How Does Dental Insurance Work| Detailed Guide

How Does Dental Insurance Work
How Does Dental Insurance Work

Individual and family health insurance policies do not cover dental and vision insurance. Dental care, on the other hand, is equally important for a person’s well-being. The right dental insurance policy can help you stay healthy and maintain the health of your teeth. Dental insurance can also provide you with much-needed peace of mind, especially given the high cost of dental work. A good dental insurance policy will cover everything from routine exams and cleanings to more complex procedures like root canals and extractions. So, how does braces dental insurance work? So, first and foremost, let us define dental insurance.

Most dental plans fall into one of three categories: those provided by employers, those purchased on their own, or “riders” that are included with medical insurance. Whether you already have coverage or are considering adding dental benefits, it’s critical to understand the fundamentals of how dental insurance works for braces, which we’ll go over below.

What Is Dental Insurance?

Dental insurance provides coverage to assist with the cost of dental care. Unless your employer provides it for free, you will usually have to pay a premium to have coverage.

These policies frequently include deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance that you must pay when you receive care. You may also be required to stay within the provider network of your dental insurance plan, and most policies have a maximum amount that they will spend on your dental care.

Many people obtain dental insurance through their employer, which is usually separate from their health insurance. Individual or family dental insurance policies can also be purchased directly from dental insurance companies.

What is Typically Covered by Dental Insurance Policies?

Dental plan benefits, like other types of health coverage, vary by plan and insurance company. Always look at the plan’s benefits documents to learn more about what it covers. A dental insurance policy will typically cover the following:

  • Routine checkups and cleanings, typically twice a year (out-of-pocket copay may be required)
  • Fillings for cavities
  • Extraction of teeth
  • X-rays
  • Crowns, bridges, and implants 
  • Root canal work and other necessary repairs
  • Dental devices (e.g., retainers)
  • Oral surgery and other emergency dental procedures

Please keep in mind that certain dental equipment or services may be covered, but only to varying degrees. Typically, all preventive care costs, such as cleanings, are covered. Other procedures, such as fillings or emergency oral surgery, may require you to pay more. You may be required to pay a deductible before coverage for these procedures kicks in. For preventive care, this is usually waived.

What is Typically not Covered by Dental Insurance Plans

While most dental insurance plans cover basic dental work and preventive work, some procedures are not covered by many. Composite (tooth-colored) fillings are a prime example of this. Coverage is frequently limited to amalgam (silver) fillings, with policyholders responsible for the difference if they prefer composite fillings.

  • Orthodontic procedures (braces)
  • Dental care for an existing medical condition
  • Cosmetic procedures like tooth whitening

Of course, every dental insurance policy is different, so policyholders should review their coverage limits to determine how it works and what is not covered in their specific case.

How Does Dental Insurance work?

Unless you have free coverage through your employer, you must pay premiums to the dental insurance company to have coverage. If you get insurance through your job, you can have the premiums taken out of your paycheck or pay the company monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Dental insurance costs include more than just premiums. When you require care, you must also pay out-of-pocket expenses. Dental insurance companies have annual maximums as well. These caps limit the amount of money the company will pay for your dental care. Let’s take a closer look at the various out-of-pocket expenses.


A deductible is the amount of money you pay toward covered services before your dental insurance company begins to pay for care. For example, if you have a $100 annual deductible, you must pay for services up to that amount before the company will pay.


After you’ve met your annual deductible, you and the insurance company split the cost of services.

Assume you receive $200 in dental services but have yet to pay your $100 deductible. In that case, you would pick up the first $100 and then split the remaining $100 with the dental insurance company. If your coinsurance is 20%/80%, you would pay $20 and your insurance company would pay $80. That means your total bill for the $200 in dental services would be $120.

Maximum annual coverage

The annual coverage maximum of a plan is the maximum amount your dental insurance will pay toward the cost of dental services during a benefit plan year.

When you file a claim for dental care, your insurance company will deduct the amount they paid for the service from your annual maximum coverage. When you reach the annual maximum, you are solely responsible for the cost of any additional dental services you receive until the next plan year begins.

Let’s say your maximum coverage per year is $1,500 and you get $3,000 worth of dental care during the plan year. Any costs in excess of $1,500 would be your responsibility until the next plan year. In that case, you would be responsible for the remaining $1,500 that the insurance company did not pay.

How Does Dental Insurance Reimbursement Work

Most dental insurance plans require you to show your insurance card at the time of service. The dental office submits a claim for reimbursement to your insurance company, and the company pays the dentist what it owes and bills you for what you owe.

Many dentists will check to see if you have dental insurance before doing any work on you. They will also confirm the amount paid by the insurance company and the amount you must pay. Your out-of-pocket payment may be requested before or following dental treatment. Your dentist may file a claim with your insurance company to be reimbursed, or you may be required to file the claim.

How Does Dental Insurance Work For Braces

Cost is likely at the top of your mind when considering braces for yourself or your child. Braces are expensive for most people, which is why it’s critical to determine whether your dental insurance will cover part or all of the cost. However, determining whether and how much braces treatment is covered can be difficult.

Will My Insurance Pay for Braces?

If you have children under the age of 18, insurance companies must provide you with the option of purchasing dental insurance that meets the criteria of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, whether or not you obtain dental insurance is entirely up to you. It is important to note that dental insurance is not required for children, and you will not be penalized if you do not have it.

When looking for an answer to the question “does insurance cover braces?” Remember that coverage varies from plan to plan. Some plans, for example, only cover preventive care and partial restorative treatments. Others may have more extensive coverage at the same time.

Some private insurance plans, such as Medicare, may cover some of the costs of braces, including the procedure itself. They may, however, still require you to pay certain fees, such as co-payments.

When shopping for dental insurance plans, compare the features and benefits to see if braces are covered. You should also pay close attention to any restrictions on braces coverage. For example, it may only apply to braces required for specific conditions or up to a certain age.

What to Know About How Dental Insurance and Braces Work

Many dental insurance plans cover braces, but there are some restrictions and important details to keep in mind. Karrenbrock points out that you must select a plan that covers braces, but even then, they must be deemed medically necessary.

#1. Restrictions

Other restrictions apply to orthodontia coverage. “A common restriction is that braces are only covered once in a lifetime,” explains Dr. Pinto. “If you had braces in the past and need them again because you didn’t wear your retainer, they won’t be covered.” That restriction applies even if you start a new job and get a new insurance plan from the same insurance company. Another significant limitation is age. Karrenbrock points out that most dental insurance plans require you to be under the age of 18, but Dr. Pinto says some won’t cover braces for anyone over the age of 16.

#2. Medicare

According to Karrenbrock, Medicare does not typically cover dental expenses. “The majority of people with Medicare choose a separate dental insurance plan,” he says.

#3. Using HSAs and FSAs to Pay

According to Karrenbrock, while funds in health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) can be used to pay for dental bills, the cost is the same. “You’d just get the tax advantages of the HSA/FSA account,” he adds.

Alternatives to How Dental Insurance for Braces Work

Treatments such as Invisalign, retainers, headgear, and veneers are common alternatives to braces. Some dental insurance plans cover them, though your out-of-pocket costs may be higher than for other services. “Treatments like Invisalign are still covered, but in many cases, they are considered upgraded services,” says Dr. Pinto.

“It is understood that if you choose Invisalign, you are selecting a premium service—not the standard braces that your insurance covers—and that you will be responsible for the difference between what your doctor charges for Invisalign and what your insurance provider pays.”

Finding a Dental Insurance Plan That Work for Braces

Karrenbrock recommends working with a broker who can help you shop for the best dental insurance plan for you. “In general, you should look for a plan that covers ‘orthodontia,’ and look into the plan’s limitations or exclusions,” he says.

What Are the Benefits of Having Dental Insurance?

Dental insurance can provide the following benefits:

Reduced out-of-pocket expenses for non-preventative dental care:

You must pay the full cost of dental treatments and procedures if you do not have dental insurance. Your insurance company bargains with the dentists in its network to reduce your costs. This is how a dental plan can help you avoid the high costs of dental care.

Preventive dental care is free:

Most dental plans cover routine preventive dental care completely. Every six months, these plans include a dental exam, cleaning, and x-rays. Fluoride and other pediatric preventive dental care may also be included for children.

Good dental health influences other aspects of health as well:

Good dental health can assist you in identifying health issues before they become major. Your dentist not only cleans and polishes your teeth during your regular oral exam, but they also check your entire mouth, throat, and tongue for cancer and other potentially serious issues. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy can also help you avoid serious health issues such as heart disease. Poor oral health can exacerbate pre-existing health issues such as diabetes and coronary artery disease.

How to Save Money on Dental Insurance

Dental insurance costs can quickly add up, but remember that paying for it monthly may end up saving you money in the long run if you need a major procedure or braces. That being said, here are a few pointers to keep in mind when shopping:

  • Enroll in an employer-sponsored plan. This strategy is recommended by both Karrenbrock and Dr. Pinto. “It’s much cheaper, the benefits are generally better, and there are no waiting periods,” Dr. Pinto says.
  • Avoid purchasing individual dental insurance. Dr. Pinto believes it isn’t worth it because of the higher cost, longer wait times, and additional restrictions. “Due to the waiting period, most individual plans cover little more than cleanings and exams for the first six months to a year,” she adds.
  • Look for a membership-based practice. According to Dr. Pinto, some dental practices offer a membership that includes certain treatments and has lower annual fees.

“These membership plans were unheard of just a few years ago, but they’ve become much more commonplace and can be a fantastic option,” she says. Just keep in mind that these plans only allow you to receive care at that one dental practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use my dental insurance immediately?

Most dental insurance policies require a six-twelve-month waiting period before performing any restorative work. Routine exams and cleanings should be scheduled as soon as possible.

Is there a limit to your dental benefit each year?

Yes, most plans have a benefit cap of $1,000 to $2,000 per year. Patients pay 100% of their dental costs once that limit is reached.

Does dental insurance cover preventive care?

Yes, most dental insurance plans cover preventive care, and in many cases, up to 100% of the cost. Exams, X-rays, basic dental cleanings, and fluoride/sealant treatments are examples of preventive care.

Does dental insurance have waiting periods?

A dental waiting period is the amount of time you must wait before your dental plan will cover a service. For example, this could be six or twelve months from the start of your plan.

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