Even if you already have healthcare coverage, you may need dental insurance to help you avoid getting hit with unexpected out-of-pocket costs. For instance, the average cost of a dental bridge for a single missing tooth is around $2,500.1
The costs of dental insurance can vary based on your provider or where you live. Choosing a dental plan that works for your needs could help you plan for emergencies and manage the costs of preventive dental care.
Dental insurance costs at-a-glance
Most dental plans will include a few different categories of costs that define the coverage. These include premiums, copays, coinsurance, deductibles and annual maximums.2
The premium is a monthly amount that you and/or your employer pays for insurance. The premium amount may vary between different insurance companies and from plan to plan. A typical premium amount for a dental plan may be $20–$50 per month for an individual or $50–$150 per month for a family.3
For many services covered under dental plans, the insurance company doesn’t pay for the full amount. The copay is the amount you pay for a dental treatment or service. Once you’ve paid the copay, your insurance will typically cover the rest of the cost.4
Many dental insurance plans require a deductible. This is the amount of money you must pay before your insurance benefits begin to take effect. Most preferred provider organizations (PPO) dental plans require that you pay a deductible.5
The coinsurance determines what percentage of the dental service your insurance will cover. For example, if the insurance coinsurance is 90%, then the insurance company will pay 90%, and you will pay 10% of the covered charges.6
The annual maximum is the total amount that your insurance will pay each year. Your coverage in a given year would be limited to this amount. Some dental plans do not have annual maximums.7
How much does dental care cost?
The costs of dental care can quickly add up if you don’t have dental insurance. How much you pay for a trip to the dentist may depend on what type of dental care you receive. We’ll cover some typical costs without insurance for preventive care, basic restorative services and major dental services.
Preventive dental care costs
Preventive care typically includes services like routine cleanings, exams and X-rays. Many insurance plans will cover the full cost of covered preventive services. Without insurance, a routine cleaning and exam may cost $200 or more.8
Basic/restorative dental care costs
You may need basic or restorative dental care to fix a cavity or to place a crown on a damaged tooth. Without insurance, a composite dental filling can cost from $90–$250,9 and a ceramic crown may cost up to $2,000 for one tooth.10 Many dental insurance plans can cover up to 80% of the cost of basic restorative dental procedures.11
Major dental services costs
If you need to repair teeth after an injury, or treat an infection, you may require dental surgery. Surgery costs without insurance can be quite high. For instance, a root canal procedure may run from $700–$1,100 on a front tooth, or $1,200–$1,800 on a molar.12 Many dental plans can cover up to 50% of the cost for dental surgery.13
Types of dental Insurance plans
You have several options to help you cut your out-of-pocket costs for dental care. Some dental coverage categories include PPOs, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and dental indemnity plans.
Type of coverage
Select 2 or more plans to compare
A PPO includes a network of different dentists to choose from. These plans typically strike a balance between cost and choice of dental care providers.
- Larger network of providers than other options
- You can choose an out-of-network dentist
- Typically have higher costs than an HMO
- Generally have annual maximum limits
- May have additional costs for out-of-network dentists
Dental HMOs usually have lower costs, but you must choose a network provider. Out-of-network costs are usually not covered.
- Lower premiums than most deductibles
- May have lower or no copays for preventive care
- Usually have no annual maximum limits
Dental discount plan16
- Limited to a smaller network
- May have restrictions on number of visits
Dental discount plans are not insurance and offer discounts at a select network of dentists in exchange for a yearly fee.
- Annual fees are typically under $150 per year for individuals17
Dental indemnity plan18
- Not insurance—doesn’t cover costs, only provides discounts
- You are responsible to pay the participating dentist the discounted rate at the time of service.
These plans typically pay out a set percentage of “usual and customary” charges for common dental procedures.
- No network restrictions
- Wider choice of dental care providers to choose from
- Higher costs at dentists who charge above the “usual and customary” amount
How much does orthodontics cost?
You or your child may need braces to repair crooked teeth or jaw alignment issues. Orthodontics tend to be one of the more expensive types of dental care. The cost for braces or alignment depends on several different factors, including where you live, and what types of braces are used.19
- Metal braces: $3,000–$7,000
- Lingual (back-of-tooth) metal braces: $8,000–$10,000
- Ceramic braces: $4,000–$8,000
- Invisalign: $3,000–$8,000
Many dental plans will cover part of the costs of braces. Plans typically cover up to 50% of the cost for pediatric braces, with a lifetime maximum of $1,500 per child. However, dental plans usually do not cover orthodontic treatments for people over the age of 18.20
How to lower your dental costs
One of the best ways to cut down on dentist bills is to keep up on your dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing your teeth every day and using fluoride toothpaste could help you prevent cavities and gum disease. It’s also important not to skip regular dental exams and cleanings at the dentist. Preventive care could help you avoid larger out-of-pocket costs in the future.21
If you need help covering dental expenses, consider shopping for individual dental insurance or dental discount plans (not insurance). There are many different types of dental insurance, so you may find coverage options well within your price range.