person choosing dental insurance

Individual Dental Insurance: Your Guide To Choosing A Plan

Dental insurance typically covers the cost of preventative dental care, such as teeth cleanings and oral exams, and it also helps cover a portion of other treatments, such as fillings and root canals. However, 27.5 percent of adults in the U.S. don't have any dental coverage, according to the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. If you don't have dental insurance and need coverage for yourself, you may want to explore an individual dental plan.

Types of Individual Dental Insurance Plans

Dental insurance is available in many forms, such as employer-sponsored group plans for employees, or family plans intended to cover multiple people. For those who don't get dental insurance through their employer and don't need a family plan, individual dental insurance could be a good option.

Underneath the umbrella of individual dental insurance, there are different plans. The best type of insurance plan for you depends on your personal preferences and whether you want to pay more for insurance premiums — the monthly payment you'll make — or more for the cost of care at the time of your treatment.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) divides dental coverage into three types:

  • Dental Health Managed Organizations (DHMO): If you purchase a DHMO plan, you'll choose a dentist in the plan's network to serve as your "primary provider." This plan covers visits to your primary provider or treatments from a specialist that your primary dentist refers you to.
  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO): With a PPO, you don't have to choose a primary provider. As long as you see a dentist or specialist who is in the plan's network, your care is covered at the best rate. Visiting a dentist outside of the network will cost you more.
  • Indemnity Plans: Indemnity plans are sometimes called "fee-for-service" plans, as the American Association of Endodontists notes. An indemnity plan lets you go to any dental provider you want, and your plan will pay a set percentage of the cost of care.

Finding an Individual Dental Plan

Although dental insurance can seem like an unnecessary extra expense, it can pay off in the long run. Preventative dental care helps to keep your mouth healthy, and the right dental insurance can help you manage and reduce the cost.

  • Is your current dentist in-network, or will you have to switch providers?
  • What costs are you responsible for paying? Are there deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance?
  • What is the monthly premium?
  • How much coverage does the plan provide?
  • What treatments are covered?

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