The downside of using a dental school is that it can sometimes take a lot more time to get the work done since it’s a learning environment, the hours or days that they practice are limited, and it can be hard to get your insurance coverage to pay for work performed at a dental school if you have insurance. You’ll likely have to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket and get reimbursed later.
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Fee-for-Service plans: Like DPPO plans, dental Fee-for-Service plans require you to pay a percentage of the cost of treatment. Your insurance company will pay for the rest. Fee-for-Service plans typically offer the most freedom when it comes to choosing your dentist or dental practice. Fee-for-Service plans may also be more costly, since dentists are not typically reimbursed at the same rate as DPPO dentists.
I could have paid the average of $360 a year for a dental policy in my twenties. Or I could have paid out of pocket for two dental exams, including cleanings and X-rays, which, in 2011, cost an average of $370 combined. In that case dental insurance wouldn’t have saved me much money. And if I went to a dental school or clinic for treatment, I could have saved even more on out-of-pocket costs.
Since all dental insurance carriers are different, it is important to clarify which dental procedures fall under each specific category. This is important because some insurance plans don't cover major procedures and others have waiting periods for certain procedures. If you know that you will need major dental work that is not covered by a given plan, you should probably look elsewhere to find one that suits all of your needs.
Most dental insurance companies have a waiting period after your application is accepted. This practice is so the customer doesn’t wait until they have accumulated the need for several procedures to buy and use dental insurance to cover the costs. Most plans have a waiting period for some procedures but not others, like a regular checkup. One of our best dental insurance companies has no waiting period for just about any procedure.
More than 90 percent of dental insurance policies carry a “missing tooth clause” or a “replacement clause.” Many include at least one of these clauses, but most have both. A missing tooth clause protects the insurance company from paying for the replacement of a tooth that was missing before the policy was in effect. For example, if you lost a tooth before your coverage started and later decided that you would like to have a partial, bridge or implant, the insurance company would not have to pay for that service if they have a missing tooth clause in the plan. A replacement clause is similar except that the insurance company won’t pay to replace procedures such as dentures, partials or bridges until the specified time limit has passed.
Preventive care may seem optional if you have healthy teeth and good oral hygiene, but it saves money in the long run. I went without dental insurance for three years in my twenties, and did what most of my peers did in that situation – simply didn’t visit the dentist. Then I enrolled in a graduate program which required students to have medical and dental coverage. At my first dental visit, I had numerous cavities. Getting them all filled required nine or ten appointments in the nine months of my academic year.
Generally dental offices have a fee schedule, or a list of prices for the dental services or procedures they offer. Dental insurance companies have similar fee schedules which is generally based on Usual and Customary dental services, an average of fees in an area. The fee schedule is commonly used as the transactional instrument between the insurance company, dental office and/or dentist, and the consumer.
Many provide as much as 100% coverage preventative services and then less on basic procedures usually 50% to 80%, and usually 50% to 0% on major care or things like crowns. Often there is some fine print with these plans and they do not cover certain procedures. They also have a maximum annual benefit and a deductible that you have to pay before they start coverage. There also can potentially be waiting periods on certain types of procedures but you don’t always have to get a referral to see a specialist.
As a Medicare beneficiary, you are free to shop for a stand-alone private dental plan for seniors. Some dental plan types are PPO plans* and others are indemnity plans. A PPO stands for preferred provider organization. This is a type of plan that contracts with dental providers to create a network of participating providers. If you want to use a dentist out of network, you usually can for an additional cost. An indemnity plan allows you to visit almost any dentist you like with the plan paying a portion of your total charges. Indemnity plans are also called “fee-for-service” plans.