One day it hits you. A toothache. And all of a sudden it hurts to sip a glass of water. The worst part is you know it won’t get better on its own. You need a dentist.

While that’s a worst-case scenario, it happens. And getting it taken care of may take a few trips to the dentist… something that doesn’t quite fit between yoga, work and the kids’ piano lessons. To make matters worse, if that’s possible, the bill is usually more than you thought it would be.

Dental insurance to the rescue. But is it a smart move? What do you get for your money?

Preventive care

You pay your car insurance each year even though there’s a good chance you won’t need to use it. And that’s a good thing. Because when you need it, it’s usually for something not so fun.

Your car insurance gives you peace of mind, but at the end of the year, you don’t get anything back. Not even an oil change.

With dental insurance, you get peace of mind, plus at least two checkups each year.

This is typically how dental insurance works:

  • The money you pay each month goes toward getting your teeth cleaned, examined and perhaps X-rayed.
  • It also gives your dentist a chance to spot and reduce the chances of you getting that toothache in the first place. That saves you a lot of pain and money.

How about the cost?

Let’s say you pay $40 for premiums each month, which comes to $480 per year.. You usually get two checkups covered at 100 percent each year.

If you need extra work, like a filling, your plan will pay a portion of the cost. You’ll be responsible for the deductible and the remaining portion your dental insurance didn’t pay.

According to a report by the American Dental Association, the average cost for dental services is $685 per year. 1Compared to that, $480 is a good deal.

The cost of dental services

Maybe you need a little more dental work during the year – a crown, root canal, extraction or some other specialty service. According to the same American Dental Association report, the average cost jumps to $1,755.

That’s a lot to pay. Dental insurance can help cover a big chunk of the cost.

Medical and dental insurance don’t work exactly the same way.

You’ll notice that dental plans have an “annual max.” The annual max is the most your dental insurance will pay for dental work. If your plan has a $1,500 annual max, that means your plan stops paying once it hits $1,500. You’re then responsible for anything over $1,500.

Is that bad?

Yes and no. If you need a lot of dental work, you’ll have to pay more out of pocket. But it could be a lot worse. If you didn’t have dental insurance and that $1,500 max, you’d be paying $1,500 plus any amount over that out of your own pocket.

And remember, the best way to avoid costly dental work is by taking great care of your teeth and seeing your dentist regularly.

Next steps

Considering dental insurance? If you’re not part of a company plan, visit us online to find dental insurance that fits your needs. If you’re working for a company that offers dental insurance, we offer help when choosing a plan.

1Healthy Policy Institute. “The Per-Patient Cost of Dental Care, 2013: A Look Under the Hood,” American Dental Association, March 2016.