Open Enrollment--It’s that time of year again
As the leaves turn and fall sets in, the season brings with it the annual open enrollment period for health insurance. As health care costs rise, it might be tempting to opt out of dental coverage for your family to save the monthly premium dollars. However, that might not be the right move. Why not, you ask?
Oral health is a very important part of your overall health. Simple untreated cavities can lead to more serious problems, such as gum disease and infection. Oral infections can spread to other parts of the body, leading to serious illness and in rare cases, can be fatal. Oral health problems contribute to days lost from school and work, lower grades for students, difficulty eating, drinking and talking. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that ⅕ school-age children have at least 1 untreated decayed tooth, as do ⅔ of adolescents. Often, the reason cavities go undetected for long periods of time (or until the problem becomes severe), is because of the cost of dental care and financial burden of paying out of pocket for such services.
The American Dental Association reported that in 2013, the average cost of dental procedures was $685 per person, ranging from $74 to over $1600 per person. As you can see, the cost of dental work if paid out of pocket is significant. The best way to prevent serious oral health conditions is to have regular preventative care, which people will often skip if they do not have insurance to cover it.
Most dental insurance plans cover 100% of preventive services, which include periodic exams, x-rays, and sealants to protect the teeth. Most also cover the majority of basic repair procedures, such as fillings with a small, set out of pocket amount (deductible or co-pay) plus a small percentage of the cost of the procedure (co-insurance) to be paid by the patient. These costs vary by dental plan, but can be as low as $25 plus 20% of the cost of the procedure, while the insurance plan covers the majority of the cost.
Of course, each situation is different. If you are a single person with good oral health and enough savings to pay out of pocket for routine examinations or if a problem arises, you may find that it is cheaper for you to pay out of pocket for your dental care. However, if you have children who will need routine examinations, it will likely save more money in the long run to pay the monthly premium for the dental insurance rather than to pay out of pocket costs for multiple people to have preventative exams, sealants, x-rays and possibly very costly procedures for cavities or other oral health problems.
But no matter what you decide to do with your dental insurance next year, remember that oral health is a very important part of our overall health and we should all have regular check-ups with our dentist to both prevent oral health problems and to catch problems as early as possible to prevent serious issues.