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Dental insurance almost always picks up 100 percent of the bill for routine checkups and cleanings. Coverage for common procedures like root canals and fillings are typically covered at 80 percent, although policies with higher premiums cover up to 90 percent. You are then responsible for the remaining 10 to 20 percent of the cost, called coinsurance. Most plans cover higher-priced and more involved procedures at 50 percent, so you should have some savings set aside for what your insurance does not cover. Still, with relatively low premiums, having dental insurance is far less expensive on average than paying cash for all dental procedures.
Almost all dental insurance companies use what is called a Usual, Customary, and Reasonable (UCR) fee guide. This means that they set their own price that they will allow for every dental procedure that they cover. This is not based on what a dentist actually charges, but what the dental insurance company wishes to cover. For example, your dentist may charge $78 for a dental cleaning, but your insurance company will only allow $58 because that is the UCR fee that they have set.
But for many, the perceived high cost of dental insurance is one of the key factors that is keeping them from getting a policy. Luckily, there are a number of different options for people at different price points. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, the average annual cost of coverage in 2009 (the most recent year the survey was conducted) for a dental HMO plan was around $225 per year for an individual or $445 per family, the cost of a dental PPO plan averaged around $285 for an individual and $866 per family, and indemnity plans cost an average of $288 for an individual and $666 for a family.
How you define “cost” is important. Generally a single plate – upper or lower- costs between $1,200 and $3,800. So, for a full set of dentures could cost in the $7,500 range. Those higher costs usually include other services such as extractions, mold production, and fittings. Again, the actual cost is dependent upon the senior’s oral health, and the amount of service needed. Don’t be afraid to shop around from one dentist to the next to see if there is a price break.
Often, there is no waiting period in a group plan, like one offered by an employer. Of course, if you were eligible for a company-based plan, you probably wouldn't be shopping around on your own. However, the same privilege might be had in a group plan offered through an organization such as AARP.  With their plans, there's no waiting period for preventative services, at least.   
Dental Health Maintenance Organization plans entail dentists contracting with a dental insurance company that dentists agree to accept an insurance fee schedule and give their customers a reduced cost for services as an In-Network Provider. Many DHMO insurance plans have little or no waiting periods and no annual maximum benefit limitations, while covering major dental work near the start of the policy period. This plan is sometimes purchased to help defray the high cost of the dental procedures. Some dental insurance plans offer free semi-annual preventative treatment. Fillings, crowns, implants, and dentures may have various limitations.
We have multiple plans with different levels of benefits to help you find the best dental insurance fit for your budget.3 So if you’ve ever bought a gym membership or a treadmill to help remind you to take care of yourself, supplemental dental insurance from UnitedHealthcare can be that reminder to take care of your teeth. Even better, it can help you plan, control and budget for the costs of your dental care.
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