Gambling: I Have No Dental Insurance

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Every since I quit my job in July, I have had no dental insurance. I just had x-rays and a cleaning in June, so I figured I was good at least until the end of the year. As Open Enrollment is here, I have decided not to be added onto my wife’s dental plan again for 2006. Here are my reasons why:

» It costs an additional $45 a month (pre-tax). So that would be about $540 pre-tax or $390 a year post-tax.
» I have never had a cavity (knock on virtual wood) or any other tooth issue, floss and brush, and I get regular cleanings.
» I am still going to get the semi-annual cleanings and maintenance stuff. If I pay cash, my dentist (who I like and want to stay with) says it will cost about $200 a year. Not a bad annual savings.

» If I do get an HSA Plan like I want, I’d be able to pay for dental costs out of the Health Savings Plan, which is tax deductible. That means I’d be saving even more.

If something horrible happens to my face, health insurance should pay for it. If I crack a tooth or something, then my gamble will have back-fired. Guess I won’t be playing tackle football this Thanksgiving…

» $100 annual deductible before any coverage happens.
» $1,500 annual maximum benefit
» Already had braces and wisdom teeth removed.

So best case scenario, but more likely: Save over $200. Worse case and unliely, lose a maximum of $1400 of coverage (1500-100 deductible). I can handle $1,400.

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  1. You’re assuming a lot of risk for $190(+copays, etc) in annual savings (assuming you don’t go the HSA route).

  2. Yeah, I went through my 20’s and early 30’s without any dental problems, brush and floss regularly, blah blah blah. But you get old, and by 34 I was making extra trips back to the dentist. Something to keep in mind…

  3. I don’t disagree, but I also forgot some things (added to original post). We’re basically looking at fillings, root canals, crowns, bridges, and dentures. All very unlikely in my opinion, but not impossible. Are there sudden root canals?

    Not saying everyone should do this, but with the $1500 max benefit in place anyways, I deem the gamble worth it =)

  4. I’m with you Jonathon.
    In a sense, you are insuring yourself, and if you only had a max benefit of $1500, those premiums are steep.

    Worst case scenario, you lose half your teeth and look like you should be the guy stepping out of your run down single wide on a rerun episode of “Cops”.

  5. I decided to go the HSA route myself as well. I’ve had my fair share of fillings/etc, but even so, dental work isn’t in the millions. And yes, there are sudden needs for root canals. And no, they aren’t much fun when you need them. 🙂

  6. Yeah I think my wisdom teeth will need to be pulled eventually. If you get regular checkups there won’t be sudden root canals (unless you severly abuse your teeth between checkup/cleanings).

  7. Jim,

    My dental insurance didn’t want to cover the extraction of my wisdom teeth. They considered it to be a preventive procedure, and wouldn’t cover it. Had they been impacted (still buried in gum tissue) then it would have been covered by my medical insurance. I ended up appealing the denial and somehow got them to overturn it despite the fact that they were actually correct in denying it (according to the terms of the policy).


  8. I would be very careful with this. I don’t have tooth problems typically, but I cracked a tooth and was in sudden and immediate pain. Even with dental insurance, I was out $1000…and I used my $1500 maximum. It’s not life shattering (the life shattering dental issues aren’t covered by insurance at all!) but it can be significant.

  9. How did you crack the tooth? Just by eating something normally? Have you had cavities before? Thanks for your input, I guess we’ll see if this was a stupid decision or not later.

  10. savvysaver says

    I think you are making a wise gamble. $45 per month is a lot to spend on dental insurance, especially in your case and with a $100 deductible. Go to the dentist for your regular check ups, brush and floss, and to save a few extra bucks, skip the flouride treatment at the dentist’s office. It’s just OTC ACT or other flouride treatment, and it hasn’t been proven that flouride even does any good.

  11. This isn’t a gamble I would personally make, though it sounds like the risk is worthwhile for you. My dental coverage only costs me $3.50 a month, which is really worth it for me– they cover 100% of routine cleanings, and 50-80% on most other stuff. Even though I take good care of my teeth I’ve always been prone to cavities here and there for some reaon, so I do everything I can to try to avoid the eventual root canal, crown, etc.

  12. I actually had broken a piece of the tooth off a long time ago, and it eventually cracked the whole way through. So, it’s probably not typical that it would happen suddenly, but it’s not out of the question. A lot of adults clench their teeth at night, and men in particular can break molars doing this. I do not have cavities or other problems typically, so the expense was a huge shock. You are most likely going to be fine, but for me the slight bit of doubt leads me to think I will probably buy dental insurance the rest of my life.

  13. I personally don’t take good enough care of my teeth to go this route (I despise flossing but am bullied into it—most of the time—by my dentist). However, I’d give you a whole-hearted “Go for it!” Sure, accidents can happen. My husband chipped teeth when he fell from a climbing wall (of course, he also broke his back and leg, so the teeth really were not high on the priority list).

    But I imagine that most visits to the dentist are due to lack of care (like mine! I’m numb from a filling right now), not accidents. You know how much it could potentially cost you, and it’s a calculated risk. I think your odds are good.

  14. Easton Ellsworth says

    I love health savings accounts, but I’ve found that some people may be better off with dental insurance the old-fashioned way. In your case, since you’re so healthy, I’d say it’s less of a gamble and more of a carefully taken decision that could well backfire on you. It sounds like the HSA will be well worth it for you, though.

  15. I used to be a benefits consultant, selling the dental plans you could have enrolled in at your job to your CFO or HR Director.

    As per 2 years ago, the average expense per person (it varies by geography) per year for dental insurance claims is about $125-150 a year.

    Of course, you results could be higher becuse you are one person, but you sound better off self insuring until you are older epescially with $45 premiums.

    Also, always remeber that dentists are great to negotitate with. They generally have to wait 60-90 days to get paid by insurance companies. I have always been able to get them to give me the reduced rates that they give in-network insurance folks by paying up front, also many will give you an additional 10% if you pay cash. Ask and ye shall recieve

  16. dentists = con artists who pull their biggest rip offs on cash patients.

  17. I DO NOT think this is wise decision. I had insurance… and had ONE cavity. After I aged out of my mothers I still went for regular cleanings and paid out of pocket. I changed nothing about my routine. Flossing, brushing, routine cleanings. I got a big cavity. That was over $200 right there. Then they decided that it the decay was deep and the tooth couldnt be saved (mind you i just payed over $200 to have it filled.) So now i need a root canal. I have for about a year… the tooth is not absessed so ive been waiting… taking motrin when it bothers me and chewing on the other side of my mouth ALL the time. Well that caught up with me too… i now have three cavities over there. I had ONE filled today. $160 and have to wait to do the others till i have more money. I have beautiful teeth. Just not my lucky year. All im trying to say is YES root canals do come out of the blue and the pain in your pocket is worse than the pain in your mouth. I am a teacher at a private school that does not offer dental insurance. Next year i will have to leave and go public. Ive realized dental is WORTH having. Because You NEVER know. and 1,5000 is not enough of a buffer… all my work is $2500.

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