One day it hits you – a painful toothache. Suddenly it hurts to sip a glass of water, and you can barely focus on anything but the pain. Unfortunately, you know it won’t get better on its own. You need a dentist – and that visit might cost you.

Dental insurance to the rescue! But is it really a smart move? And what do you get for your money?

Dental insurance: What you need to know

Plans can vary based on the dental insurance carrier and their plan options. But typically, you pay a premium each month, and your plan covers the cost of your care until it hits its yearly maximum.

In general, dental plans pay a portion of certain procedures (called coinsurance), like root canals and fillings. Dental insurance also often covers 100% of preventive care services, like checkups, screenings and cleanings. This regular maintenance helps you take better care of your teeth, decreasing your risk of something more painful and serious happening down the line – and saving you money.

Do I have to get dental insurance through my employer?

No. However, dental plans through your employer may save you money, because many employers help pay a portion of the cost. And there are also tax advantages with getting coverage through your employer that may help lower your taxes. If you’re self-employed, retired or your employer doesn’t offer a dental plan, individual dental insurance can be purchased directly from a dental insurance carrier or marketplace. These plans help ensure that you and your family get the coverage you need.

Individual dental insurance

With individual dental insurance, you can explore a variety of plans and networks to find what works best for you. This will help you get more specific about your health and financial needs. Maximums, monthly premiums, coverage specifications and networks will vary based on your plan selection.

When enrolling in an individual dental plan, you’ll have the option to add a spouse and dependents. That makes it easy to provide coverage for the whole family. When seeking care, seeing an in-network dentist will help save money.

There are several items to consider when choosing a plan:

  • The amount of dental care you and your family need
  • Whether or not your dentist is in the network
  • What best fits your budget

The cost of dental insurance

To understand what an investment in dental insurance looks like, let’s start by examining monthly premiums. If you pay $40 each month, that equals $480 per year.

With this investment, you usually get two checkups covered at 100% each year, although that may vary based on coverage. Dental providers can also negotiate checkup fees with insurers, decreasing overall cost. Without insurance, these two visits alone can cost up to $400 out of pocket.

And remember, seeing your dentist regularly as part of your dental insurance plan is a key part of taking great care of your teeth.

The average cost of dental services

According to a report by the American Dental Association, the most recent study on per-patient dental costs of its kind, the average cost for dental services is $685 per year. Compared to that, $480 in annual premiums is a good investment.

But let’s say you need 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 annual cost then jumps to $1,755. That’s a lot to pay. But dental insurance can help cover a big chunk of the cost up to the annual max of, for instance, $1,500.

The cost of dental work without insurance

As noted, without insurance, dental work can get expensive very quickly, especially because there’s a whole range of services to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the most common procedures, including emergency services, and their average costs.

Most common procedures and their price

  • Fillings: Prices fluctuate depending on size, location and the type of filling material used. The average cost of a filling is $140 to $200, but in more severe cases, that cost can rise to around $500.
  • Tooth extractions: A simple extraction usually costs between $75 and $300 per tooth. In more complicated cases, like impaction, tooth breakage or wisdom tooth removal, the price can go up to several thousand dollars.
  • Crowns: A typical dental crown can cost between $1,100 and $1,500. This cost depends on variables such as crown type, treatment and any additional services required to do the procedure, like bone grafts or root canals.
  • Root canals: You can expect to pay between $700 and $2,100 for a single root canal, though factors such as location of the tooth, emergencies and the need for a crown can affect (and increase) price.

Should I get dental insurance?

Each person’s situation is unique, but overall, if you have dental insurance, you are more likely to go to the dentist – and that’s a good thing. Whether you’re getting treated for an emergency or using your regular preventive visits, caring for your teeth will help you maintain a healthier mouth. And in the long run, a healthier mouth saves you time, pain and money.

Have more questions? Our experts are ready to help you choose a dental insurance plan that fits your needs.