Most dental care coverage places an emphasis on regular preventive care by covering small routine costs. A thorough examination by the dentist and a set of x-rays are all it usually takes to diagnose a problem.
By placing an emphasis on prevention, and by covering regular teeth cleaning and check-ups, your finances and your health can benefit from a good dental insurance plan. Regular preventative care translates into better dental health and less expensive procedures.
Dental insurance basics
Dental insurance works like most other types of medical coverage. You pay a monthly premium for coverage, and the policy helps to pay for all or some of your related costs.
While some health plans will cover dental care, many do not. If this applies to you, or if you carry an individual health policy, you may need an individual dental insurance policy to cover future dental care.
What does a dental plan cover?
A good dental insurance plan should cover all or almost all of any basic dental procedures you may need, like office visits and cleaning. Care beyond that depends on the policy you choose. Generally, as dental procedures become more expensive, your policy will cover a lower percentage of the cost.
The popularity of dental insurance has increased over the past few decades because of the rising cost of dental care. And as dental plans have become more widespread, different coverage options have developed.
Traditional dental insurance vs. Managed dental care
The most basic dental insurance plan works on a fee-for-service (often referred to as "indemnity") basis. You pay a monthly premium for coverage, and your insurer will pay for all or most of your necessary dental care, no matter where or from whom you choose to receive care.
A newer option is managed dental insurance, which works a lot like managed health care. A managed dental insurance plan covers most of the same service as an indemnity policy would, but premiums are usually lower and freedom of choice in dentists is restricted.
Most managed dental insurance plans work under a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization), which means that policyholders must choose a dentist from a list of approved dentists. These are known as żIn Networkż dentists. If you go to a dentist not on the approved list, you are żOut of Networkż and your plan will probably pay a much lower percentage of the charges. There are also HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) plans which are even more restrictive on the dentist you can use. These plans also require you to have a primary dentist, and you must have a referral from that dentist to see a specialist.
There are also Discount Dental Plans which are not insurance plans at all. Sometimes these plans are confused with actual insurance coverage. Anyone purchasing these plans should be very careful and not consider this dental insurance. Before purchasing, you should verify that in fact there are dentists in your area that honor these discounts. You can do this by simply calling the dentists that are listed on sales material.
Is there a waiting period for dental insurance?
Basically, all individual dental insurance plans, both fee-for-service (indemnity) and managed care policies, require a 6 to 18 month waiting period for most procedures, which means services won't be covered until after you've owned your policy for that long. However, most preventive services do not have a waiting period.