Benefiting You

When can you buy dental insurance?

Dental care isn’t included in your regular health insurance — it’s a separate form of coverage that not all employers provide. So if you need to buy dental insurance, when is a good time?

“Generally speaking, you can apply for an individual dental insurance plan at any time,” says Joel Ohman, certified financial planner.

If you want to buy dental insurance, here’s what you need to know.

You can buy dental insurance any time.
There isn’t an open enrollment period for individual dental insurance plans like there is for employer-sponsored health insurance. With health insurance, you’re used to being eligible to apply for coverage during a specific time of the year — your annual benefits enrollment — or during a qualifying event such as starting a new job. “But with individual dental insurance there’s no such requirement,” Ohman said.

You’ll need to have an insurance plan in place before you get any preventive care or treatments. So there’s no need to wait for an enrollment period — now is the time to start looking for an insurance plan so you’ll be covered by the time you want to visit your dentist.

Give yourself time to compare options.
Research dental insurance before you purchase it. Each plan is different, depending on coverage criteria, levels and pricing. “When looking to buy dental insurance online, it’s important to compare all available options,” Ohman says.

Your past dental history and your budget will influence the kind of individual dental insurance plan you purchase, as will the needs you anticipate in the future. There may be a waiting period before your coverage kicks in, so do your homework to ensure your plan is in place when you need to use it.

Learn the terms used in dental insurance.
Buying dental insurance can feel confusing because of all the different terminology. For example, it’s important to understand the difference between dental insurance and dental discount plans, Ohman says.

Dental insurance will be more expensive up front, but it usually includes discounts for in-network providers and fully insured coverage — anywhere from 40% to 100% of different services can be covered. Dental discount plans are less expensive but only offer discounts, not additional coverage. As with dental insurance, discounts only apply to services performed by dentists who participate in the discount network.

Here are some of the other dental insurance terms you may see:

  • Deductibles: This is the amount you pay before the insurer begins to pay for covered services.
  • Co-insurance: This refers to the percentage of a dental service cost you’re responsible for after you pay your deductible.
  • Co-pays: This is a fixed amount you pay for treatment.

The size of deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays will depend on the kind of insurance plan you purchase. You’ll pay a monthly or annual premium for coverage as well. Online tools can help you find the best fit for you and your family no matter when you’re buying dental insurance.

This post is based on content that first appeared in SmileInSight by Starmount.

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