What can happen if you don’t have dental insurance?

Very few people enjoy paying for health insurance, myself included. However, there’s one type of insurance I don’t mind paying a bit lately: dental insurance.

How dental insurance works

There are several types of dental insurance, but the most common require you to pay a deductible that is determined by the plan, and the plan will cover up to a certain amount per year for services. For each service, the dentist and insurance company have an agreed upon rate, 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, a dentist’s price for a filling might be $319, but the negotiated rate with your insurance company might be only $200. Your plan might cover 90% of the fillings, for which you would then have to pay the other 10%, or $20. Pay.

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

What can happen if you are uninsured

About three years ago I turned 26 and could no longer stay on my parent’s health insurance, which included dental coverage. At the same time, I was also in graduate school, teaching only part-time. I did some research and found a great medical plan through the health insurance marketplace and decided it wouldn’t be a problem to forego dental coverage until I graduated from college (I needed every penny I could save!). 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 enroll. I found a dentist, scheduled a checkup, went to that checkup, and got some pretty awful dental news. Because I’m putting off getting dental insurance (and thus putting off going to the dentist), I’m faced with dozens of procedures — ranging from fillings to root canals to crowns — that need to be performed.

You’re probably thinking, “but you have dental insurance to pay for that,” and that’s partially true. However, dental insurance only covers up to a certain amount per year, as I said. For my plan, this is $1500, and with all the work I have to do, that number will be far exceeded… surpassed by thousands.

Words of advice

My dentist strongly recommends that I don’t delay these procedures until my insurance restarts next year (trust me, I asked). He tells me that “if you’re waiting for insurance, you’ll always be waiting for insurance.” At first I found his words harsh, but now I totally agree. If I just wait and get some work done when the insurance covers it, I’ll always try to catch up, which will probably only cause more problems in the meantime.

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

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