Most medical insurance plans don’t cover dental care, so many people purchase separate dental coverage. Like health insurance, dental plans have premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.
Before purchasing a dental plan, compare dentists and costs in your area. Also, remember that most dental insurance plans require you to visit in-network providers for the best benefits and least out-of-pocket costs.
Most dental insurance plans cover routine care like cleanings and x-rays. However, they can also include major services like root canals and crowns. Before you purchase a plan, consider your budget and oral health needs. Also, look at the plan’s deductible, coinsurance, and annual maximum.
Choosing the right plan can help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. A DPPO, or dental preferred provider organization, plan offers the most coverage with in-network providers. It typically has a deductible and coinsurance but no referral requirements. A DHMO, or dental health maintenance organization, is similar to a PPO but does not provide coverage for non-preventative procedures.
To save money, try to find a dentist with low prices. You can ask friends and family members for recommendations, or you can search online for local dental offices that offer discounts. You can also sign up for a dental savings plan. These are not actual insurance plans but they do give you access to discounted services for a periodic membership fee.
Typically, fillings aren’t considered cosmetic or elective procedures, which means they’re often largely or completely covered by insurance. However, some insurance plans have a limit on how much they cover for these services, so check with your provider to see what your specific coverage is.
Even without dental insurance, the cost of a cavity filling can vary based on the size and type of filling you choose. For example, composite fillings generally cost $90-$250 to restore one or two surfaces of the tooth and $150-$450 for three or more.
Regular trips to the dentist help detect small cavities in their earliest stages with the aid of X-rays. This prevents a small cavity from growing into a large one, which may require more extensive treatment (like a root canal or crown). The earlier that cavities are detected and treated, the lower your overall dental cost will be.
Root canals are needed when the tissues, nerves and blood vessels inside a tooth (called dental pulp) become infected and can’t be treated with a simple filling like a cavity. The procedure involves drilling a hole into the infected tooth, cleaning out the area and filling it with gutta percha, a material that looks and acts like a natural tooth.
The cost of a root canal can vary depending on the location of the tooth and the dentist performing it. Front teeth usually have one root while molars can have up to three. Additionally, root canals performed by endodontists often cost more than those done by general dentists.
In addition to the actual procedure, a patient may need to visit their dentist several times before and after their root canal to get X-rays, painkillers and antibiotics. They will also need a crown to protect the damaged tooth and add structural integrity to it. The type of crown used can also add to the total cost, as they come in a variety of materials at different price points.
Dental crowns are tooth-shaped “caps” that fit over broken or decayed teeth to restore their size, shape and strength. They also protect a damaged tooth from further damage. Crowns are usually made of metal, ceramic, porcelain or a mixture of these materials. They are often used to cover and restore teeth that have been worn down or damaged by decay, but they can also be used to correct the appearance of crooked or misaligned teeth.
Many private dental insurance plans cover the cost of crowns if they are medically necessary, and they typically pay 50% of the expense. If you are a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan member, the crown cost will be less if you choose an in-network dentist.
If you do not have insurance, the cost of a crown can range from $500 to $2000 depending on material and other procedures required to complete treatment. To promote the longevity of your dental work, be sure to practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly.
Bridges are a way to fill in missing teeth and help maintain facial structure, as well as stabilize your bite and preserve muscle tone. They also prevent the collapse of the gums and jaw bone that can occur when a gap is left open.
The cost of a dental bridge depends on the type of bridge and how many teeth are involved. Traditional or cantilever bridges have a false tooth (pontics) supported by crowns cemented to the backs of the adjacent teeth on each side. Resin-bonded bridges have a metal or porcelain framework, often with wings on only one side, that fuses to the backs of the abutment teeth.
Like dental implants, bridges can be costly, but they are an effective treatment for people who have healthy, strong teeth surrounding the gap and do not clench or grind their teeth. Many dental insurance plans cover part of the cost of a bridge, and you can use a flexible spending account or health savings account to pay for part of your treatment.
Orthodontic treatment, or braces, are one of the most expensive dental treatments. Without insurance, it can cost at least $3,000 and require regular monthly visits for the appliance to be adjusted.
While routine and preventive care are almost always covered by insurance, the costs of other procedures can add up quickly. Consider setting aside pretax money in a flexible spending account, health savings account or medical savings account to help offset these costs.
Dental insurance is available through employers or in the individual marketplace. Its annual maximums, deductibles and copayments vary by plan type. Some plans are categorized by metal level, similar to health insurance. Premiums can be high for gold-tier plans, but they also tend to offer more comprehensive coverage. Compare a number of different policies to find the best deal. Also, consider grouping multiple procedures into a single year to avoid exceeding the annual maximum.