Dental Insurance: A Money-Saver or Just Another Expense?

by Debra Karplus

Is Dental Insurance a Money-Saver photo

Will dental insurance save you money? Not necessarily. We walk you through how to determine if dental insurance might be a money-saver or money-waster for you.

Quite often, dental insurance is very underutilized. This means that people are quick to purchase a dental insurance plan without really needing most of what it offers. It means they are likely overpaying for dental care.

Here is how to determine whether dental insurance will likely cost or save you money.

Your Family’s Dental Health: A Determining Factor

Most dentists agree that genetics plays a big factor in the health of your teeth and gums. Additionally,  good oral hygiene habits and a commitment to regular dental exams, as recommended by your dentist, can keep your teeth healthy and dental costs low.

You already know your track record in terms of how many fillings you’ve had as well as other procedures, such as root canals or implants. Did your parents have dental problems? This information is a useful place to start in determining the health of your mouth over the long term, and consequently, your expected dental costs.

If you’re blessed with good teeth or healthy gums, that’s great news for you. You may be smart to avoid dental insurance and simply pay out of pocket for your semi-annual dental checkups and occasional fillings.

What about your family? Regardless of how few cavities you’ve had, your kids may not have inherited your great dental genes. Dental insurance might make sense. 

Sign Up for Savings

Subscribe to get money-saving content by email that can help you stretch your dollars further.

Twice each week, you'll receive articles and tips that can help you free up and keep more of your hard-earned money, even on the tightest of budgets.

We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

Dental Insurance for Retirees Might Be Smart

But what about older folks who are not covered under an employer plan?

As people age, even healthy people who take good care of their teeth are inclined to have more health and dental problems. If you’re a senior, dental insurance will likely make sense at some point.

As long as you choose a plan that covers pre-existing conditions, if you don’t currently have dental insurance but discover at a dental exam that you need lots of work, you can jump in and buy a plan, and you will be covered immediately. That’s not a bad thing if you think about it!

What Does Dental Insurance Typically Cover?

Dental insurance coverage depends on the dental service and the plan. A typical dental insurance plan may cover services as follows:

  • 100% coverage for preventive dental care (cleanings, X-rays, exams)
  • 80% coverage for basic dental procedures (fillings, tooth extractions, etc.)
  • 50% coverage for restorative dental care (crowns, dentures, oral surgery, etc.)

Most dental plans do not cover orthodontics.

Also, many plans only cover up to a specified dollar amount, typically between $1,000 and $2,000.

How Much Does Dental Insurance Typically Cost?

According to Forbes, the average monthly cost of a basic dental plan is $26 and $47 for a comprehensive plan.

People on an employee dental plan may pay as low as $17 monthly or $204 yearly.

Do an online search and you’ll find providers advertising rates as low as $20 per month on their website. Cigna has rates starting at $20 per month for its basic plan and $24 per month for its comprehensive. Humana claims $18 and $44 monthly.

Low-income families might want to look into Molina; it is a provider of dental insurance helping families on Medicaid.

Is Dental Insurance Worth It?

It really comes down to your dental health, or that of your family, and the cost of your chosen dental plan when determining if you should purchase dental insurance.

Sit down with a calculator and determine what it costs to take care of your pearly whites each year before you start getting quotes on dental insurance premiums. Make a list of the care you think you’ll need for the year, from cleanings to extracts to crowns. Then, get the average cost of each procedure from this list by Humana. Once you know what your potential out-of-pocket is, you can compare that to the cost and coverage of various plans to see what your savings might be.

And if you can’t remember the last time you had to see a dentist other than for a cleaning? Dental insurance might be an unnecessary expense.

Tips for Choosing a Dental Insurance Plan

Shopping for dental insurance is not unlike shopping for health insurance, and like your health insurance, it varies from state to state. To get the lowest premiums, expect less coverage, a higher deductible and a co-pay. Additionally, prices can be kept lower by a PPO dental plan where you see a dental provider, dentist, or periodontist who is within the network.

Be sure to read that fine print very carefully to learn what is covered and what isn’t. The goal is to choose a plan based on your needs for the coming year. Most plans allow you to get coverage a year at a time, so you can upgrade or downgrade your coverage each year as necessary.

Reviewed February 2024

About the Author

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon (Kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This