The American Dental Association states that more than half of the population in the United States are not covered by any dental insurance plan. Those who do have dental coverage often get it through their employer as part of their health insurance plan. Depending upon the type of medical coverage you have, it may be a good idea to have a compatible program to eliminate any gaps or overlap within the two plans. That may save money while allowing you to take advantage of receiving necessary preventive care.
A conventional dental insurance plan may not necessarily be the most cost effective type of coverage. Discounted dental insurance has become quite popular, and there are plenty of companies competing for your business. Compare features of both categories to decide the best choice of dental insurance plan for your situation.
Not all dentists are pleased about participating in a dental insurance plan. It means more work for them (and especially more paperwork), and less pay. It's also important to have adequate coverage for your situation, so you can access the features you need and aren't paying for something you won't use. Also, insurance plans have restrictions, such as pre-existing conditions and annual maximum payments.
The most common types of dental insurance plans are either Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) or Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO). Both types are considered managed care, and each dental insurance plan has benefits and disadvantages.
Dentists participating in the PPO plans have negotiated their fees with the administering company, and provide their services under the plan, but this usually doesn't cover all fees. There are deductibles to consider and most of these types of dental insurance plan only pay a percentage of the charges, leaving the patient with a co-pay. There may also be a maximum amount they will pay annually.
If your employer is paying the monthly premiums for the dental insurance plan and the dentist you use is part of the PPO, this might be an attractive option. However, if you are responsible for payment, this might be more expensive and certainly less flexible than a discounted dental insurance plan.
A Dental Health Maintenance Organization is another dental insurance plan option, based on the model of medical HMOs. Here, too, the patient is enrolled in a program, and can visit any dentist in that program. However, dentists may end up having to provide services at 'below cost' rates, and not be able to spend as much time with each person as a PPO could offer. Working in an HMO setting, the dentist has many more people to see and is compelled to function in an environment where volume matters. Although a patient will be seen and treated, the relationship with the dentist isn't developed due to lack of time. If you want to be seen by a dentist who takes time with his or her patients, this may not be your optimum dental insurance plan.