In my experience, the topic which causes the most misunderstanding in dentistry is dental insurance. My goal in this series of articles is to give you some basic information to help you understand this often confusing issue.

First of all the term “insurance” is really a misnomer in the context of dentistry. The word “insurance” literally means protection against future loss. This term is commonly used in medicine, as catastrophic loss can occur as a result of sickness or accident and the benefit limits are very high to cover this.

“Benefit” is a word which more accurately describes the allowance which is negotiated for an employee between his/her place of employment and a dental “insurance” company.

All dental “insurance” companies have a maximum annual benefit which rarely exceeds $1500 per calendar year. This amount is very close to the benefits of the 1960′s when dental “insurance” first began. In those days $1500 would cover the majority of treatment that anyone required in a year. If dental benefits were to have kept up with inflation and technology, as they have with medical insurance, they would amount to over $10,000 per year. This amount would be more than enough to cover the treatment most people would need in a year. However because the annual limit that most insurance companies provide has not increased, usually only preventive maintenance and small restorations are covered.

So while a dental benefit plan is nice, it should never be considered insurance against loss. The best way to reduce risk is the following:

  • Let your dentist and hygienist know that you want a proactive plan to prevent dental decay and gum disease.
  • Ask your dentist to make sure that all of the existing restorations in your mouth are of the highest quality.

More coming on this subject in Dental Insurance 102

Yours for excellent dental health,
Dr S