You never know when a toothache might strike – and if you’ve ever experienced one, you know how important it is to have access to dental care when you need it. Dental benefits are the best way to be prepared for any unexpected problems that might arise. It can save you money in those situations, and, better yet, it will help you prevent more serious problems by allowing you to schedule regular cleanings and check-ups at a much lower cost.
When it comes to selecting a dental plan, there are several factors to consider in order to find a plan that best suits your needs. The details can be confusing: premiums, deductibles, and levels of coverage will vary across plans, so it’s a good idea to thoroughly review your options. Otherwise, you may end up with insufficient coverage in the event of an emergency – or, alternatively, coverage that is more expensive than you budgeted for.
Whether selecting dental benefits through your employer or on your own, the following steps provide general guidance on how to select the right dental plan.
Selecting the Right Dental Plan: A Step-By-Step Process
Before selecting a dental plan, it’s important to do some homework regarding your family’s and your own dental history, current oral health status, and your budget.
Evaluate Your Needs
If you are a single adult under the age of 30 with very good dental health and no history of oral disease, then your dental benefit needs will be very different than, for instance, a household of four with two young children. The family of four may have one parent with a history of gum disease, a child who is likely to need orthodontic work, and another child with a history of multiple cavities.
In this case, the likelihood for more frequent visits to the dentist’s office and more expensive procedures would indicate that the family of four may want to invest in a more comprehensive dental benefits policy, even if the plan cost is somewhat higher.
To thoroughly understand your requirements, make a generalized list of you or your family’s dental and oral health needs - both historic, current, and predicted - as well as what you’ve paid in the past for dental care visits. This will serve as a good benchmark for evaluating policies and anticipating overall costs.
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Understand the Different Kinds of Dental Plans
There are several different types of dental benefit plans. Each will work differently in terms of out-of-pocket costs, benefits, deductibles, and so on. Generally, dental plans are divided into the following categories:
Determine Which Plans are Available in Your Area
You may not have access to all types of dental plans listed above – the plans you can choose from will depend on what’s available in your area
Contact the companies that serve your region to determine the specific plans available.
Know What’s Covered by Each Plan
Once you have a solid understanding of the types of dental benefit plans available in your area or offered by your employer, you can begin to conduct deeper research into the details – such as covered procedures, waiting periods, and annual limits.
Creating a list of pros and cons can help guide you through the decision-making process. Consider the following questions when evaluating your options:
Think About Network Size
Each type of dental plan will have a different sized network (meaning the contracted dentists who are enrolled with the plan) to choose from. If you live in an area where there are relatively few dentists nearby, then network size may be a critical factor.
In addition, you may want to find out whether your current dentist is covered by the plans you’re researching. Be aware that you will likely have to pay more out-of-pocket to continue seeing your existing dentist if he or she is out-of-network.
Consider the Costs and Your Budget
Different dental benefit plans will work differently in terms out of pocket cost. PPO is the most attractive plan because it balances between cost and access to care.
To determine which dental plan makes most sense for your budget, spend some time calculating your estimated yearly dental costs based on historical patterns.
When crunching the numbers, make sure to consider:
This will help you understand your options from a financial perspective and make the choice that best aligns with your family’s budget.
Choosing the right dental plan can be intimidating, but it’s not difficult – so long as you’ve done your homework. Don’t rush into the decision: Instead, take time to evaluate your dental needs, budget, and anticipated level of care. While it’s impossible to perfectly predict every dental injury or illness that may arise, arming yourself with the facts will help you avoid unwanted surprises when it comes to reimbursement and out-of-pocket expenses.
Searching for the right plan? Take a look at our Dental Plans.