The search for the best individual dental insurance plans can seem like one of the great adventures of life in the twenty-first century. Ask any number of people, “what are the best individual dental insurance plans,” and you’re sure to get a variety of answers.
When you think about it, it’s easy to see why there are so many points of view. The criteria are always uniquely individual. Best for whom? In what circumstances?
The better question, of course, would be, “what’s the best dental insurance plan for my needs?” And that question leads to a whole list of other questions.
This is why we created the DentalInsurance.com dental insurance checklist. We designed the checklist to help you understand your needs. Using it will help you choose a dental insurance plan that truly is the best choice for you.
Dental Insurance Checklist: Key Questions
If you’re hunting for the right dental plan, make an informed decision. How? Ask a lot of questions!
For example, start by asking yourself, “what is the most important reason I’m looking for a dental plan?” Questions such as the following can get you thinking in this direction:
- Do you need dental work – other than an exam or cleaning – right away?
- If so, will a plan be available as soon as you need it?
- Have you already started dental work that needs to be completed?
- Do you want to use a local dentist or one you’ve worked with before?
We’ve included questions like these in the checklist to help you be sure that you are thinking about the reason you need dental insurance to begin with.
Other types of questions are included in the checklist to help you understand what to expect when it comes to dental expenses or the cost of purchasing a plan. Questions in these sections include things like the following:
- If there is a deductible, is it a reasonable amount considering your financial situation?
- Are there limits on the amount you might need to pay for major care?
- Can you save by choosing an annual payment plan rather than a monthly payment plan?
Other Resources: Find the Best Individual Dental Insurance Plans
In addition to the checklist, we have a wide variety of resources to help you make an informed decision about your dental insurance. Check out the following resources for more information:
- Dental Plan Basics: Knowing Which Plan to Choose
- Dental Insurance Terms
- How Long is Too Long before Seeing a Dentist
- 5 Reasons Why You Need Dental Insurance
And don’t forget to check out the checklist!
Read next: Dental Insurance Quotes
According to the American Dental Association, the main barriers to dental care are not related to the availability of dental care resources. They are financial. That is, the majority of people who are not getting the dental care they need simply cannot afford it. Fortunately, free dental care and low-cost dental care options are often available for those who are unable to cover the costs of the general dentistry work they need.
However, because free dental care services are free, they are often hard to find. They rarely have budgets to advertise. So, you need to know where to look. If you’re putting off the dental care you need because you lack the money to pay for it, here are a few possible alternatives as well as tips about how to find them.
Of course, if you are in need of emergency help, don’t wait. Call your dentist or go to your nearest emergency room immediately.
Free Dental Care: Special Introductory Deals
Sometimes, people skip dental checkups because their teeth feel fine and they need the money for other things. Unfortunately, even when teeth feel great, they still require ongoing professional cleaning and observation. That’s the only sure way to prevent problems from developing.
When they open a new office or practice, dentists’ sometimes offer free dental care such as free or discounted dental exams and dental cleanings. It’s a great way for them to begin building their list of patients. While these types of offers rarely include additional free work, they are a good way to keep your teeth healthy and get to know a local dentist who you may want to see again in the future.
To discover these types of free dental care offers, you can search online for dentists in your area. Also, watch your mailbox for these types of offers, or try calling a new dental office that you notice along your daily commute.
Dental Clinics for Low-Income Families
Many people have access to community dental clinics that serve low-income families in their areas. These types of clinics typically provide services for free or at a reduced rate. While they may not offer free dental care, the payments may be purely voluntary (pay what you can), or the fees may be tied to a sliding fee scale based on your income.
These types of clinics often provide a wide range of health-related services in addition to dental care. Depending on the clinic, they may serve only children, only adults, both children and adults, pregnant women, or low-income adults who are 19 or older and Medicaid eligible.
To find a clinic that will meet your needs, try searching for the phrase “dental clinics for low income families near me” or near your zip code. Be sure to call ahead to learn if they will be able to help you with your specific needs, and, if so, when.
State and Local Resources for Free Dental Care
State and local health departments often know of programs that offer free dental care or care at reduced prices. They will almost certainly be able to help you find a low-income clinic. They may also be able to direct you to financial assistance programs that can help with these types of services.
To learn about the free or low-cost dental resources in your area, search for “oral health resources near me.” You can also call your local, state or regional health department.
Public Schools as Free Dental Care Resources
In many communities, school-aged children receive free dental cleanings and exams. These resources may be limited to only low-income children or only available at a certain time of the year, such as at the beginning of the school year. They may or may not include more in-depth services.
It’s generally easy to find out whether these types of resources are available in your area. Check with your school or keep an eye on your local newspaper or community website announcements area.
Dental Schools and Free Dental Care
Universities with dental schools often make free dental care available to people in their communities. They often provide these opportunities as a way for students to practice the dentistry skills they have learned or as part of a student training exercise or exam.
Highly trained instructors, who are experts in their fields, supervise all the work provided by dental students. This helps ensure the student dentists and dental assistants complete their work to the highest standards. It also means that work takes a bit longer than in a clinic, but free is free after all.
Learn more: Dental Degrees
With nearly 70 dental schools in the US – and hardly a state without one – chances are you’re within a day’s drive of free help. Contact your nearest dental school to see whether they have this type of opportunity. Just be prepared to put your name on a waiting list, as these opportunities are typically only available at specific times during the academic year.
Dental Care Accessibility Organizations
In addition to state and local resources and schools, a number of other groups either provide or can help you locate free or low-cost dental care resources in your area. These include the following:
- The United Way
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Dentistry from the Heart
- Mission of Mercy
- Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinics
Check out their websites to learn more about their missions and the ways they can help you.
When your circumstances change, we’ll still be here to help
At DentalInsurance.com, we understand that not everyone can afford the costs of dental care. We hope these resources and ideas will help you to get the help you need anyway.
The ideas in this blog should help you find the help you need, whether you’re just skipping checkups to save for other expenses, or you’ve been putting off badly needed dental work due to the lack of funds.
So please, use these ideas to find the help you need. And some day, when you’re in a better financial position to be more proactive, come back and see us. We’ll be happy to help you find a dental insurance plan or dental discount plan that will keep a winning smile on your face for years to come.
Read next: Benefits of Regular Dental Visits
[Editor’s Note: This article is part three of a three part series on dental care products. Don’t miss part one and part two!]
Some age-old dental care products attain the status of classics: the toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash, for instance. Others, your dentist has to beg you to use. Dental floss gets top mention there.
And then there are specialty dental care products. Teeth whitening products, products for denture wearers, and those for emergencies all fall into this final, catchall group.
Most folks want white, vibrant teeth. However, expert teeth whitening can be costly. Having your teeth whitened by a dentist is always the safe way to go. For a more affordable choice, home teeth whitening products can help.
Along with whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes, and rinses, home teeth whitening products that use trays or strips, or that you paint-on, are available. Unlike the toothpastes and rinses, trays and strips keep their key ingredients in contact with teeth longer, so the results can be far more dramatic.
- What these products do: Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the key ingredients used in most tooth whitening products. In each case, the peroxide gently bubbles away on tooth surfaces to scrub away the stains.
- Why they’re important: If getting whiter teeth at home is your goal, dentists generally agree using trays or strips delivers the most dazzling results.
- Who should use them: Using these products is generally a personal decision. Be sure to make it, if possible, with the advice of your dentist.
Just like people with real teeth, denture wearers must brush their dentures every day. Brushing dentures should be a daily part of denture care because it helps to remove food debris and stop plaque buildup on the surface. It also prevents dentures from getting permanent stains and helps the wearer’s mouth stay healthy.
Some denture wearers use hand soap or mild dish washing liquid to clean their dentures. Both are acceptable. However, you should avoid using powdered household cleansers as they may be too abrasive. Also, do not use bleach, as this could whiten the pink parts of dentures.
- What denture care products do: Special toothbrushes, toothpastes, and other products are available for cleaning dentures.
- Why they’re important: Denture care products are milder than the products used on natural teeth in order to avoid damage to dentures.
- Who should use them: Only denture wearers or their caregivers should use these products. Do not use denture care products to clean natural teeth.
Emergency Dental Care Products
Those of us who work in the insurance industry love Benjamin Franklin. After all, he was one of the early proponents of insurance. And when he said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” we think he hit the nail right on the head.
There are a number of specialty emergency dental care products available. Several retailers even offer a dental emergency first-aid kit. These generally contain most of what you’re likely to need for a dental emergency when there’s no dentist available.
- What they’re for: Depending on the type of dental emergency you have, several retailers offer dental repair kits with items to relieve tooth pain, hold loose fillings and crowns in place, or transport a knocked out tooth. The contents typically include things like tweezers, cotton, antimicrobial wipes, ibuprofen, and gauze.
- Why they’re important: These items will come in handy in the case of lost fillings, loose caps or crowns, teeth that have become dislodged, or a persistent toothache due to a cavity
- Who should use them: Everyone wants to be prepared, but it’s not always necessary to buy a specialty kit.
If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a dedicated dental emergency first-aid kit, perhaps check your regular first aid kit and see what types of additions would make it work for dental emergencies as well. To get an idea of the types of things to include, read our blog about loose teeth and other dental emergencies.
To learn more about dental care products, read part one and part two of our dental care products overview.
Read next: 5 Reasons Why You Need Dental Insurance
[Editor’s Note: This article is part two of a three part series on dental care products. You can also read part one and part three.]
Toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. It’s been a while since these three basics were the only oral hygiene choices for consumers. Today, we have far more dental care product choices to consider.
The question is, with all the oral hygiene products available today, how do you decide which ones to use regularly, which to try, and which to leave to the experts? It helps of you know what they’re all for, why they’re important, and who should be using them.
With that in mind, and assuming you’ve already read the first blog in this three-part series, let’s continue our overview of dental care products.
Levi Spear Parmly, the “apostle of dental hygiene,” gets the credit for inventing dental floss around 1819. For Parmly, flossing was the most essential part of oral care. Today many, if not most, dentists tend to agree.
In 1882, commercially produced, unwaxed silk floss first became available to the public. Dentists have been trying to get people to use it ever since.
- What it does: Dentists regularly recommend dental floss to help remove plaque from teeth and prevent it from building up between teeth.
- Why it’s important: Just as Parmly suspected two hundred years ago, plaque build-up between teeth is the leading cause of dental diseases such as dental caries and gingivitis. Today, we know: regular flossing can eliminate up to 80% of plaque, according to the American Dental Association.
- Who should use it: As soon children’s teeth begin touching one another, dentists recommend using dental floss once a day, either before or after brushing.
In an effort to make flossing easier, products such as floss picks have been introduced. While these work a little differently than floss and fingers, they may be a good alternative in some situations. Talk with your dentist about whether they’ll work for you.
Sometimes called a water pick, a water flosser or irrigator is a dental cleaning device. You use it to spray a thin stream of water between your teeth and at the gum line.
- What it does: Water flossers remove particles of food and plaque to help prevent tooth decay.
- Why it’s important: According to Waterpik, the leading maker of water flossers, they “are clinically proven through published independent and university studies to improve your gum health, remove plaque and bacteria, and reach areas that you can’t get to with a toothbrush or string floss.”
- Who should use it: Anyone can benefit from using a water flosser. However, you shouldn’t use them as a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.
Are you one of those people who just love relaxing into the dentist’s chair for a deep, intense dental cleaning? If so, you may have considered buying a dental pick or scaler for use at home. You may want to think again.
What they do: Dental picks or scalers are the long metal tools with twisty, pointed ends that dentists and dental hygienists use to scrape away plaque, tartar, and stains.
- Why they’re important: you just can’t remove all plaque, tartar, and stains using only products made for consumers. Dental picks are tools designed for use by trained professionals in specific situations. When used correctly by a pro, they are highly beneficial to your oral health.
- Who should use them: Please, leave picks and scalers to the dental pros. Unlike nylon toothbrush bristles or silk dental floss, this method can harm your teeth because it is far too abrasive for regular use. It can be dangerous for at-home use, as well. After all, one little slip and you could end up with a bloody gum, or worse.
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Well, sometimes your gums need a nice massage, too. For that, a gum stimulator may be your best friend.
- What it does: Gum stimulation promotes blood flow to the gums, which helps keeps them young and healthy.
- Why it’s important: When used together with proper brushing and flossing, gum stimulation helps prevent periodontal disease.
- Who should use it: While it’s good for anyone to stimulate their gums from time to time, dentists typically recommend gum stimulators to help promote healthier gums for people who have receding gums or other gum diseases.
More to Come: The Dental Care Products Overview Continues
Part one of this series featured the tried and true dental care products we all know — toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Next up: teeth whitening, denture care, and some emergency dental care products that you might want to keep handy around your home.
To learn more, read part one and part three of our dental care products overview.
[Editor’s Note: This article is part one of a three part series. You can also read part two and part three.]
The variety of choices we have for dental care products has grown rapidly in the past one hundred years. Some time-tested tools have achieved classic status. The toothbrush and toothpaste come immediately to mind. But the list hardly ends there.
Today, we have electric toothbrushes, water flossers, gum stimulators, whitening products, and denture preparations.
In this three part series we’re going to dig into the details about dental care products.
Part one of our dental care products tour will look at toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash.
The history of the toothbrush goes all the way back to at least 5000 years before the current era (BCE), according to Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S. It all started, he says, with the index finger, which people eventually replaced with “chewing sticks,” a name for the twigs that people simply chewed on. These were first used in ancient Babylonia around 3500-3000 BCE.
Now, flash forward all the way to the 1930s. That’s when the toothbrush, as we know it, finally arrived on the scene thanks to the invention of nylon, which quickly found its way into toothbrushes in the form of bristles.
What it does: Toothbrushes help scrape away food particles and plaque, the film that forms on teeth after eating, which is the primary cause of tooth decay.
Why it’s important: Aside from the fact that chewing on twigs is kind of gross, a sturdy, modern toothbrush is the first and best way to keep your teeth clean and healthy.
Who should use it: Only people who want to keep their teeth.
With electricity came a whole flood of inventions that just as quickly disappeared or never even saw the light of day. We’re thinking, for example, of Thomas Edison’s epic fail, the electric pen, which, rather than push ink, poked holes. (Seriously, you can look it up.) The electric toothbrush, on the other hand, is here to stay.
What it does: Just what a manual toothbrush does, but with far less manual work on your part.
Why it’s important: According to Consumer Reports, it might not be all that important. “In the past, Consumer Reports has said electric and manual toothbrushes are equally effective as long as you brush teeth thoroughly for 2 minutes, twice a day. An electric toothbrush may help, however, if you have arthritis or a dexterity problem that makes thorough brushing difficult.”
Who should use it: Anyone who is able to use a manual toothbrush should be able to use an electric one. Kids, of course, may need a little help at first. And if arthritis or another problem affects your ability to use a manual toothbrush, an electric brush may be just what you need.
When did toothpaste make it’s first appearance, you ask? According to Dr. Connelly, “ancient Egyptians were making a ‘tooth powder’ as far back as 5000 BC.” This tooth powder, he says was the first toothpaste. It “consisted of ash from ox hooves, myrrh, eggshell fragments and pumice,” he notes. Tasty.
What it does: Like soap, toothpaste lubricates and traps dirt – food particles, plaque, and other germs, in this case – so they can be rinsed away more easily, leaving the teeth clean, or at least cleaner than before.
Why it’s important: While brushing goes a long way toward getting teeth clean, brushing with toothpaste can be an even more effective combination. Dentists recommend you use toothpaste with fluoride.
Who should use it: Just about everyone. Talk with your dentist about the right type for you and your family members.
How did there get to be so many rinses to choose from? And how can you narrow it down to make the best choice?
Well, it may help to know that there are three basic categories of mouthwash: antiseptic rinses, mouthwashes that contain fluoride, and ones that offer cosmetic benefits.
What they do: The antiseptic type is intended to help fight tooth decay. It attacks plaque, the film of bacteria that would otherwise build up on the surface of your teeth. Mouthwashes with fluoride also help fight tooth decay. However, they work by making the enamel surfaces of your teeth resist plaque better. Finally, the cosmetic mouthwashes do little more than mask bad breath, though they may taste or feel refreshing as well.
Why it’s important: Using a dental rinse may be very important in some cases, and it may not be recommended at all in other situations.
Who should use it: Depending on a person’s situation and whom you ask, the question whether to use a daily mouthwash or oral rinse may have different answers.
Unlike toothbrush and toothpaste, there is some leeway for when and if to use mouthwash as part of a dental hygiene routine. So, it’s important to discuss mouthwash use with your dentist.
The Dental Care Products Overview as Just Begun
Today, many dental care products vie for our attention. We’re all pretty familiar with the top 3 covered in this post. However, do you know what all those other products are for, why they’re important, or who should be using them?
To learn more, read part two and part three of our dental care product overview.
In your efforts to save money and also keep your current dentist, have you ever had a conversation like the following:
You: Hi, I just have a quick question. Do you accept Delta Dental insurance plans…?
Your dentist’s receptionist: Yes we do.
You: Okay, thanks!
Millions of people have that exact same conversation, about Delta Dental or any number of dental plans. Like you, they probably think it means they’re going to be able to keep their current dentist and also pay the lowest rates.
However, if that’s your goal, you need to ask a different question.
The Question You Should Really Be Asking
So, if you want to keep your dentist and save money on dental care, what’s the question you should really be asking? And whom should you ask?
The best way to learn if you can keep your dentist and pay less is to ask both your dentist and the plan carrier or provider. And the question to ask is this: Is the dentist under contract as part of the specific dental insurance plan’s preferred provider network?
Learn more: 5 Things You Should Know About PPOs
We need to pay close attention to many details when it comes to insurance products. Dental insurance is no different. Some of the most common issues we hear from people have to do with the difference between in and out of network dental. How do the costs compare? Can I keep my own dentist?
And why not? Most people love their dentists. We want to do whatever it takes to remain with them if possible. So, for instance, folks will shop for dental insurance and, before buying a plan, call to ask if their dentist “accepts” the plan.
Alert: This is when paying close attention to the details can make a big difference.
The truth is, dentists may accept any number of dental plans. But that doesn’t mean they are in the plans’ preferred provider groups. Being a preferred provider makes a dentist part of a plan’s official network of dentists. That’s where the term “in network” comes from. And being in network or in a plan’s preferred provider pool is the real key to helping you save money.
Why all this confusion over network dental insurance?
Dentists want to keep you and your teeth healthy. However, they tend to leave the money saving part to you and your insurance provider. After all, that’s why you have a dental plan – to help you pay. Of course, dentists are running a business, as well, and contracting to be included in various carriers’ preferred provider pools is one of the ways they attract new patients and keep established ones happy.
…being in network or in a plan’s preferred provider pool is the real key to helping you save money.
Getting into the network requires your dentist to sign a contract with the plan provider. They agree to charge the plan’s lower rates for their dental work. Your dentist cannot be a part of every provider’s network. Like you, they have to choose carefully which plans to sign contracts with based on many, sometimes conflicting, considerations.
When you ask the dentist or her receptionist if they “accept” a dental plan, they answer you in an honest and efficient way. They don’t waste time probing to see whether you really understand the question you’ve asked. But the truth is, you haven’t really asked whether using a certain plan will help you remain under their care and also save some money on dental work. That is not the question they hear.
Until they’ve signed a contract to join the plan’s preferred provider network, they may in fact accept the plan but still have every right to charge higher rates than an in-network dentist would charge for the work they do. And when they do, you, not the plan, will have to pay the difference in cost.
Shop Your Dental Options Like a Pro
It’s a classic case of the heart vs. the head or emotions vs. logic. No one wants to pay more than needed for dental care. And no one wants to leave the dentist they’ve grown to know and trust just to save a few dollars.
So remember, the question to ask is this: Is the dentist under contract as part of the specific dental insurance plan’s preferred provider network? Be sure you ask your dentist and the plan’s carrier.
It’s a clear and unambiguous question. A simple yes or no will do. And, with confirmation of “in network” status from both your dentist and the plan carrier, you’ll be free to move forward with your dental work with confidence and then get on with something a little more interesting.
Thanks for reading, and please share!
Read next: Dental Insurance Companies: An Overview