If you don’t have dental insurance, you’re not alone. In 2014, the National Association of Dental Plans (NAPD) reported that 114 million American don’t have dental insurance, with 46.3 million of those over age 65. That’s a staggering number, especially when you consider that access to dental insurance has greatly improved since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare as it is also known.
Why then, do so many of us still not have dental insurance? Well, a variety of reasons really. The overwhelming majority of those who have dental insurance obtained it through their employer. That’s because group policies are substantially cheaper than individual plans. That means those who are self-employed or who are part-time employees are often left to fend for themselves, and simply find it too expensive to sign up for dental insurance.
Those on Original Medicare fall through the cracks too, since Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B largely do not cover dental. Still, others might have access to dental insurance, but simply don’t think it’s worth signing up for since it has such a low annual maximum of $1,000 to $1,500.
Before we talk about affordable ways to get dental care, let’s talk about why it’s important to have it.
Why do I need dental coverage?
Without dental coverage you’re less likely to go to the dentist, allowing minor problems to turn into serious concerns. Plus, taking care of your teeth isn’t about just having a nice smile and good breath; it’s vital to your overall health. According to the NADP, people without dental insurance report higher incidences of other illnesses like heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
With that said, let’s look into some ways you can get affordable dental care.
Free dental care
Yes, it exists. Many states offer free or low-cost dental care to those who are low-income, elderly or disabled. A great resource to learn more about free dental care in your area is the United Way. Give them a call to learn more about their programs and eligibility requirements. If they are unable to offer assistance, ask them for names of other local organizations that may be able to help. If you do not qualify for free dental services, there are still a number of other affordable dental care options available.
Can you sign up for group dental policy?
If you have the option of signing up for a group policy through your or your partner’s employer, take advantage of it. Group policies are significantly less expensive than getting your own. If you aren’t sure about company benefits or how they work, ask human resources for help. If it turns out that you are eligible to sign up for a dental group policy, you will likely have two dental plan types available to you, a DHMO and a DPPO.
What is a DHMO and a DPPO?
A DHMO has lower monthly premiums, but you’ll pay more out-of-pocket when you visit the dentist. Plus, your dental benefits will only work if you visit an in-network dentist. With a DPPO, you’ll pay higher monthly premiums but less out-of-pocket, and you can visit any dentist you prefer. However, your costs will be less if you choose a dentist in your network.
Look into Marketplace dental insurance
Healthcare.gov is known as the Health Insurance Marketplace. This is where you can shop and compare health, vision and dental plans that are available to you through the Affordable Care Act. In order to get dental insurance on the Marketplace, you’ll either need to sign up for health plan that also covers dental, or add dental insurance to your chosen Marketplace health plan.
The amount you’ll pay for health coverage is based on a number of factors including, but not limited to:
- Where you live
- Your age
- If you have dependents
- If you are pregnant
- Expected household income
- If you qualify for exemptions or assistance
Check out healthcare.gov and “Get Coverage” to find what the cost of dental insurance would be for you.
Alternatives to dental insurance
If none of the Marketplace dental insurance plans are of interest to you, an affordable alternative is a dental savings plan. Think of it like a club membership that gives you discounts on what you buy. Whereas dental insurance has numerous restrictions on what it will cover, annual maximums and waiting periods, a dental savings plan has far less.
You’ll enjoy discounts on all of the following dental work:
- Oral surgery
All you have to do is sign up for your plan of choice, pay the membership fee and visit a participating dentist. It’s that easy. If you’re worried about the membership cost, don’t be. Individual plans start at just $80 annually.
Get dental care
Spend some time researching the options we’ve covered to see which best meets your needs. The important thing is that you get dental care sooner than later. It’s time and money well spent.