Individual Dental Insurance: Guide to the Best Dental Insurance Plans for Individuals

You bite down into your delicious dinner and…ouch. An unexpected ache emerges in the back of your jaw. And if you don’t have the proper dental insurance for individuals, that pain can spread to your wallet.

A sudden toothache and your ensuing visit to a dentist can drain your bank account if you lack individual full coverage dental insurance. Even a simple cavity can be costly, while more complicated dental work like a root canal carries an even heftier price tag. Individual dental insurance could be one of the most underrated medical investments a person can make—and can save you beaucoup bucks.

But many neglect to even evaluate dental plans for individuals. Most feel safe, assuming their teeth are healthy. Why bother with individual dental insurance when practicing good dental hygiene? There’s only one sure way of finding out if you’re brushing and flossing properly of course: visiting the dentist.

Individual Dental Insurance

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Immediately, individual dental insurance can help. The best dental plans for individuals help cover the cost of preventative check-ups and routine cleanings. So even if your dentist declares you a master of oral hygiene, you’ll save some cash with individual dental insurance plans.

The benefits of individual dental insurance plans include:

  • Incentive to stick to the recommended biannual visit to the dentist for a checkup
  • Lower costs for routine and more expensive procedures
  • Access to a network of dental health professionals besides a dentist, including oral surgeons and orthodontists
  • One less thing to worry about when an unexpected toothache hits

But which individual dental insurance will help you save the most cash? The market is tough to navigate, with great variation in plans, costs, and customer service. Fortunately, we’ve created this handy guide to find the best individual dental insurance plans available, helping you make a smarter decision.

Bear in mind, every person has specific needs and optimal configurations, making the best dental plans for individuals tough to define. We did the best we could to carefully consider all situations—we’ve gotten a few toothaches ourselves. There’s a method to find the best individual dental insurance. But first, let’s see what the best dental plans for individuals should offer.

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Individual Dental Insurance: What It Covers and When It Kicks In

Individual full coverage dental insurance, if properly used over the long term, should lower the cost of keeping your teeth healthy while increasing how often you see the dentist. The best dental insurance plans for individuals don’t punish you too harshly for any unexpected procedures or dental difficulties.

Individual dental insurance plans should cover the cost of at least one preventative check-up visit to the dentist per year, without requiring a deductible payment. Most will in fact cover the recommended two annual visits without seeking any more cash.

Mostly, individual dental insurance plans cover common expenses associated with straightforward dentistry: the usual problems that first come to mind. They won’t, however, cover cosmetic procedures. Even individual full coverage dental insurance balks at teeth whitening, some orthodontics (braces), and other non-essential procedures.

Dental plans for individuals become a little pickier as your need for dental work grows. Even the best dental insurance plans for individuals only cover some of the cost of extra work—such root canals—while leaving the customer to pick up the rest of the tab. (Consider it incentive to take better care of your teeth.)

Individual dental insurance plans have yearly limits, with most maxing out at around $2,000 or less. Any procedures beyond those will have to be paid out of pocket. Worried? Don’t be. Unless your teeth are an absolute mess, the math behind dental plans for individuals works in your favor.

Consider, for example, your average root canal as a baseline for costly procedures. The painful work also hurts your wallet, costing $500 to $900 depending on a number of factors such the dentist’s fees, zip code, and the extent of the work done.

Most dental plans for individuals cover half the cost, or sometimes more. You’d need three root canals to reach an average individual dental insurance plans’ annual maximum coverage.

Feeling a toothache right now and think you can quickly sign up for individual full coverage dental insurance on the fly? Shop now, but don’t expect the insurance company to cover the procedure. Plans often having a waiting period of several months before covering any major work.

Dental insurance for individuals won’t kick in immediately. Even the best dental plans for individuals give themselves a waiting period before assuming coverage for some procedures. Any issues causing you pain at the moment will have to be paid out of pocket—unless you already had dental insurance and simply switched providers.

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How to Choose the Best Individual Dental Insurance

The list of individual dental insurance providers can be long and often overwhelming. The differences between these various dental plans for individuals can often feel extreme—or almost nonexistent.

What to Avoid

The best individual dental insurance should cover as much as possible at a reasonable premium. To start, immediately eliminate dental insurance plans that only cover preventative visits.

These individual dental insurance plans only pick up the cost of a check-up and sometimes a cleaning. Any additional work done during the visit or at other times comes out of your pocket. Regardless of how diligently you mind your mouth, stuff happens; the best individual dental insurance plans should cover the aforementioned things.

Also, ignore individual dental insurance plans that only offer discounts on some procedures. These dental plans for individuals never cover the full cost of any dental work. Instead, it offers access to a network of dentists who offer price cuts on procedures.

While it may feel tempting to sign up and take small price drops here and there, stick instead to dental insurance for individuals that most resembles regular health insurance. The range of scenarios in which this type of plan pays off is much broader, making it among the best dental plans for individuals.

Other Factors to Consider

Where you live also counts; some providers are only available in certain states. Prices also vary: dental plans for individuals don’t cost the same in Biloxi as they do in Chicago. In the end, your often-immutable zip code may be the biggest factor in how much individual dental insurance costs you.

There’s also another variable: you. Consider your own history before checking individual dental insurance plans. Are your prone to tooth decay? Have you had major procedures which could cause more problems in the future?

How to Look for Dental Insurance Plans

Many individual dental insurance plans offer online quotes, which can help tabulate the potential cost and savings of any plan. To get an accurate forecast, use your recent history of dental procedures in tabulating potential expenses.

FAIR Health, a not-for-profit healthcare organization, offers a cost-estimating tool on its website, which could help customize your individual dental insurance search. Other individual dental insurance search engines such as the Dental Insurance Store can also provide quotes and price comparisons based upon your state.

This budgeting and forecasting will be key in picking the right dental insurance for individuals. Higher-cost individual dental insurance plans offer more complete coverage, which may help you save if your oral hygiene is subpar. Conversely, if you’re a brushing and flossing maestro who hasn’t had a cavity in years, consider a lower tier dental insurance for individuals, which covers less but also costs less.

Any additions may also end up raising the estimated cost of your healthcare needs, including the price of your individual dental insurance. Companies usually charge smokers more for individual dental insurance. (Besides ruining your lungs, cigarettes can also increase your risk of costly dental problems like periodontitis and root canals.) A sweet tooth also comes at a price: an increased risk of cavities.

Finally, if you already have a dentist you trust and want to stick with them, call his or her office and ask which individual dental insurance plans they accept. It’s a sure-fire way to whittle down your options. Dentists may even offer some advice on the best individual dental insurance based upon your medical history.

At a minimum, you should break even on your dental insurance for individuals, meaning the cost of having the individual dental insurance matches what you’d normally pay for out-of-pocket expenses.

As with all medical coverage, mind the details. While our guide to individual dental insurance offers an overview, read any plan’s fine print before signing up. Most dental plans for individuals have a full disclosure statement and contract available for free on their website.

The list of available dental plans for individuals is long. Much as we’re tempted to declare one plan or provider a safe bet, the list of variables is too long to declare simply one plan the single best individual dental insurance plan.

There is, however, a list of companies with a proven track record, a long history of good customer service, and ample coverage nationwide. They’d be the best place to start looking, and may end up being the insurer you choose for your individual dental insurance.

The big, established individual dental insurance providers includes:

Among these, Delta Dental has the largest network of dentists accepting its individual dental insurance plans. It also has a large pool of enrollees, allowing it to offer low prices.

Some of Delta Dental’s plans have no deductible and no maximum, a rarity among dental insurance for individuals. Some of its more expensive plans also have no waiting period or yearly limits.

There are some drawbacks to Delta Dental’s individual dental insurance plans. Unlike other providers, Delta’s individual full coverage dental insurance relies heavily on co-pays, as well as additional out-of-pocket charges for certain procedures. You also have to name an in-network primary care dentist, which other individual dental insurance plans often don’t.

Humana’s dental insurance for individuals varies widely in every state and is tough to encapsulate. Cigna offers individual dental insurance plans with 100 percent coverage, similar to Delta Dental. But there are some drawbacks, such as waiting periods on restorative work.

Best Individual Dental Insurance

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Clearly, picking the best individual dental insurance plans means very personal decisions about tradeoffs, expenses, and a bit of a gamble. Consider them carefully.

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How to Get the Most Out of Dental Plans for Individuals

Unlike traditional health insurance plans, which soften the blow of a major illness or chronic disease, dental insurance for individuals nearly guarantees a loss if major work needs to be done. Most individual dental insurance plans have a 100-80-50 coverage range: they cover the full cost of preventative care, 80 percent of expenses caused by cavities, and half the cost of other major work.

The National Association of Dental Providers reportedly claims less than three percent of individual dental insurance enrollees met their cap in 2009. Your goal is to use the benefits of your individual full coverage dental insurance most often in areas that are fully covered within the annual limit, which is usually capped somewhere below $2,000.

Tooth extractions and root canals quickly eat away at the plan’s payout, and both carry a heavy deductible. Plan ahead, take care of your teeth and develop good habits to make sure you don’t use your individual dental insurance on costly procedures.

Conclusion: Dental Insurance for Individuals Pays If You Use It Correctly

Remember, spend the insurance company’s money. The provider of your individual dental insurance keeps any money allotted to your care which you don’t use throughout the year. Feel free to push the limits of your annual limit; it’s why you bought individual full coverage dental insurance in the first place.

Most dental plans for individuals cover the cost of routine biannual check-ups, as well as routine X-rays. Take advantage of this, as it may be the best way to get the most out of your individual dental insurance. Regular check-ups can reveal problems while still small, and can also give your dentist time to intervene and correct bad habits.

Also remember, the cost of poor dental health gets passed on to the rest of your body. Studies have shown a link between oral health and the likelihood cardiovascular illness. Remember: individual dental insurance plans may help save more than just your teeth.

The trick, as with all health-related matters, is preventative medicine, because even the best individual dental insurance can’t cover the accumulated cost of bad habits.

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