As a dental hygienist I have quite a good understanding of dental insurance based on the dental fees and codes I use every day at work. I realize I’m in Canada and insurance in Canada vs. the US is different (medical anyway) but my main points can probably be generalized no matter where you live.
If you’ve ever looked at the breakdown of your healthcare insurance premiums, the dental insurance portion is usually substantially more than your medical portion (again, in Canada). I know for instance my sister-in-law has the option of paying something menial like $30.00 bi-weekly for medical, only or $100.00 bi-weekly for medical+dental. This is a pretty huge difference. I realize all plans are different but in general, dental is more than medical, maybe not by this much but by some percentage.
Having insurance is a very comforting thing for people. Dental insurance in particular because there is a notion that dentistry is outrageously expensive. I won’t argue dentistry is expensive, for some people though they end paying more for insurance than they will EVER use in a lifetime of dentistry.
Who Needs Dental Insurance?
Before explaining why one may not need dental insurance, I will explain who probably will need it. Dentistry has changed substantially over the last 40-50 years. The focus has shifted 180 degreees from ”restorative” to ”preventative”. It use to be that you only went to the dentist if you had a problem, they dealt with that one problem and you were on your merry way. This is still the way for a major portion of the world, but in (most of) North America, Europe and parts of Middle East, the focus is on prevention, especially starting at an early age. With all this in mind, if you’re over the age of 40 or so, it stands to reason that you grew up in the ‘older model’ of dentistry regardless of where in the world you are from.
From this I will make some assumptions. You probably:
- Don’t have the best memories of childhood dentistry
- Have some form of restorative work done in your mouth (fillings/crowns/root canals)
- Have, over the past 40 years had to maintain your restorative work (repairing fillings, fixed broken or cracked teeth/fillings, replaced bridges/crowns etc).
If this is the case, you should probably keep your insurance. If this is not the case, you’re a minority.
Who Doesn’t Need Dental Insurance?
I’m happy to say I am 100% dental-restoration free. I have no fillings of any sort. Luck?, No. The fact is, is that I grew up in a city with a fluoridated water supply, started seeing the hygienist for bi-annual cleanings at a very young age, brush and floss regularly and had dental sealants applied when I was a child. I am thankful to say this is a more common trend among children these days. Not that early childhood caries (baby bottle decay) isn’t still a rampant global problem (dental caries is the number one bacterial infection in the world) but there are more cavity-free children and adults in the world because of advances in dentistry, regular fluoride usage, overall knowledge and prevention and cavity prevention for infants and young children.
If you are like many people I see every day in my chair, you come to the dentist every 6 months for a ‘cleaning’ and may need the odd restoration done (small cavity), but in general, the need for major restorative work in younger populations is decreasing. Based on general dental fees in Canada let’s look at what you’re paying for (all very approximate prices):
- Scaling (the ‘scrapping’): $70.00-$120.00 depending on time/amount of deposit present.
- Polishing: $20.00
- X-rays once/year: $15.00-$30.00
- Fluoride Treatment: $12.00
- Check-up with dentist: $50.00
Total: $217 (based on $120 for scaling) and since usually you only ‘need’ a check-up, assuming everything is fine, every 12 months, as well as x-rays, your second bi-annual appointment will only cost $152.00. An annual total of $369.00. That’s less than $31.00/month. I can’t say I know anyone who pays less than $31.00/month in dental insurance premiums. Even if you break a tooth and need a filling every 5 years of $250.00 (healthy cost assumption) or God forbid, a Crown once in your lifetime of $1,000…still much less than most dental insurance premiums.
Setting aside $50.00 a month in your budget to pay for dentistry in CASH is probably cheaper than paying for your dental insurance portions.
My job as a hygienist is to do my damnedest to prevent you from ever seeing the dentist outside of regular check-ups. If I do my job, and you work with me by keeping up with your home care, following my instructions, you shouldn’t need to see a dentist unless an emergency happens. I realize every case/patient/mouth is different but I wanted to give everyone something to mull over and offer insight that may not have been thought of before.
Did you know, in Canada you can claim dental fees paid as an income tax deduction?