Use it or lose it: tips for using your dental insurance

When discussing dental insurance benefits, the cliche phrase “use it or lose it” really applies. Most dental insurance plans allow that many dollars per calendar year, and any dollars not used are lost. Moreover, the same philosophy applies to flexible spending or health savings accounts, which force you to forfeit the remaining money you paid for. Therefore, it is in your best interest to use these benefits every year before they expire and your money is lost.

With the end of the year fast approaching and only a few short months left to maximize your dental insurance, I thought some tips for educating patients would be valuable.

Before scheduling a dental appointment, call your insurance company to find out the exact amount of your unspent dental fees. In addition, ask them what is covered by your policy. Typically, preventive procedures such as cleanings, x-rays, and dental exams are covered, while cosmetic procedures, such as bleaching and veneers, are not. While most dentists have staff who check this for you, it’s always nice to walk into the office knowing what your out-of-pocket expenses might be.

When you call your dentist’s office, make sure you book an appointment not only for yourself, but also for eligible family members. However, remember that many dental offices may see an influx of patients at this time, and the sooner you call, the more likely your dentist will be able to schedule the appointments for your family.

Sometimes it is possible and beneficial to complete dental treatment in stages. This works nicely at the end of the year and the beginning of the following year. Depending on your individual needs, careful planning to maximize your remaining benefits for 2013 while completing the rest of your treatment in early 2014 may pay you more than waiting to do all treatments next year. But it’s important to keep in mind that when insurance is renewed, there may be changes to coverage, including changes to covered procedures and co=pays.

Saving money shouldn’t be your only motivation when visiting the dentist. Routine dental visits can detect early problems such as gum disease and oral cancer. In addition, it is important to remember that even a small hole left untreated can turn into a larger, more expensive dental problem in the future.

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Make sure you use your dental insurance before you lose them!