Buying Individual Dental Insurance Online: My Experience

by Elizabeth Lang on 16 November 2010 6 comments

My spouse changed jobs earlier this year, and with that came new insurance. I would have to pay 100% to be included on her dental plan, so I did some shopping around to find my own individual dental insurance.

First I called my dentist to find out what they would charge me for a regular cleaning visit: $115. While $230/year is not unaffordable, I was curious to see how this compared to my other options.

I next considered the option through my spouse's work. It would cost $30/month ($360/year) and give me $1,000 worth of coverage with a $100 deductible. Cleanings would be free. Spending an extra $130 didn't seem worth it to me.

Then I shopped around for individual dental insurance. On eHealthInsurance I found an individual dental insurance plan for $20/month. It was nearly the same as the one I would get through my spouse's employer but with lower coverage. Cleanings would be free. So would X-rays and topical fluoride. But the coverage was only $500/year.

Some people might argue that at this price point, there really isn't a major benefit to getting dental insurance. But for $10/year more than I would spend on cleanings, it seemed worth it to me for several reasons. First, I'm religious about my two-times-a-year cleanings, so I wouldn't be buying something I wouldn't use. Second, if I did need a root canal, cavity filling, or some other form of unexpected treatment, I would have $500 worth of coverage for only $10 more a year. This independent dental insurance was what I ended up buying.

I found the process to be less time-consuming and frustrating than I thought it might be. The site was straightforward to use, and it had awesome comparison charts. Unlike health insurance, dental insurance seems fairly simple (there aren't a lot of preexisting conditions or exceptions to worry about). 

The verdict? I will definitely continue with my independent dental insurance coverage until I have a group plan through an employer.

What has been your experience with finding individual dental insurance?

Disclaimer: The eHealthInsurance links contain affiliate codes. I had a great experience buying through them and would recommend that you take a look if you are considering buying dental insurance. 

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Sarah Cloutier

for the past few years I have worked for a number of different dental offices in administration. When it comes to buying dental insurence things you want to be aware of is if they are PPO or DMO, DMO will only pay towards contracted dentists. Another detail to be aware of is the fee booklet. Only dentists that are contracted with an insurence company have to comply with the insurence fee schedule. for out of network dentists who still accept our insurence, you may be stuck paying the difference between thier fee schedule and your dentists fee schedule. Here is the kicker, some dental insurences will only cover certain procedures and will downgrade what they are willing to pay. For example, our offices only do composite fillings, however we have a number of patients with insurences that will only pay for amalgam fillings ( those silver fillings that used to contain trace ammounts of mercury) So not only do they get stuck with thier annual deductable and percentage co-pa, but they have to pay the difference between the amalgam and composite filling fee schedule.

Another great option is to have a flex spending savings specificlly for medical or dental. I am not sure how to set this up without an employer, but that money gets set aside specificaly for medical and dental expenses, and you don't have to worry about deductables or co-paments. If you don't need a lot of dental work and just want something for emergencies this is your best bet.

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Guest

Good post! For me, $500 coverage would not be near enough. I average a crown AND a root canal per year.

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Guest

I have looked into all kinds of Dental insurance, since I retired 8 years ago. I like my Dentist, and some of the plans, want me to use another Dentist. If I use my Dentist, the cost would be astronomical, and they have a limit! They would all cost me more, than they are worth! Dental insurance is a fraud! Except, if you are working, and the plan is nominal.

Guest's picture

I'm an Employee Benefits Consultant and much of my work tends to be with companies offering dental plans rather than individuals buying coverage but under the circumstances you outlined, paying $10 for $500 in potential benefits seems like a good trade off to me.

The only thing I would add (in addition to the other comments about provider networks) is that some individual plans have waiting periods for services that you may not find with more traditional employer based plans. A typical waiting period might be no wait for preventive services like cleanings, but six months on basic services like a filling or twelve months for a major service like a crown or bridge. These are to prevent people from waiting until they need $500 worth of dental work, signing up for a plan and then dropping it after they've had the work done.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the tips! I'm going to check the website now.

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Tys

I know this post has been around awhile - I found it when, as an employee of a dental insurance provider I was searching for conversations about dental insurance - but I feel like it would be a benefit to people to know that there are plans out there that have MUCH higher annual maximums and have no waiting periods AND you can go to any dentist (that is, there's no network). The prices are different around the country based on your zip code, but check out www.spiritdental.com and see what you think of the price, based on the different maximums and the prices for (3!) cleanings a year.