
Cleaning
How often?
Deep Cleaning
Sealants
Fluoride
Radiographs/X-rays
Bitewing X-rays
Full mouth X-rays
Brush Biopsy
Class II: Basic Restorative 80%80%80%80% (High plan), 50% (Low plan)90%80% after deductible80%80%80%80%
Fillings
Extractions
Root Canals
Dental Trauma
Periodontic Services
Anesthesia
Oral Surgery
Class III: Major Restorative 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% 50% after deductible50% 50% 50% 60%
Crowns
Bridges
Dentures
Implants
Class IV: Orthodontia
Age Limit for OrthodonticsAdult and child coverageAdult and child coverage19 Years Old Dependents to age 19Dependent children through age 19Adult and child coverage17 and belowAdult and child coverageAge limits may vary according to availability in plan typeAge limits may vary according to availability in plan type
Mouth Guard/Occlusal Guard
Major Oral Surgery
Cancer Treatments

Benefit Limits Compared

Another important factor to research would be any benefit limits on the insurance. With both high and low-end dental plans, there is almost always an annual maximum payout per-person, per-benefit period (usually January through December).This means that once the maximum amount has been reached, any additional dental care costs will need to be paid out of pocket until the begining of the new policy year. The annual maximum varies based on the provider and the plan you select. The common range is about $1,000 to $1,500, but it can be higher or lower. Many companies offer multiple plans, and the plans with higher premiums tend to also have higher annual maximum payouts.

Dental insurance providers also usually have waiting periods in effect for coverage. Most of the Top 10 insurance companies have no waiting period before Class I, or preventive, dental care will be covered. A 12-month waiting period for coverage on Class III procedures is common, but many companies also have waiting periods before Class II coverage takes effect, usually ranging from three to six months. However, a few companies have no waiting periods at all.

This is why it’s important to inquire about the waiting periods before selecting a plan, rather than finding out later that you need to have an immediate procedure take place, but it’s not covered for another three months. Any and all benefit limits will be outlined in the service contract, so read it carefully before purchasing any insurance.

Dental Insurance with the Best Benefit Limits:  eHealth Benefit LimitsAmeritas Benefit LimitsCIGNA Benefit Limits
eHealthDental PlansDelta DentalGuardianHumanaMetlifeAmeritasCIGNAAetnaCareington
Annual Maximum $1,500No Annual Limits $1000/person$1,500$1,500$1,500$1,500$1,500$1,000$500 (low plan), $1,500 (high end plans)
Waiting PeriodsNo Waiting Period No Waiting Period No Waiting Period 12 month waiting period for Major servicesPreventive none, Basic 6 months, Major 12 monthsPreventive none, Basic 6 months, Major 12 monthsPreventive none, Basic 3 months, Major 12 monthsPreventive none, Basic 6 months, Major 12 monthsPreventive none, Basic 6 months, Major 18 monthsPreventive none, Basic 6 months, Major 12 months

Plan Options Compared

Dental insurance typically comes in the form of three different plan options: dental health maintenance organization (DHMO), preferred provider organization (PPO, also referred to as a participating dental network, or PDN), or an indemnity plan. Most of the Top 10 insurance companies offer DHMO and PPO plans, and all but one of them offer indemnity plans as well. You should select a plan based on the providers (dentists) you want to choose from, and what you can afford to pay.

Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO): A DHMO tends to be a lower-cost benefits and insurance plan. You are required to choose one dentist or dental facility as your primary care provider, and you must choose from in-network providers only. A typical DHMO plan doesn’t have any deductibles or maximums. You pay a fixed dollar amount for any covered treatment, which is a copay. However, if the procedure is not covered by a copay, you are responsible for all of the cost. All care must be administered by your primary care provider, otherwise the procedure won’t be covered. If you take good care of your teeth and don’t need to use insurance very often, this is often the most cost-effective plan because you pay lower premiums and don’t have to pay a deductible. However, should something drastic and unexpected happen to your teeth, you could be stuck with the entire bill.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): Dental PPO plans offer the freedom to visit any licensed dentist to receive benefits, but you will typically enjoy lower costs if you choose an in-network dentist. Services are rendered based on your deductible amount and your coinsurance percentages, in addition to your monthly premiums. These plans can cost more in the long-run than a DHMO plan due to the higher premiums, but you’re offered more comprehensive dental care.

Indemnity: Also known as a fee-for-service option, these plans offer the greatest choice of dentists, as you can visit any dentist you want. Like PPO plans, you typically pay a deductible, and then a fixed percentage for each service and the plan pays the rest. However, participating PPO providers usually offer discounts on procedures not covered by your plan. You do not have this option with an indemnity plan, so it’s possible you’ll end up paying more in addition to the high premiums.

With all three of these plans, how well it will work for you can depend on how many in-network providers the company boasts where you live. Most of the Top 10 companies have over 100,000 network locations, which gives you the freedom of choice. Companies with smaller networks will likely have fewer options if you live in an area where their network is lacking, which is why it’s important to inquire about network providers before choosing a plan.

Additionally, dental insurance providers a often have plans for individuals, couples and families if you are looking to cover other members of your family.

Dental Insurance with the Best Plan Options:  Delta Dental Plan OptionseHealth Plan OptionsHumana Plan Options
eHealthDental PlansDelta DentalGuardianHumanaMetlifeAmeritasCIGNAAetnaCareington
HMO
PPO
Indemnity Plan
Individual
Couple Plans
Family Plans
Sample Contract (Base Level Plan)
Easy to Understand Contract

Customer Service Compared

When selecting a dental insurance provider, you should also consider their customer service. Insurance can be complicated and difficult to understand, which is why it’s important that providers make it as easy as possible for their customers. For example, most of the Top 10 companies will pay your dental care provider directly, which means you won’t have to worry about paying the bill upfront and waiting for reimbursement. Once the dental insurance company has paid their portion, you’ll receive a bill with your portion of the remaining balance.

Most companies now offer an online customer portal, which you can use to submit and track any open claims, or to review and refer to previous claims you may have had. Through this portal you can also communicate with a representative regarding any questions or concerns you may have. This is often done through email or a phone number you can call, but some insurance agencies also have live chat functionality, which means you can get connected to a representative on the spot and have your needs addressed through the chat box.

If you prefer other methods of communication or claims submission, such as mail or fax, most of the insurance companies still allow that option. But be sure to inquire specifically, because this could be restricted to certain items or procedures. Do some solid research into a company’s customer service record before committing, because a company that values their customer’s time and money as much as their own should be respected.

Dental Insurance with the Best Customer Service:  Delta Dental Customer ServiceeHealth Customer ServiceMetlife Customer Service

Cost Compared

The total cost you wind up paying for dental insurance varies greatly, as there are many factors that go into what you pay. For example, there are dental insurance premiums you may be responsible for, which is a fixed monthly cost. This is an easily predictable expense that you can budget for, as monthly premiums usually fall somewhere in the $25 to $50 per month range for individual plans. The other costs, however, are not as straight-forward.

Deductibles, coinsurance and copays are all examples of costs that depend on how and when you use your insurance. A deductible is the amount you pay for dental care services before your insurance kicks in. Let’s say your plan’s deductible is $100. That means for most services, you will pay all costs until the amount reaches $100. After that, you share the cost by paying coinsurance and/or copays.

Coinsurance is your share of the costs of a dental service. As we outlined earlier, Class I services are 100% covered by most of the top 10 insurance companies. However, with Class II and III procedures, you are responsible for a certain percentage of the costs that exceed your deductible. For example, if you have a root canal performed and that procedure qualifies for 80% coverage from the insurance company, the other 20% is your responsibility. This is your coinsurance, and that amount varies greatly based on the extent of the services performed.

Some plans also have copays instead of, or in addition to, coinsurance. A copay is a fixed amount you pay for a dental care service. This is usually paid when you receive the service, and it’s paid directly to the dental care provider. If you go in for a checkup, you may be responsible for a copay, which usually ranges from $15 to $30, but it may be more like $250 for a visit to an emergency clinic. Copays are usually paid per-office visit, but this really only applies to DHMO plans. PPO and indemnity plans usually only have deductibles and coinsurance in addition to your premiums.

Dental Insurance with the Best Cost:  Delta Dental CosteHealth CostDental Plans Cost

Reviews Compared

With so many dental insurance options to choose from, reading reviews from consumers who have experience with these companies can be a great way to help you decide. Here are a few things to look for when looking over reviews.

  1. Statistical Significance: Make sure the number of reviews posted is significant. If there are only a handful of reviews, the overall rating is going to mean a lot less than if there are 1,000 reviews. The higher the number of reviews, the more accurate and useful that overall score is going to be for helping you make a decision.
  2. Word Sentiment: Take a few minutes to scan some reviews for words that stand out. Is the overall tone of the review positive or negative? In addition to star ratings, scanning for specific words can be a great way to get a sense of how satisfied or dissatisfied customers are with the companies you are researching.
  3. Customer Care: If the insurance company has the chance to respond to feedback from customers, do they? Do the companies you are looking at make the effort to resolve individual complaints? When a company reaches out to customers whether the review is positive or negative, this is a good indicator that they will likely value your business as well. If the company does not respond directly, do reviewers mention how responsive the company was to their concerns?
  4. Learn from other people’s mistakes: When you see negative comments about a dental insurance provider, think about how the problem could have been avoided. For instance, if the issue was because someone didn’t fully understand the coverage outlined in the contract, take the time to review the contract before signing. If the problem was clearly the fault of the insurance company, and they made no visible effort to resolve the issue, this could be a red flag.

 

Dental Insurance with the Best Reviews:  Delta Dental ReviewseHealth ReviewsGuardian Reviews

Full Dental Insurance Comparison

CoverageBenefit LimitsPlan OptionsCustomer ServiceCostReviews
eHealth Dental Insurance10.010.010.010.010.010.0
Dental Plans Dental Insurance9.79.49.89.89.79.8
Delta Dental Insurance9.09.010.010.010.010.0
Gaurdian Dental Insurance10.010.09.08.09.010.0
Humana Dental Insurance9.010.010.09.09.09.0
Metlife Dental Insurance9.010.010.010.07.06.0
Ameritas Dental Insurance8.010.08.07.09.09.0
CIGNA Dental Insurance7.010.07.08.09.09.0
Aetna Dental Insurance6.08.68.88.88.97.7
Careington Dental Insurance7.77.96.87.87.58.8
Renaissance Dental Insurance7.010.08.06.06.010.0
Premera Dental Insurance7.47.46.06.06.06.0
Nationwide Dental Insurance0.00.00.00.00.00.0
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FAQ

What should I consider when choosing a dental plan?

There is no single "best" dental plan. Some plans will be better than others for you and your family's needs, so there are a few factors to take into consideration when shopping around. First, how much will it cost on a monthly basis? If your budget is limited, a plan with low premiums could be a good option. However, keep in mind that low premiums usually means higher deductibles, so if you need a dental procedure that falls outside of basic preventive care, you may have to pay a significant amount of money before your insurance kicks in.

Another important thing to consider is where you will go for care. Do you already have a primary care dentist? If not, are there enough in-network dentists in your area? Do you already know you'll need to see a specialist as well? More options often means more money, so your current dental situation can have a major impact on your ultimate insurance decision.

How do I know what my portion of the bill cost if my insurance does not cover the entire cost of the procedure?

Your payment portion will vary according to the coinsurance of your plan, your maximum annual benefit, and other factors like deductibles or copays.

Coinsurance is your portion of the bill not covered by the insurance company. For instance, if the insurance provider will cover 80% of the procedure cost, your coinsurance is the remaining 20%. The maximum benefit is the total amount the insurance company will pay out during the policy year, which for most policies, is between $1,000 to $1,500 per person. Some plans have deductibles, or an amount of money you pay out-of-pocket for dental care before insurance coverage begins. Some plans may also have copays, or a flat fee paid to your dentist for each visit.

Ultimately, your portion of the bill will not be known until the the claim has been approved and insurance has paid your dental care provider. However, you can get a good idea by asking your dentist for a cost estimate for the procedures you'll need, checking your policy for the percentage of coverage your Dental Insurance will cover, and calculating any deductibles or copayments.

Does dental insurance cost less if I buy directly from the insurance company?

Not necessarily. Typically, dental insurance companies charge the same premium whether the plan is purchased directly from the company, through a broker, or online through the marketplace.

However, if you're looking for a lower cost plan, it may be worth asking your employer. Many times dental insurance is a benefit offered by employers, who are able to get bulk policies from insurance providers at a lower rate than individual policies. Another option to consider if you're looking to get dental coverage for multiple family members is a family or couples plan, which are also available from most dental insurance companies.

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