Dental Insurance

What it protects against
The financial consequences of obtaining preventive and remedial dental services.

How it works
Dental insurance is similar to medical insurance. Dental HMOs are most affordable, but usually offer a small number of participating dentists. Dental PPOs are more expensive, but offer more participating dentists and the option of going out of network. Dental indemnity plans cost the most, but also offer the most freedom of choice. Individual indemnity coverage may be hard to find. Dental discount plans are not insurance and aren't likely to be regulated, and greater burden is on the buyer to ensure these plans are reputable.

Who needs it
People who want coverage. As they age, baby boomers are likely to increase their access to dental services. There also may be more demand for cosmetic treatments.

Who may not need it
Even the most expensive dental procedures are not likely to fall into the financially catastrophic category, so some people can afford to self-insure.

When to buy it
As soon as you want coverage. Group insurance is generally less costly than individual insurance, so if your employer offers a plan, it may be wise to buy into it. When you retire or change employers, you may be able to continue to pay for the coverage at group rates. Group rates also may be available through professional associations and affinity groups. Enrolling in a plan fully paid by employees may still be beneficial if the plan offers group rates.

How you pay for it
Payroll deduction for group plans. Monthly or quarterly premiums for individuals buying on the open market.

Terms to Know
  • Least Expensive Alternative Treatment  (View Definition )
  • Pre-Existing Condition  (View Definition )
  • Usual, Customary and Reasonable Fees  (View Definition )