Dental insurance covers a percentage of dental care expenses in exchange for a monthly premium. Dental insurance companies separate dental care services and benefits into various categories, and both dental offices and dental insurance firms have established fees for these services. That fee schedule is utilized to facilitate the transaction between the patient, doctor and insurance company.

Note that the industry has recently started offering dental savings or discount plans, which are being marketed as an alternative to traditional dental insurance. Members of dental savings plans pay an annual fee in exchange for access to a network of dentists who perform dental work at lower rates. Discount plans are not insurance.

Top 10 Best Rated Dental Insurance

Founded in 1979 and based in Texas, Careington provides dental discount plans for underinsured and uninsured individuals. Also, dental insurance plans are administered through its subsidiary, Careington Benefit Solutions.
Founded in 1868 and headquartered in New York, MetLife provides competitively priced dental insurance plans to individuals and families. The company has over 190,000 dentist office locations in its nationwide network.
Since 1989, DentalWorks has built a large network of dentists across 13 states. The company's affiliated dentists are preferred providers for many major dental insurance plans, including Humana and Delta Dental.
Cigna is an insurance company that works with 35,000 employees to provide healthcare products and services to more than 75 million customers. They exist in 30 countries and have been working with patients for over 200 years.
Aetna is a large health insurance company founded in 1853 in Hartford, Connecticut. The provide individuals, employers, healthcare professionals and other customers with healthcare and medical services.
Delta Dental has over 60 years of experience covering individuals, groups and employers. The company is one of America's largest insurance companies, providing coverage to more than 59 million people.
Based in Kentucky, Humana Health Insurance has over 50 years of experience offering dental plans. No underwriting or pre-enrollment checks are required to qualify for coverage through its network of more than 130,000 dentists.

Cyril Tuohy, has covered the insurance industry for more than 15 years. He is an expert at writing about personal and commercial property-casualty insurance and covers life, annuities and retirement as a staff writer for a top insurance trade magazine aimed at insurance agents and financial advisors.

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What features matter most?

Types of Customers

Before considering a dental insurance company, customers should see if the type of service they need is covered. Some dental insurance providers may be more focused on businesses and organizations, while others may cater to individuals and families.

  • Individual/Family dental coverage: The vast majority of dental insurance firms provide coverage for individuals and families. But do check first.
  • Group (employee) dental coverage: Some dental insurance companies prefer to cover small groups (employers) of two to 99 people. Other dental insurance companies prefer to cover large groups with tens of thousands of employees.
  • Seniors: Medicare Part A for hospital coverage and Medicare Part B for medical coverage don’t include routine dental coverage so retirees within six months of turning 65 should think about Medicare Advantage, a private health insurance policy with dental coverage which replaces standard Medicare coverage.
  • Federal employees: Some dental insurers specialize in offering benefits to U.S. government employees.
  • Americans working or traveling abroad: Some dental plans are designed specifically to cover private or public sector workers abroad.

Benefits and services

In general, every plan covers preventive care and basic procedures, but some consumers may unknowingly sign up for a plan that does not cover an operation they may need. It is therefore crucial to check benefits and services before choosing a plan.

  • Preventive care/exams: The provider usually offers solid coverage for preventive care services such as routine oral examinations, periodontal examinations, X-rays, general cleanings, topical fluoride treatment and sealants.
  • Basic procedures: Basic procedures, such as emergency care, extractions, fillings, space maintainers, minor oral surgery and crowns, are sometimes covered. For good coverage of basic procedures, consumers may need to pay more.
  • Major procedures: Generally, only top-of-the-line coverage handles major services. Common major procedures that are covered by more comprehensive dental insurance plans include crowns, bridgework, dentures, periodontal cleanings, gum therapies and root canals.

Pricing

Even with insurance, dental care is expensive. Consumers should analyze their dental claim histories to forecast how much they will pay over the entire year. In addition to a monthly premium payment, there is usually a co-payment at each visit and a coinsurance responsibility.

  • Deductible: This is a specific dollar amount customers have to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company begins making payments for any claims. It is not part of the copayment.
  • Copayment: This is a fixed amount paid at the time of the dentist’s visit. It is a separate charge and not applied toward your deductible, which you need to reach before insurance kicks in.
  • Coinsurance: Given as a percentage, coinsurance is what the client has to pay after satisfying the co-payment and/or deductible for the plan. This can vary for different services.
  • Maximum out-of-pocket cost: Maximum out-of-pocket cost represents the total amount policyholders will have to pay for dental care throughout the year.

Network

Each insurer partners with various dentists throughout certain states and regions. Dentists perform services according to a rate schedule, which is a set fee agreed on by the provider and insurer. People usually pay less when the visit a dentist in an insurer’s network. Customers switching insurers may want to double check if their dentist is in the new insurer’s network. Conversely, if switching dentist, customers should check to see if the new dentist belongs to the patient’s insurer’s network.

  • In-network list: Before purchasing a plan, customers should look over the list of in-network dentists and make sure there is an in-network professional in their area.
  • Financial incentives: Under certain plans, patients save lots of money by going to in-network dentists. Other plans may even refuse to cover care from out-of-network dentists.
  • Flexibility: To satisfy customer needs, some dentists and plans are willing to make exceptions for patients when it comes to network coverage.

Limitations and exclusions

From gold crowns to failure to keep an appointment, dental insurance companies always write in a list of exclusions, and consumers are responsible for reading and understanding their insurer’s list.

  • Cosmetic dentistry: Teeth whitening, bonding, enamel shaping and contouring, implants and orthodontics are some examples of cosmetic services that are typically not covered by plans.
  • Annual maximum benefit: The maximum benefit refers to the highest dollar amount the dental insurance firm will pay per family member per year. It is usually a part of PPO plans. This is a very important consideration as the cost of major oral surgery, once the maximum annual benefit exceeded, could fall mainly the patient's responsibility with such a plan.
  • Specialties: Basic dental plans typically exclude orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics.
  • Discounted rates: Discounts passed along by in-network dentists may not be available in some states.
  • Standalone Dental: Depending on the state in which you live, some insurers will not let you buy dental coverage unless you are also covered by one of the insurer’s medical plans.
  • Special circumstances: Dental insurance companies even exclude services that may be needed due to special circumstances, among which may include losses from armed conflict, self-inflicted injuries and infections.
  • Waiting periods: Some basic dental services may incur a six-month waiting period and some major services may incur a 12-month waiting period.

Package offerings

A great way to save money on dental insurance is to combine it with other types of health insurance. Customers can check bundle offers when they sign up for a plan.

  • Vision: Dental insurance and vision insurance can often be purchased together at a discount.
  • Accident: Many dental insurance companies offer an accident and dental insurance package, which helps cover injuries not covered by traditional health and dental insurance.
  • General health insurance: Many health insurance plans let consumers add dental insurance at a discount.

What are different types of dental insurance?

Traditional plans

Also known as indemnity or fee-for-service plans, traditional dental insurance involves the patient paying a percentage of the total cost and the insurance company paying the rest. These plans usually have a co-payment, deductible and maximum out-of-pocket cost. You may have to pay for services up front, file your own claims and wait for the insurance carrier to reimburse you, but this type of plan offers the largest choice of dentists. Indemnity plans are usually pricier than other plans.

DPO/PPO plans

Dental Plan Organization/Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans utilize an in-network list of dentists to provide services to patients at a negotiated reduced rate, and patients pay a percentage of that reduced rate. Each plan usually requires first meeting a deductible. These plans come with an annual maximum benefit.

DHMO/Pre-paid plans

Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) plans also utilize an in-network list of dentists to offer services to patients at a negotiated discounted price. Generally, patients only see one dentist for oral health needs and can be referred for specialty care. With a DHMO plan, there may or may not be an annual maximum benefit limit and deductibles are not a part of the plan. Instead, fixed dollar amounts or copayments are paid for treatment. These plans can be very affordable for those looking for basic services; however, there may be limitations for major procedures. If you visit an out-of-network dentist, you may be responsible for the entire bill.

Supplemental

Supplemental dental coverage is a separate dental plan that covers procedures not covered by a basic dental plan.

Non-insured discount plans

Discount plans are not actually insurance. These plans simply offer a discount off the sticker cost for dental care, and there is little or no paperwork, annual limits or deductibles so long as patients visit a participating dentist. This option is best for those who do not require or want consistent oral health care.

Who's it for?

Families

Large families typically use dental insurance the most. They may wish to opt for more comprehensive plans, particularly if children need orthodontics coverage or adults need specialty care.

Single adults

Single adults without major dental problems may find a PPO or DHMO plan financially attractive. Those in need of major procedures may prefer a traditional plan. Such a decision depends on personal budget and needs. Young adults with pristine teeth might consider a discount plan.

Businesses

Some companies may choose to include dental insurance as a benefit. It is a way to attract new employees and retain existing ones.

Institutions

Colleges, government agencies and other associations may provide dental insurance. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, offers dental insurance at a discount for veterans and beneficiaries.

Senior Citizens

Medicare doesn’t include important dental coverage – dentures, for instance – but supplemental insurance programs such as Medicare Advantage will cover dental procedures.

Affinity Groups

Dental insurers often provide premium discounts to members of an affinity group such as AARP, alumni or trade associations and labor unions.

What does the expert have to say?

  • Delta Dental

    Delta Dental, a pure-play dental insurer, is one of the largest dental insurance providers in the country. The company dates back to the 1950s and is committed to expanding access to oral healthcare.

    • Best for Delta Dental is good for families looking for cost-effective dental care and businesses looking to provide coverage for workers.
  • Humana Dental Insurance

    Insurer Humana Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., offers a diverse range of dental insurance products for individuals, families and businesses. The company has numerous award-winning health insurance products.

    • Best for Humana Health Insurance is best for anyone, from freelancers to major corporations, to retirees looking for high-quality dental insurance.

  • Cigna Dental Insurance

    Cigna Dental is part of Cigna Corp., an insurer based in Bloomfield, Conn. The company covers 13 million people under its dental plan and maintains a presence in 30 countries.

    • Best for Cigna is great for employers, individuals and families looking for affordable dental coverage and those traveling or working in another country.

  • Aetna Dental Insurance

    Aetna Dental Insurance, part of Aetna Health Inc.  stresses that dental care is a vital part of overall health, and thus aims to offer flexible coverage for any budget. The company itself dates back to the 1850s and is one of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. A merger with Humana is pending.

    • Best for Aetna Dental is great for any individual, family or organization needing dental insurance.

  • Metlife Dental Insurance

    MetLife is one of the largest global providers of insurance products, employee benefit programs and annuities. Based in New York,  the company provides dental coverage to over 20 million people.

    • Best for Any individual or family working for a large or midsize public or private employer with a group dental plan insured through MetLife.
  • UnitedHealthcare Dental Insurance

    United Healthcare is one of the largest companies and healthcare insurance providers in the world. The insurance provider has a large range of dental insurance plans for its clients.

    • Best for United Healthcare is good for large employers looking for a dependable dental insurance plan as well as families looking for great coverage. The company has announced it will no longer sell insurance on federal and state exchanges in 2017.

  • Aflac Dental Insurance

    Well-known for its commercials, Aflac is one of the largest providers of supplemental insurance in the United States. The company's dental insurance products, available to employees enrolled in a group plan, are known for their unique features.

    • Best for Aflac Dental is best for employees with health insurance but no dental coverage and savers looking for good low-cost insurance.

  • Unicare Dental

    UniCare Dental believes the right dental care is key to overall health and specifically works to provide employers with quality insurance products at reasonable costs. UniCare's extensive network also ensures customers can find a nearby dentist.

    • Best for UniCare Dental is best for small businesses, people who need to customize their dental plan and people traveling outside the country.

  • Renaissance Dental

    Renaissance Dental is the “flagship product” of Renaissance Life & Health Ins. Co. of America with headquarters in Indianapolis. With offices in 10 states, Renaissance covers 13.1 million people and provides them with individualized and group plans for dental insurance.

    • Best for Renaissance Dental is best for a range of dental insurees, from individuals and families to corporate insurance managers.

  • USAA Dental Insurance

    USAA Dental Insurance is part of the wider USAA Health Insurance umbrella. They provide dental insurance packages that vary between U.S. states and cities.

    • Best for USAA Dental Insurance is best for individuals and families connected to the military.

  • Careington

    Careington is a marketer, service administrator and aggregator of discount dental, health and wellness  payment schedules to help underinsured and uninsured individuals with dental expenses.

    • Best for Careington is best for uninsured or underinsured families, individuals and companies looking to fill gaps in coverage they already receive from a primary dental insurance program.
  • DentalWorks

    Dental Works is a registered trade mark of Dental One Inc., a dental service management organization. It is not an insurance company. Dental Works aims to provide access to state-of-the-art treatment with affordable and flexible payments. The company began in the early 1990s and has nearly 160 locations across 13 states.

    • Best for Dental Works is best for individuals and families looking for dentists and dental practices with flexible scheduling and payment options for dentist visits.

11 – 12 Best Rated Dental Insurance