Is Dental Insurance Worth it?

I currently have dental insurance through my work and while it does seem to save a lot of money I was curious how much did it really save me.  So  I kept track of our dental costs through 2012 and here is the summary of the work done:

  • Four checkups and cleanings (two kids, two adults)
  • Three adult fillings
  • Four kid fillings
  • Coating on four teeth to prevent future cavities for kids

Total cost invoiced by the dentist: $1952.  Yikes that’s a lot of money!

The premiums on my dental plan cost me $37.99/pay period or $911.76 per year.  Ugh, that’s a lot of cash off my paycheques, but my co-pay on all that dental work was only $414.  So in total we paid $1325, so we saved about $627 or 32% of the cost.

What is really interesting is the checkups and cleanings were $748 of the cost invoiced by the dentist.  So if you ever have those years were all you have done is the cleanings, then I’m actually paying more in premiums than the savings I’m getting from the insurance.  To make it break even on a yearly basis you need to have at least one filling fixed per year in your family.  After that I’m actually getting some savings out of the insurance.  Of course if you dental plan covers major expenses as well there is that additional benefit which can save you even more.

In summary, yes dental insurance can be worth it if you get routine work done on a fairly consistent basis (at least in this example), but if you have really good teeth and almost never get any work done…well you are likely in a losing situation.

So are you planning to have dental insurance in your retirement?  Or are you going to just accept the costs the come up?

14 thoughts on “Is Dental Insurance Worth it?”

  1. I’ve always heard that usually dental insurance is not worth it, but of course it always depends on if you need anything above the regular cleanings.

  2. It’s insurance Tim. Like any insurance, if you are willing to take the risk you don’t need it. However, all you have to do is need one crown or root canal and you will be glad you have the coverage. I have group retiree medical/dental care and value it highly. Difficult decision to make if not because available coverage is so limited as compared to employer-sponsored group policies.

  3. Another thing to consider is that some dentists will charge you less if you don’t have benefits. My last check-up and cleaning (May) was $90.

  4. I agree that dental insurance is rarely worth it unless you need major work done that is going to be covered. I have paid $1200 for dental insurance this year and I’m sure I’m below that amount.

    On the other hand when I wasn’t insured, I didn’t dedicate a fund towards dental appointments and ended up simply not going to the dentist when I should have.

    If one is organized, the best plan is to forego dental insurance for regular healthy folks but still pay for regular visits.

  5. Hmm.. $90? For my exam, x-rays, polishing, scaling, and fluoride a few days ago, it came to $362.91. I knew my dentist was a little expensive, but maybe I’m getting ripped off. My dental plan covered all but $78.28 of it, which I will send to my spouse’s plan so I’ll probably only be on the hook for about $20 (which then should be picked up by my Health Spending Account).

    I just renewed benefits with my company. We are provided credits to “purchase” different benefits. By default, we get standard dental which generally covers 80% of dental expenses. I could either upgrade to enhanced (covers 90% of most things, higher limits) or downgrade to basic (generally covers 50% of most things). Enhanced would cost $444/year more and basic would give me a credit of $204/year. I could probably drop down to basic and come out ahead most years, but the first time I have some major procedure, I’d be regretting it. At the same time, I probably would never make up the $444/year by going the enhanced route (probably more likely if we had kids).

    In the end, dental insurance is peace of mind in case anything major happens. I am not going to max out my coverage as I’ve generally had healthy teeth and it won’t be worth it. At the same time, I have one cavity to be filled next week, so the standard coverage will easily pay for itself this year.

  6. My $90 didn’t include any x-rays or fluoride. Just an exam with dentist, and excellent scaling, polishing with hygienist. It’s not a big, fancy clinic, but they do a good job and he does charge less if you don’t have dental benefits.

  7. Funny you should post this as Mrs.CBB and I were talking about this the other day. We were wondering if paying for our benefits each pay was worth the money. We don’t use the therapies they offer or glasses or braces etc. We use the dentist and prescriptions so was it worth it? Yes for us this year like you mentioned if you get any work done on your teeth aside from cleanings it adds up. We realized the same though and that is if we don’t then we may be paying more out of pocket. They make money off the people that never use them an hang on to them for the “what if’s” in life. Everything is risky in life.. we never win. Mr.CBB

  8. I’ve been asked sometimes whether I had insurance or not.
    Apparently some procedures were dependent on the answer.

    Now that I’m not working…I’m on the pay as go plan.

  9. My spouse had a bunch of very expensive dental work done… insurance paid about 30% after all the deductibles were met and uncovered stuff was paid by us. For him it’s worth the premiums, for me, maybe not. All I ever have is 2 cleanings a year.

  10. I will probably get dental insurance. My peace of mind is worth the few extra dollars. Currently my employer pays the benefits. I get 2 cleaning and 2 scalings per year and have been told I have issues with my teeth. i.e. getting crowns re-done. Sometimes I wonder if the dentist is telling me I need it redone b/c the policy allows a new crown on the tooth every 5 years. Are panoramic x-rays really necessary? My original dentist before he retired only did one panoramic in my entire 21 years with him. The new dentist tries to sell me everything under the sun.

  11. I had dental insurance through my employer when I was working (full-time, they paid 75% of the premiums, part-time, they paid 50% of the premiums). I always had a few fillings each year and had the first of my 2 crowns in one year so it was always worth it to have the subsidized coverage.

    But when I reduced my weekly work hours to the point in which I became ineligible for dental insurance, I went on COBRA so I had to pay 100% (actually 102%) of the old premiums. However, in the 18 months I was on COBRA, I had 2 teeth pulled so having the coverage was vital. (Actually, I decided to finally get them pulled because I knew I would soon lose the coverage so the decision was more of a financial one as opposed to a medical one. I also had the second crown done.)

    Since I have been retired 4 years, I have had few problems with my teeth because all of the big items my dentist had recommended (crowns and extractions) are done and he sees no others in the foreseeable future. This means the cost of paying out-of-pocket for 2 visits every year with one or 2 fillings per year tops (often I have none now, yay!) is about the same as paying unsubsidized premiums, deductibles, and copays in the insurance scenario.

    Another thing to consider is how well you get along with the dentist. Mine is not part of any organized plan so joining one would not help me there. And my dentist (for the last 23 years) and his staff take considerable effort to make sure I am as comfortable as possible when I am in the chair, something tough to put a monetary value on.

  12. All insurance are the same, you put money in a commun pot, the insurance company take it’s share and you take money out of the put if you need it.

    Overall the real winner is the insurance company and clients on average are on the losing side. Of course it really depand on what if you need the insurance on not. Are you ready to lose a little to make sure you don’t lose too big or do you prefer to take the chance of not losing anything.

  13. The chances of an oral cancer originating in the jawbone may be small,but having that panoramic film every once in awhile could very well be the difference between life and death. I would never tell a patient that if he has already had one done in years previously he would not need another one for the rest of his life.

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