In this post:
- What Is Dental Insurance?
- 7 Best Dental Insurance Companies in 2024
- What Does Dental Insurance Cover?
- How Much Does Dental Insurance Cost?
- Types of Dental Insurance Plans
- How To Choose the Best Dental Insurance
Dental insurance is a worthwhile investment that could save you hundreds or thousands per year. However, not all dental insurance plans are the same. It’s important to pick a plan from a dental insurance company that offers plenty of dental coverage and value.
7 Best Dental Insurance Companies in the U.S.
- Delta Dental
- Spirit Dental
- United Health Care
- Anthem/Elevance Health
There’s no sugarcoating it: Dental work is expensive, but frequent visits to the dentist are critical for maintaining oral health. The longer you wait to receive dental care, the more difficult and costly it becomes to provide care.
Especially as an adult, dental procedures can rack up hundreds to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses without insurance. To diminish these costs, it is important to purchase dental insurance from a company that offers you a budget-friendly plan that suits your dental service needs without hidden restrictions.
What Is Dental Insurance?
Dental insurance is a type of insurance that usually covers routine dental care, like annual cleanings or minor dental procedures, while paying for a portion of more pricey oral work, like fillings, crowns, bridges, or a root canal. Dental insurance is not typically included in health insurance plans and must be purchased separately.
Dental insurance works by charging you a monthly premium for dental care coverage. Depending on the type of dental insurance, you may be required to select a primary dentist that will handle the majority of your dental needs or visit a network dentist that is connected to your plan.
Covered services vary depending on your dental insurance provider. For many oral procedures, you may have to pay a deductible, which is a set amount of money before your dental insurance will cover anything.
Most dental insurance plans have a waiting period before certain dental benefits kick in. This is to prevent customers from piling up pricey dental procedures and then purchasing dental insurance only to cancel immediately after the dental procedure is completed.
However, not all dental benefits are affected by the waiting period. You can often get coverage of basic and preventive care during the waiting period, but coverage of specific procedures varies by dental insurance company.
Depending on the provider, a dental insurance waiting period can last anywhere from a few months to a full year before providing full dental coverage. In some cases, when switching to a new dental insurance company, you can submit information from your previous provider to waive the waiting period.
7 Best Dental Insurance Companies in 2024
What is the best dental insurance?
Since covered services, costs, and limitations vary so much between different dental insurance companies, it is important to do your research before deciding what dental insurance is the best for you and your family.
1. Delta Dental
Since 1954, Delta Dental has been providing dental insurance. Today, the not-for-profit business is one of the largest dental insurance providers in the United States. Delta Dental’s 39 independent offices operate in all 50 states and several U.S. territories.
The dental insurance company boasts the largest dentist network in the nation. Over 80 million Americans are enrolled in one of Delta Dental’s dental insurance plans.
Delta Dental focuses on affordable dental insurance plans for individuals, families, small businesses, and retirees. They have several different plan types available.
The original Delta Dental insurance plan, now called Delta Dental Premier, is a managed fee-for-service dental insurance plan that reduces your dental service costs. As long as you go to one of the network dentists that have agreed to Delta Dental’s contracted reduced fees, you are guaranteed to not have to pay anything more for covered services than your copay and deductible.
Delta Dental also offers a preferred-provider option plan, which grants customers access to a network of PPO dentists who charge reduced fees for covered services. With the PPO plan, there are still deductibles, copays, and an annual cap on services, but you are granted the lowest costs on dental care that you have to pay for yourself.
The Delta Dental PPO Plus Premier plan combines the offerings of their PPO and fee-for-service plan. Even if your Delta Dental Premier dentist is not a part of the PPO network, you will still get reduced costs on oral care.
Another dental insurance program available through Delta Dental is the DeltaCare USA plan. This dental plan is an HMO with a focus on preventative care. Delta Dental’s HMO has no deductibles or annual caps and promises low copays. With this plan, you can select a dentist from a smaller dentist network for your oral needs.
The established dental insurance company also has a discount dental insurance plan called Delta Dental Patient Direct. This dental plan offers the smallest pool of dentists to choose from but boasts no annual caps or deductibles. You simply go to a dentist that offers discounted rates and pay directly at your patient visit. No paperwork is required.
Cigna is a reputable dental, vision, hearing, and health insurance company. For as low as $1 per day, you can get dental insurance from Cigna.
Their least expensive dental insurance plan is the Cigna Dental Preventative program, which has a monthly premium of $19. With this plan, you get free routine dental check-ups, including x-rays and cleanings. There are no deductibles or caps on dental work costs. You can see any dentist of your choosing, though you will receive deeper discounts from visiting one of the dentists in the Cigna Advantage network.
One step up from Cigna’s preventive care-focused plan is the Cigna Dental 1000 program. With this plan, you get all the benefits from the Cigna Dental Preventative plan, plus coverage for basic and restorative services. In addition to preventative care, covered services include root canals, fillings, and crowns. This dental plan has an average monthly premium of $33.
If you need some orthodontics benefits, you may want to consider the Cigna Dental 1500 insurance plan. For $39 per month, you receive the benefits of the two previous programs mentioned and coverage for orthodontic care, including Invisalign.
Cigna also offers bundled insurance plans that combine dental benefits with vision insurance or vision and hearing insurance. For $31.75 per month, the Cigna Dental Vision 1000 program covers $1000 for dental care and 30% (or up to $50) of vision exams. You also get free routine dental care, basic service and restorative dental care coverage, and $100 for eyeglasses or contacts.
If you want hearing insurance included in your plan, you can upgrade to the Cigna Dental Vision Hearing 2000 plan, which costs around $50.26 per month. With this dental plan, you get $1500 for dental work every year, free preventive care, and coverage for both basic service and major restorative dental care. Cigna will cover 50% of vision exam costs or up to $75 and up to $50 for hearing exams. You also get $200 to use towards glasses or contacts and $500 for hearing aids.
The most expensive plan with the most benefits is Cigna Dental Vision Hearing 5000, which has a $61.95 monthly premium. You get free routine dental care, coverage for basic service and major restorative care, and a $2500 annual budget for dental care. Your vision exams are covered at 90% up to $100 and hearing exams up to $50. You are also allotted $300 for eyeglasses and $700 for hearing aids.
With a MetLife dental plan, you are free to see any dentist, whether they are in or out of the dental insurance company’s network. Most of their plans give you free dental exams and cleanings.
MetLife offers PPO plans, HMO plans, the MetLife Takealong Dental program, and special dental plans for veterans and federal workers.
The MetLife PPO plan allows you to visit preferred dental providers that offer reduced rates contracted by the insurance company. While you can visit any licensed dentist, you can save more by going to an in-network dentist. As long as you stay in-network, preventive care is free.
MetLife’s HMO plan is only available to customers in California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. This plan has no deductibles, and you can preselect a dentist from the network when you enroll.
The MetLife Takealong Dental program is designed for customers on the go who want their dental insurance to travel with them. This plan gives you the option to go to an in-network dentist with fees 36% lower than standard service prices.
The Veteran Affairs Dental Insurance program provided by MetLife gives dental coverage to veterans and their families. This plan grants orthodontics coverage for children 19 and under. It has no annual deductible but there is a $3000/$3500 per person annual cap.
4. Spirit Dental
Spirit Dental is one of the top dental insurance companies in the United States. There is no waiting period for a preventive, basic, or major dental service. In addition to dental coverage, you can add vision insurance to any Spirit plan for only $7 per month.
There is a $100 lifetime deductible when you enroll in a Spirit Dental insurance plan. Spirit Dental offers guaranteed acceptance and next-day dental insurance. With a Spirit dental insurance plan, you get 3 free dental cleanings every year and a $5000 annual cap after year 3.
Spirit Dental offers various dental plans to suit the budgets and needs of individuals, families, and senior citizens. All plans give you the option of choosing your own dentist.
Humana is another affordable dental insurance company that offers no waiting periods for some plans. The dental insurance provider has three different plan types: Complete Dental, Loyalty Plus, and Preventive Value.
The most robust dental insurance package offered by Humana is the Complete Dental plan, which starts at $44 per month. This dental plan is a PPO plan that gives you access to a dentist network of over 335,000 members, including specialists. There is an annual deductible of $50 per person (or $150 per family) but no deductibles for preventive care when you go to an in-network dentist.
There is no waiting period for preventative care with the Complete Dental plan. You get 2 routine exams, cleanings, and topical fluoride treatments every year. You also get one limited dental exam. There is a 6 month waiting period for basic service coverage, which includes fillings, extractions, stainless steel crowns, and spacers for children under 14. There is a year-long waiting period for major services, such as dentures, root canals, and oral surgery.
Humana’s Loyalty Plus plan, which has a monthly premium of $28, is unique in that you get more benefits over time. There is no waiting period for this dental plan, so you can start getting coverage for basic care and major dental care from day one.
Your annual caps and percentage of services paid by insurance increase every year for the first 3 years that you are enrolled in this program. In your first year, there is a $1000 per person annual maximum, 40% coverage of basic dental services, and 20% coverage of major services.
After your first year, your benefits increase to a $1250 per person annual maximum, 55% coverage of basic services, and 30% coverage of major dental care. Starting your third year, you get a $1500 annual max, 70% coverage on basic services, and 50% coverage on major services.
Humana also offers budget insurance for $18 per month called the Preventive Value plan. There is no waiting period for this plan, and you get free preventive care after paying the lifetime deductible of $50 per person, as long as you go to an in-network dentist. You get 80% coverage on preventive care if you go to a dentist that is not in the network. You also get 50% coverage on in-network basic care (30% out-of-network) which includes fillings, extractions, and emergency dental care.
6. United Healthcare
United Healthcare is a leading provider in the health insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The insurance company has been providing health, vision, dental, and supplemental insurance since 1977. United Healthcare offers a wide variety of dental insurance plans to suit any individual’s budget and needs.
For all dental insurance plans, there is no waiting period for preventive care. There is also an option to bundle dental insurance with other types of insurance, like vision. United Healthcare also offers special dental insurance plans for seniors, even if they are on Medicare.
7. Anthem / Elevance Health
Elevance Health offers PPO dental insurance plans designed for individuals and families. Their Essential Choice PPO plans give you an annual cap of $2,500 and offer shorter waiting periods than standard plans. There is no waiting period for preventive care. As long as you visit an in-network dentist, you get free diagnostic and preventive care, with no deductible.
Elevance Health also offers Dental Family PPO plans. Designed with families in mind, these types of plans include benefits such as no annual caps for pediatric-aged children, low deductibles, no waiting period, and high annual maximums.
What Does Dental Insurance Cover?
Generally speaking, dental insurance covers routine and preventive care either mostly or entirely and pays for a portion of more expensive, complex oral health procedures.
Dental health care is divided into different tiers: preventive, basic, and major. Preventive care, like teeth cleanings and routine exams, typically provides 80-100% coverage. Fillings and extractions often have 50-70% coverage, while major care, like oral surgery or crowns, has about 50% coverage.
Most dental insurance plans also have annual caps on the dollar amount you can get covered each year. The specific amount and type of coverage dental insurance companies provide varies depending on your dental insurance plan and provider. Most dental insurance companies offer a basic plan and more expensive plans that cover additional patient needs.
How Much Does Dental Insurance Cost?
You may be wondering: Is dental insurance worth it? How much is dental insurance?
Dental insurance in the U.S. costs, on average, around $360 per year, or $15-50 per month. Different dental insurance companies and plans have varied monthly premiums that you must pay to retain your dental benefits.
Most dental insurance providers offer different plan tiers to meet customers’ price points with varying degrees of coverage. You may also have to pay a deductible before your dental provider will cover a certain dental procedure.
Types of Dental Insurance Plans
There are many different types of insurance plans. Understanding the differences between these plans can help you decide on the best dental plan for you and your family.
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Plans
A preferred provider organization, or PPO, is a form of indemnity plan where a dental insurance company provides oral health services through a network of dentists who have agreed to contracted rates. When joining the PPO network, a dentist must consent to give the fees set by the dental insurance company.
Dentists outside of this network do not have to give the same rates. When visiting a dentist who is not part of a PPO, you may be given higher or lower costs. If you already have a dentist you like, it may be a good idea to check to see if they are in an insurance company’s PPO network before enrolling in a dental plan.
An indemnity plan is usually what comes to mind when you think about dental insurance. The American Dental Association calls this type of dental plan a “traditional” plan. With an indemnity plan, your dental insurance company pays for a percentage of the cost of each dental procedure.
Different types of oral health services are typically covered at different amounts, which vary between insurance plans and providers. For example, preventive care may be covered at 100% while major oral surgery is only covered at 30%.
Customers can usually choose their own dentist, but sometimes indemnity plans combine with PPOs. Indemnity plans can also include orthodontics coverage, loyalty perks, waiting periods for certain types of coverage, and annual maximums.
Dental Health Maintenance Organization Plans (DHMO)
A Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) is a network of licensed dentists and dental specialists who receive a monthly payment for each patient assigned to them. You pay a monthly premium to gain access to the services provided by this dentist network.
With a Dental Health Maintenance Organization, you are required to visit the dentist you are assigned to by your insurance company. If you require a specialist, you can get a referral to see one that is part of the network.
Dental Discount Plans
Though similar, a dental discount plan is not technically a form of dental insurance. Also known as a dental savings plan, dental discount plans can be a great option for individuals who don’t want to deal with dental insurance claims, deductibles, waiting periods, or annual caps.
Dental discount plans are very straightforward. A company makes a contract with a network of dentists to provide discounted rates to anyone who purchases the business’s dental discount plan. Customers who buy the plan are then given lowered rates for dental procedures, which they pay for out-of-pocket at their dental visit.
Direct Reimbursement Plan (DRP)
Direct Reimbursement Plans work in a similar way to health or homeowners insurance plans. They are based on the dollar amount spent, rather than the type of dental procedure or dentist visited.
DRPs are most commonly used by employers to give employees dental benefits. With a DRP, you can go to any dentist you wish and get reimbursed for your treatment.
Since it is managed by your employer, every DRP plan is different. Some may require you to pay for your dentist visit, then submit an invoice to get reimbursed while others may just pay the dentist directly.
Point of Service Plans (POS)
A point of service plan is very similar to a PPO plan, with some qualities of a DHMO plan.
With a POS plan, you select your primary dentist from a network but have the option to seek dental care from others outside the network. However, you receive little to no reimbursement for a dental service performed by an out-of-network dentist.
Schedule of Allowances Plans
A schedule of allowance plan is like an indemnity plan, except your insurance company pays a fixed amount for a dental procedure, as opposed to a percentage of the total cost.
When you enroll in this type of plan, you are given a schedule or table of different set prices your insurance will pay for various oral procedures, regardless of how much it costs in reality. You are required to pay out of pocket for any differences between the allowance and the actual cost of treatment.
How To Choose the Best Dental Insurance
When it comes to how to choose the best dental insurance company, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Ask yourself what is most important to you. Do you need orthodontic coverage or dentures? Not all dental insurance plans cover these things, so you may want to make sure you pick a plan that gives you coverage.
Bear in mind that most dental insurance plans do not cover cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening or dental implants. If you plan on a lot of restorative work in the near future, you should research carefully to find an insurance plan that covers what you need. Or, you may want to consider a dental discount or dental savings plan instead.
If you want flexibility and freedom in choosing a dentist and don’t mind paying for it, you probably want to get a PPO or indemnity plan. However, if you value predictability and want lower costs, you may want to go with an HMO.
Just like with health, home, or life insurance, your individual needs will determine the right dental insurance plan for you.