What can happen when you don’t have dental insurance

Very few people LIKE paying for health insurance, myself included. However, there is one type of insurance that I recently don’t mind paying a bit for, dental insurance.

How dental insurance works

There are different types of dental insurance, but the most common usually requires you to pay a deductible dictated by the plan, and the plan will cover up to a certain amount per year for services. For each service, the dentist and the insurance provider have an agreed fee, which is usually less than the full price of the service. The plan also (usually) only covers a certain percentage of the negotiated price for the service you receive. For example, the price of a filling from a dentist may be $319, but the rate negotiated with her insurance provider may be only $200. Your plan may cover 90% of the fillings, which will require you to pay the other 10%, or $20, for it.

Understanding how dental insurance works is certainly important, but what I think may be even more important is understanding why you should have it. I’m a walking advertisement for dental insurance.

What can happen when you don’t have insurance

About three years ago, I turned 26 and could no longer stay on my parents’ health insurance plan, which included dental coverage. At the same time, I was also in graduate school and only teaching part-time. I did some research and found a major medical plan through the health insurance marketplace and decided it wouldn’t be a big deal to give up dental coverage until I finished grad school (I needed every penny I could spare!). This was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my adult life.

Two and a half years later, I was offered dental insurance through a new job and decided to sign up. I found a dentist, scheduled a checkup, went in for said checkup, and received some pretty terrible dental news. Because I put off getting dental insurance (and therefore putting off going to the dentist), I found myself with dozens of procedures, ranging from fillings to root canals to crowns, that need to be done.

You’re probably thinking, “but you have dental insurance to pay for that,” and that’s partly true. However, dental insurance only covers up to a certain amount each year, as I mentioned. For my plan, this is $1,500, and with all the work I need to do, that amount will be far exceeded… surpassed by thousands.

words of advice

My dentist strongly recommends that I don’t put off these procedures until my insurance restarts next year (trust me, I asked). He tells me that “if you’re going to wait for insurance, you’re always going to be waiting for insurance.” At first his words seemed harsh to me, but now I completely agree. If I just wait and do a little when insurance covers it, I’ll always be trying to catch up, probably leading to more problems in the meantime.

I understand that not everyone will experience the same dental mishap that I do, but I also had no idea that I would encounter so many problems. If I had any indication of the problems, I definitely would have sucked it up and just bought dental insurance along with my Obamacare plan on the marketplace. That being said, you really never know and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Lesson learned.

So please learn from my mistakes. Get dental insurance, get your exams, fill a cavity here and there so you don’t end up like me and have to have a cavity almost EVERYWHERE.

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