If your employer doesn't offer dental insurance as a benefit, learn how, when, and where you can enroll in an individual or family dental plan on your own.
Nearly 50% of Americans rely on employer-sponsored health insurance. In many cases, it’s a big factor to consider when you’re on the hunt for a new job — or why you keep your current one.
Though you can expect to see some type of health insurance coverage offered by your employer, sometimes you might not see dental benefits in your new hire packet. (That’s because employers are not legally required to offer things like dental insurance or vision insurance as a benefit.)
There’s also a chance that you’ve been at your job for a while, and during the latest employer-sponsored Open Enrollment cycle, you notice that dental insurance has been cut from the benefit list.
On the other hand, if you have recently experienced a job loss or other qualifying event, you should be eligible to keep your previous coverage under COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. But those benefits have a time limit of usually 18 months — which means if you’re still on the job hunt, choose to remain unemployed, or decide to become self-employed, figuring out how to get dental benefits might be on your mind.
So whatever your situation, don’t worry — you have options. (That are worth smiling about!) Read on to hear more about them.
How to get dental coverage if your employer does not offer it
There are two ways you can get dental coverage if your employer doesn’t offer it as a benefit: you can find your own plan through a private insurance company, or pay for dental services as you need them.
1. Finding a dental plan through a private insurance company
Though it might sound intimidating at first, getting an individual or family dental plan is easy — sometimes all it takes is just 10 minutes. What the tricky part may be, however, is figuring out the type of dental plan that best fits your needs. (Especially if you’ve never had to think about this before, if you’ve always had employer-provided coverage in the past.)
First, it’s important to learn the kinds of dental plans that are available. There are dental Preferred Provider Organizations, dental Health Maintenance Organizations, and dental indemnity plans. Head here to get a breakdown of each type of plan to find the best one for you.
Next, you’ll want to figure out your budget and your dental needs. If your teeth are in shiny-white shape, consider a plan with a high deductible and a low monthly payment. Or, if you’ve had a history of major dental work in the past, consider the opposite. A big perk to finding a dental plan on your own is that you can get a plan that you’ll get the most out of — at the lowest possible cost. It might take some research, but it’s out there!
Some other things to consider while searching for plans are your current dental care team (are they in-network with your potential new plan?), and your coverage structure. Most dental plans follow a 100-80-50 structure, which means:
Preventative care costs are usually 100% covered, and include procedures like exams, cleanings twice per year, bitewing x-rays, fluoride treatments to age 14, and brush biopsy.
Minor care costs are 80% covered, which includes emergency palliative (pain) treatment, radiographs and diagnostic imaging, periodontal cleaning, and other minor restorative services.
Major dental care costs are 50% covered, which can be denture and bridge repairs and relines, extractions and dental surgery, root canals, periodontic services, prosthodontic services (like implants and veneers), crown and cast restorations, and other major services.
2. Pay-as-you-go dental care
If you’ve never had a cavity (teach us your ways!) and are at a relatively low risk for dental-related accidents or emergencies, you might be tempted to skip out on a dental insurance plan for a while and pay for your cleanings and services as you go.
It’s unlikely this method will put you in as much of a financial risk as skipping out on health insurance, for example. But it still could leave you with a big, unexpected bill if you’re not careful — which is why we recommend dental insurance. But if you decide to go with this option, whether it’s for the short or long term, there are ways to save on your dental care.
Maintain good oral hygiene. You know the rules — brush twice a day, floss once a day, limit your sugar intake, and consider adding mouthwash to your routine.
Visit a dental school. Dental schools run various clinics that offer dental services at reduced prices.
Prioritize preventive dental care. If you opt for a pay-as-you-go method, don’t skip out on your twice-annual cleanings. You’ll be able to catch problems early, and ultimately save money on your care in the long run.
Use your HSA or FSA dollars. Did you know? You can use your HSA or FSA dollars on your routine cleanings and other dental services.
If you're not sure that your budget is flexible enough for this method, consider checking out a low-cost dental plan. For a small monthly premium, you (and your wallet) will have much more peace of mind — because you never know when a toothache might strike.
When you can enroll in dental coverage
Unlike health insurance, you don’t have to wait for a qualifying event or an Open Enrollment period to get coverage. You can enroll in a dental insurance plan at any point in the calendar year — even while you’re reading this blog! But in many cases, there might be a catch.
Some plans might require a waiting period (after you’ve enrolled in coverage, that is) that can range from six months to a full year before any standard work can be done. So if your situation has changed, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan in place before anything happens.
Where you can search for dental insurance plans
If you’ve never had to purchase your own insurance policy in the past, figuring out where to get a plan might seem overwhelming at first. That’s why Kasasa Care has partnered with KindHealth and Renaissance Dental to make things easy. Answer three questions and in a few minutes, you’ll have a curated list of dental plans to choose from. Once you find the plan you like best, you can enroll online in a couple of clicks. (Or you can always give KindHealth’s Licensed Advisors a call if you have any questions!) Before you know it, you’ll be back in your dentist’s chair getting your pearly whites squeaky-clean.
Adding dependents to your dental coverage
You can easily add dependents during signup. But if you currently have coverage and would like to add your spouse or children, here’s what you need to check on first:
If your dependents are eligible to enroll in dental coverage under your plan. A dependent is defined as a child or other individual for whom a parent, relative, or other person may claim for a tax deduction. Generally speaking, it’s your spouse, children under 26, and/or family members with a disability.
If you’re experiencing a qualifying life event. If you’re losing coverage from your employer or if you’re leaving your job, you’ll qualify for a 30- to 60-day Special Enrollment Period. During this window, you can add dependents to your dental plan. (Other, more celebratory-worthy events like getting married or having a baby also mean you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.)
How much your new dental insurance premium costs after making changes to your plan. You might notice a change in your dental insurance premium once any dependents are added. Make a note of this change in your household budget so you can prepare accordingly.
What to do after you enroll in a dental insurance plan
Once you enroll in your dental insurance plan all on your own (congrats, by the way!), you’re probably wondering what you need to do next to take advantage of all the benefits.
Spend some time understanding your new policy. From coverage limitations to additional costs, make sure you’re aware of the fine print. If you need help translating insurance speak (we’ve been there), give a KindHealth Licensed Advisor a call. They’re here to answer all your care questions — long (or soon) after you enroll in a plan.
Choose a primary dentist. Some plans, like a dental HMO, may require this. But if you’re on a plan that doesn’t, it’s best to still search around and find the dentist you think will be your go-to for the upcoming year.
Schedule your first teeth cleaning. Though you may have a waiting period for major or minor dental services, you can take advantage of a fully-covered preventive cleaning as soon as day one of your policy. Time to get those pearly whites shining!
Finding a dental plan on your own can seem confusing. And if you’ve always had employer-provided coverage in the past, this change might come with a lot of uncertainty. But rest assured, you’ll be able to find the coverage you need at a price that’ll make you smile. All it takes is an assessment of your needs and budget, and a few minutes of your time. Who knew it could be this easy?