Are Dental Insurance Plans Worth the Money?

Posted by Mrs Money on October 15th, 2010

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I went to the dentist this morning.  Before I went, I made sure to check our current dental insurance information on our company’s human resources website. It’s a good thing I did because it had changed from last year.  While I was logged onto the site, I printed out the dental insurance information.  The cost printed out along with the explanation of benefits.  For a whole year of dental insurance that covers myself and husband, we pay $402.24.  It’s only $15 a paycheck, but I really started to wonder if it’s worth having dental insurance any more.  Neither myself or my husband have been to the dentist at all this year (bad, I know!).  So we’re pretty much not using the insurance at all.

Our open enrollment period is coming up soon, and I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and drop the dental insurance.  I do think it’s very important to have your teeth cleaned every six months (and our insurance pays for that 100%) but if we don’t do it, then we’re wasting $402.24.  I don’t think that an exam and cleaning cost $200 (which is what our insurance is worth if we each went to the dentist once a year for a cleaning.)  If an exam and cleaning is, say, $80, it may be worth it to just drop our dental insurance and self insure.  I can save $160 a year to pay for dental expenses.

Of course, if we have cavities that need to be filled, or a crown replaced then it is worth it to have dental insurance, even though we have to pay for half of those procedures out of pocket.  I know that over the course of time that we’ve been going to this dentist, I’ve had a few cavities filled and a crown put on.  Eventually, I’ll have to have that crown replaced (which I just found out today that they only last 10-15 years).  It would be nice to have dental insurance then to cover those items.

Dental insurance is one of those things that I think that we could live without.  I’d be willing to take a chance that we’d need to have a cavity filled and have to pay out of pocket.  Teeth don’t generally have the potential to cost you thousands of dollars each year versus, say cancer, so I’d be more likely to pay for health insurance versus dental insurance.

I don’t know if dental insurance is a normal benefit offered to employees, but I am grateful that I have the option to take advantage of it.  Chances are, I’ll get on Mr. Money to make sure that he makes an appointment to get his teeth cleaned and examined so that at least he’ll take advantage of one of the two cleanings covered by our insurance this year.  I hate wasting money, and I feel like I should have gotten a cleaning 6 months ago to make our dental insurance worth it.

I have a love-hate relationship with insurance.  It’s a necessity for some things (car insurance, homeowners insurance, health insurance) but sometimes I wish there were easier options.

Do you have dental insurance? Do you think I should get dental insurance for next year, or skip it and self insure?

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25 Responses to “Are Dental Insurance Plans Worth the Money?”


  1. Kacie says:

    So, $402 for two is like $201 for each of you (even though I know that might not be the one-person price). Two check-ups is $100 each. That’s probably close to being in-line with what the out-of-pocket costs would be.

    So if all you do is get two check-ups per year (and you should! no excuses!), then maybe it’s a wash.

    But, if you need even one filling or any type of more complicated work, the insurance will likely more than pay for itself.

    I had three small cavities that I had repaired this summer and I’m thankful for insurance!

    I say keep it around unless you are willing to pay out of pocket costs for a more expensive procedure on down the line.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Kacie- I think I’ll just keep it. It’s really not that much money each paycheck, and it’s nice to have peace of mind. It’s stupid that we didn’t use our two cleanings this year and I hate that! :(

    [Reply]

  2. Catherine says:

    You should both be going every 6 months!!!!!!! That’s 4 times a year. Not to mention keeping your xrays up to date and such. Plus, you never know when an issue will crop up and leave you in a bind. I think I’ve heard that medical bills are one of the major reasons for debt in the country. If you can afford the $15 per paycheck, you should keep it around.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Catherine- I know! We have been so bad this year. I told Mr. Money he needs to get his butt in before the end of the year. I think we’re going to keep the dental insurance. :)

    [Reply]

  3. Deedee says:

    Going every six months for a checkup and cleaning greatly minimizes the possibility of big (costly) dental problems. So if you just break even on the cost of 4 checkups/cleanings a year it would be wiser to keep the insurance just in case of other expenses. And if no further dental work is needed you are no worse or better off. But if you drop the insurance: 1. you are less inclined to go twice a year which increases the likelihood of more serious problems popping up. 2. You will pay full price for any work necessary besides the checkup/cleaning. I’d advise keeping the insurance.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Deedee- You are exactly right. I think we’ll end up keeping it. It’s silly that we didn’t get our two cleanings in this year, though!

    [Reply]

  4. Personally I think you should keep it! And start going for those regular cleanings (smile). When I was in college I skipped the cleanings and the result was a couple of small cavities. I went 20+ years with no cavities, but ended up needing more work (albeit minor) because I didn’t keep up with the maintenance.

    Also, there is always the risk that something outside the cleanings will be needed. Don’t think of it is $15/pay period for cleaning…but peace of mind. Can you justify spending the $15 knowing you’ll have the coverage if you need it?

    Hmm….it’s October….I think it’s time for my cleaning! haha!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Lakita- Great points. I need to just go in every six months and stop thinking too much into it. $15 is not bad at all. ;)

    [Reply]

    Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer Reply:

    Lakita, I’ve missed seeing you around. You think a wedding is a good excuse! (Just kidding)

    Congratulations and I hope to see you around more.

    [Reply]

  5. Chatles says:

    Remember, all insurance policies are there for your protection. Ideally, you never want to use insurance or file a claim. You have insurance so it can bail you out in case something bad happens. For dental, I have 3 root canals in the past 5 years. Each one would have ran me $2,000 without insurance. I only paid $6-700 each with insurance. Also cleaning costs about $100. Do that twice a year and you get your money back.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Chatles- Thanks for letting me know the costs for those root canals. Holy crap! I think I’ll keep our dental insurance. It is worth it, at least for peace of mind.

    [Reply]

  6. If you are really serious about cutting your dental insurance you should talk to the dental office or look at your explanation of benefits to see what they actually charge for a cleaning. I think our office charges upwards of $120 per cleaning. (Xrays every 2 years is a lot more!).

    I’m guessing right now the insurance is a wash, but even if you are overpaying $20 each per year, is $1.50ish a month worth a little piece of mind if one of you has a major dental problem (or even a cavitiy!)

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Journey to Our Home- Wow! That’s a lot for a cleaning. I got x rays when I went yesterday too. I’ll have to look at the explanation of benefits when it comes. Good point!

    [Reply]

  7. Okay, so I just wanted to throw in my two cents. It looks like you guys have a good plan, and it sounds like you’ve decided to keep it. As long as it is not a strain on your budget, it’s a good idea to hang onto. We decided to cancel our dental insurance at the beginning of the year. My husband’s work did not offer dental, so we bought it independently through Blue Cross. It cost us $37/mo for just me! Anyways, when my husband lost his job this was one of the first things to go. I know I can live w/out going to the dentist twice a year for cleanings, and we keep $2000 in an emergency savings *just in case* something major were to happen, so I’m comfortable with not having dental insurance. It’s just one of those things that is more of a luxury to us at this time. I had one last cleaning, and made sure that I had no cavities or problems before I canceled the policy. I make sure to take really good care of my teeth. *Hopefully* we won’t have any dental emergencies! But for right now, food in our children’s bellies is more important that polished teeth twice a year :)

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Kendra- $37 a month for just you?! That is expensive. I think you’ve got a great plan having that money in savings just for that!

    [Reply]

  8. I’m glad you’ve decided to keep it. As someone who just had a dental abscess, I can say you never know when a dental emergency will arise. And, I go every six months for checkup/cleaning.

    One way to make sure you’ll go is make the appt. for the next cleaning when you leave. Even if you have to reschedule, at least it’s on the books.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Kay Lynn- I made sure that I scheduled my next one so that I won’t have this same problem next year. :)

    [Reply]

  9. Heather says:

    Keep it and use the expense as motivation to go every 6 months!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Heather- I think I will. I can’t stand wasting money! :)

    [Reply]

  10. Kacie says:

    Now I am revisiting this question. With Shane’s new employer, our dental insurance will cost $1,107/year for our family. UM WHAT. Only 3/4 of us even have teeth at this point. I won’t take Johnny to the dentist until he is 3 or maybe 3.5, depending on if I think he will cooperate.

    I am looking into private dental insurers because in my mind, that is super expensive and insane and we would be better off to find a cheaper insurance or self-insure.

    And that insurance has deductibles for most things, so it’s like … what the heck, goobers?!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Kacie-
    WOW. That is crazy! LOLOL only 3/4 of you have teeth. That’s hilarious.

    I would either self insure or look into getting dental insurance from Delta or Metlife (I think I’ve used both through work)! That is so expensive.

    We both have crowns that will eventually have to be replaced. I guess I’d rather be without dental insurance than health insurance if I had to pick. :/ Sad that we have to think that way!

    [Reply]

  11. brad says:

    Have you considered a dental discount plan like the one on Brighter.com? It’s only $79 a year for the whole family and gets 50-60% off most procedures at dentists in their network. May be a cheaper way to reduce the cost of dental services while not paying hundred or thousands a year for insurance that most likely caps benefits at $1500 or so a year…

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Brad- Thanks so much for the tip! What a great option. I had never heard of that.

    [Reply]


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