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  • Writer's pictureMark Roberts

Time to Get Your Smile On!

What gets your attention when you see another person, either for the first time, or for the umpteenth time? Ever notice that people who smile a lot always get a lot of looks? How do you get people to notice you without being considered weird, wacky or otherwise a complete doofus? Well, one of the best ways is to have a great smile. When you have a beautiful smile, people notice you. And that is a good thing.

First of all, you need access to great dental care. Doing so usually means that you have quality coverage through some type of dental plan or insurance coverage. Because maintaining good oral health can be expensive, it makes sense to protect your smile. With dental insurance, consumers typically pay a monthly premium and a deductible before insurance kicks in, but even after the deductible, policies vary widely on co-pay requirements. Some policies have no co-pay while others require the consumer to pay a substantial portion.

Dental insurance plans often come with a coverage cap, meaning consumers are only insured for about $1,200 to $1,500 per year. Once the dental patient exceeds that amount, they pay out of pocket. Consumers who go the insurance route also get the benefit of oversight from their state department of insurance, which could prove helpful if they have insurance complaints.

Individual dental insurance is similar to individual health insurance in that plan buyers can choose from managed-care options — a dental health maintenance organization (DHMO) or dental preferred provider organization (DPPO) – or dental indemnity insurance, also known as traditional fee-for-service insurance. Each option has its strengths and drawbacks. Those who do their shopping homework end up with the best coverage for the money.

If given the three options, plan buyers generally make a choice based on access to particular providers, price of their premiums and deductibles, types of services covered, and annual maximums paid. With fee-for-service, you have much wider latitude on the amount of dental services you consume. Think of the managed care option like a personal trainer who makes those decisions for you. They may save you from some unnecessary X-rays, but you may have longer waits between checkups or reduced access to other services.

With discount dental plans, consumers typically pay an enrollment fee and an annual fee of about $80 to $120 per year and get access to discounted services from member providers. Discounts can range anywhere from 10% to 60%. Because there are no deductibles or caps to worry about, consumers aren’t limited by the number of services they receive in a given year, and there’s also no paperwork to fill out for reimbursements. The key factor is going to a network dental provider as these plans have no out of network benefit.

For those seeking cosmetic services, discount dental plans may be the way to go since they often cover cosmetic dentistry, while insurance plans typically don’t.

Some of the same rules apply when it comes to selecting an insurance plan or a discount dental plan. Because the differences between plans are so great, it is important for the consumer to completely research and understand what services are covered before signing anything. It is also important to verify that any preferred dentist is part of the plan selected. And there are some very good inexpensive dental discount plans in the market.

Dental discount plans are conspicuously different from dental insurance. In fact, the first thing buyers need to be aware of is that dental discount plans are not dental insurance. These plans are more like buying a club membership with specified discounts for each procedure you may need. You always pay the dentist when service is performed; but with your card, you get a designated discount off the dentist’s rack rates, depending on the plan chosen and services rendered. It is important to note that the companies that offer these plans are regulated similarly to insurance.

Make sure you check out the organizations who offer the plans that they are a registered discount medical plan organization in your state. Also, read the fine print in the disclosure statement. As a matter of fact, that is good advice for any product or service you purchase. As they used to say in Roman days, "Caveat Emptor." Let the buyer beware.

Naturally, for those who can afford dental insurance and can use the benefits without penalty, there are some very good carriers in the market that provide good coverage. Keep in mind that most Americans get their dental insurance through their employer, even though for the most part the cost is purely voluntary. Very few companies provide employer paid dental as a health care benefit. Yet, if it works for you, buy it and use it until you reach your maximum for the year. After all, it's all about access to care and how much you pay for a great smile.

At the end of the day, sticker shock for the ones who must choose what to do and where to go is going to happen soon. Amid all the confusion, let’s hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is a way out instead of an oncoming train. There are choices, but which one is the right one for you? Whether you go with dental insurance or a dental savings plan, the writing is on the wall — dental is going to be completely voluntary for anyone who wants it. Gone are the days of employer-paid dental benefits.

There are some good dental insurance plans in the market, and dental savings plans are an acceptable industry option for quality dental care. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, “The growth and popularity of discount dental plans is related to the scarcity of individual products offered by insurance plans and growing consumer demand to control dental health care costs. By creating an inexpensive vehicle to enable access to dental care, discount dental plans have successfully met the demand from consumers and employers."

But does affordable dental care exist? Yes, it does, if you know where to look. Don’t wait until the last minute to find the best plan for you, or your company for your employees. As a licensed agent, I can provide affordable solutions. Contact me to learn more, and explore this website to find out how you can save on dental care. It's time to Get Your Smile On!

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