Most dental insurance plans exclude pre-existing conditions for at least a short waiting period. From the insurance company's perspective, this makes sense because not having a waiting period could lead to people waiting to buy insurance until they have a problem, then immediately dropping it. Even with these limitations, there are ways to get dental insurance, or to lower your dental costs, from day one.
Dental HMO Plans
Some dental insurance companies sell a dental health maintenance organization plan that has little or no waiting period. In a dental HMO plan, your choice of dentist is typically limited, but as long as you stay in the network, you enjoy minimal co-pays. While waiting periods for orthodontic treatment are common, other dental needs, such as fillings and extractions, can be covered from day one.
Dental Discount Plans
Instead of buying insurance, you can also buy a dental discount plan, in which you pay a set fee to get a discount off of dental services from a list of providers. It works like dental insurance in many ways and can save you significant money. However, discount plans vary in the amount of discount you get, so it's good to shop around and see how much a plan will save you relative to what you'd pay for a service in cash.
Another way to save money on dental services is to take advantage of tax savings that can defray some of the costs. If you have a health savings account or flexible spending account, you can pay for your dental expenses through it, reducing the amount of taxes you have to pay. You can also deduct dental expenses from your taxes if you itemize your deductions on schedule A, but you can only write off what you spend that is above 10 percent of your adjusted gross income.
Students and Travel
If you can't find a suitable insurance plan that will cover you and can't realize tax savings, you can still save money on your dental care. One option is to have your care performed at a local dental school. You'll be worked on by students under the watchful eye of professors, many of whom are leading experts in their fields. Dental school care may take longer and may be no-frills, but you can save a lot of money and get excellent care.
Another option is to go to a foreign country for dental care. While dentists in these countries aren't subject to the strictures of U.S. laws for cleanliness, and you won't have the protection of U.S. malpractice law, many of them were trained in the U.S. and hold their own practices to the same standards. In many cases, you can have your dental work done, enjoy a vacation and still spend less money than you would down the street.
- Blue Shield of California: Dental HMO Plans
- Delta Dental: Delta Dental Plans
- Wisebread: Will A Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?
- GeorgiaTech Office of Human Resources: Medical FSA and HSA Expense Eligibility List (IRS Code Section 213 (d) Eligible Expenses)
- IRS: 2013 Changes to Itemized Deduction for Medical Expenses
- The Washington Post; Getting a Dental Implant from a Dental School Can Save You Money; Marlene Cimons
- The Boston Globe; Adventures in Medical Tourism; Kirk Meyer
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.