You have been waiting patiently for the big moment – the day that you’re going to purchase dental insurance. You’ve been putting it off for a few years, paying out of pocket as minor dental crises popped up. But now, your dentist has told you that you need a significant amount of work done – a couple of root canals and crowns – and you figure the only way you can afford to get the treatment you need is with dental insurance.
Unfortunately, you’re out of luck.
A lot of people figure they can hold off on buying insurance until they absolutely need to get dental care. What they may not know is that dental insurance imposes “waiting periods” – a set time that has to pass before you are covered for more expensive dental treatments. And chances are good that if you’re delaying dental care, eventually you’re going to need a lot of expensive treatments to address the damage.
So if you’ve delayed purchasing insurance until oral health problems are too severe to ignore, chances are good that you will end up paying for both insurance and the dental care that you hoped the insurance would cover.
What You Need To Know About Dental Insurance Waiting Periods
Virtually every dental insurance policy mandates that a specific period of time has to pass before the company will cover new enrollees for more expensive dental treatments.
Insurance companies tend to organize dental procedures into three groups: Preventative, Basic and Major:
- Preventative dental care is annual checkups, x-rays, routine cleanings and similar treatments.
- Basic procedures are common, uncomplicated services, such as fillings, simple extractions and some types of deep cleanings.
- Major procedures, often described as “restorative,” are where waiting period restrictions tend to kick in. Crowns, root canals, bridges, oral surgery, and dentures would be considered major/restorative procedures by most insurance plans.
For policies that do have waiting periods, expect about a six-month wait after buying a dental insurance policy before you’re covered for major procedures. For some treatments, the wait may be as long as a year
Another important thing to know is that insurance may not even cover the costs for some treatments, no matter how long you wait. When considering a particular policy look for a “missing tooth” clause – or references to preexisting dental conditions or work that is already underway. Some policies will not ever cover the cost of replacing a tooth or teeth that were missing before you purchased the policy. Other policies won’t cover the cost of work that’s already in progress.
Some insurance companies also impose restrictions, or additional waiting periods, that control how often the insured can get particular treatments. A policy holder may, for example, be restricted to getting their dentures replaced once every few years or fillings replaced every six years.
Cosmetic services and dental implants are also rarely covered by traditional dental insurance plans.
Read the full details of the policy carefully. Accessing this information usually requires clicking through to a policy brochure or details booklet – this sort of information is rarely presented in the ad copy that touts the plan’s benefits.
While you’re reading through the plan details, check to see if the policy’s annual cap fits your anticipated dental care needs. Most policies cover you for $1,000-$1,500 per year. Given that a single root canal and crown can cost that much, dental insurance may not be your best choice if you need more than preventative care and basic treatments.
Dental Insurance With No Waiting Period?
There are some dental insurance plans, such as myCigna 1000 and myCigna 1500, that will waive the waiting period requirements if you can prove that you’ve had dental insurance in the recent past. “Recent past” is typically 60-90 days.
This waiting-period-waived feature is worth looking for if you were recently insured by an employer but no longer have coverage, or if you’re simply unhappy with your current plan and want to switch but are worried about dealing with waiting periods again.
A great option for getting the care that you need now is a dental savings plan, the affordable alternative to traditional dental insurance. Dental savings plans do not have waiting periods, annual spending caps, deductibles or exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Members of a dental savings plan can expect to pay 10%-60% less at the dentist.
Many of the dental savings plans offered by :DentalPlans also include savings on general healthcare needs, including telemedicine, vision and hearing services, prescriptions, chiropractic, and more. Dental savings plans can help make essential healthcare affordable for people who are under-insured, want to save on services not covered by their insurance, or those who have exhausted their dental insurance benefits.
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com, or by calling 1-800-238-5163.