By: Revanche

Adding a line item to the budget: Dental care

March 25, 2010

I’ve had excellent dental care over the years courtesy of employer-sponsored benefits, and then thanks to COBRA, so my dental woes have been routinely resolved.  My parents, however, have had some dental issues I wasn’t aware of until recently, and I feel guilty about not providing more thoroughly for them since I discovered all was not fine and dandy in their world of teeth.  It’s nothing emergent, but I think my dad may need some fairly major work done and I wanted to budget for that ASAP.

My first thought was to get them insured.  Naturally, right?  It turns out that dental insurance isn’t such a great deal.

A quick review of showed that I might just be better off self-insuring them.

At an annual cost of $444 plus a yearly deductible of $25 for the cheaper of the only two plans available for this zip code, the policy yields a princely benefit of $500 per person. That’s not all! They’ll offer a grand coinsurance of 0-50% so at times that $500 won’t even be participating in payment of the bills.  When it does, it covers no more than 50% of the bill.  Essentially I’m paying for the privilege of a partial, sometimes, discount. 

The math is only marginally better for the “Enhanced” Plan carrying an annual bill of $1032 with a $150 family deductible.  Same lousy excuse for a “coinsurance” and I find myself utterly disgusted. I’d probably be better off saving the cash and sending them to my old (current) dentist with a request for a cash and senior discount.

There’s also a reputable School of Dentistry within 50 miles.  An old friend may be able to fill me in on their services or direct me to someone in the know. It’s not a convenient drive, but I’ve heard that they do good work so perhaps on one of the days that he’s free of mom, my dad could get his teeth examined. Their online quote ranges from $50-$88 for an initial exam, all necessary x-rays, study models and a treatment plan.  That’s a heck of a lot better than my dentist’s quote of $60 for an exam and additional $35 per x-ray (usually about 4-6 films taken) for a total of $250 for them to tell us what they’re going to do and how much that’ll cost.

Lastly, I should check with my dentist friend about a personal referral. He’s got relatives in the field, they might be more affordable than the local dentist and worth adding to the list of errands they run out in that area.

7 Responses to “Adding a line item to the budget: Dental care”

  1. Insurance is like that. We have dental insurance but every time my kids need some cavity fixed, I still have to shell out several hundred dollars!

  2. Dental expenses have been by far our biggest money drain over the past 8 or so years. We are thinking of learning about dental care in Mexico and Costa Rica–dental tourism has become a big business.

  3. eemusings says:

    Damn, wish we had a dental school nearby! There’s only one in the country and it’s at the other end from where I am.

    Haven’t been to the dentist for like six years. Don’t think there’s anything wrong, but it would be nice to know for sure.

  4. Serendipity says:

    I’ve had to get alot of major dental work done and because I wanted it done so fast, I found dental insurance wasn’t such a great plan because alot of providers require you to pay into for a certain amount of time and then cut off how much work you get done within a certain time frame. I found th best option for me was a plan called Carrington Dental. I pay 6.95 a month and this discount plan cuts procedures anywhere between 30-60%. My wisdom teeth extraction was only 625 and I’d like to point out that three were impacted. That might be another option. 🙂

  5. Carrie says:

    when i was paying my insurance out of my own pocket, i also found it cheaper to just buy the dental services i needed without the insurance.

  6. A friend of mine who went on Medicare (which doesn’t cover dental work) said the cost of Delta Dental is about the same as routine dental work.

    Delta, the main provider in these parts, does not cover much major work. It will, for example, cover half the cost of a crown, but if you break a crown it will cover nothing unless you’ve had the crown for over seven years.

    Well, half is better than nothing…but if you’ve forked over that much and more cash to them in premiums, you might as well be putting the amount of the premiums in savings.

    BTW, my dentist said Mexican dentists are his practice’s best friends. He described some of the things that have happened to his patients who went into Mexico to save on dental work. Penny-wise and pound-foolish!

  7. Revanche says:

    @Jersey Mom: I’ve been lucky enough that my coverage is better than most (apparently) and covered a lot of my dental work but good gravy the uncovered expenses hurt!

    @FS: I know there are good doctors and dentists everywhere but the idea of going out of the country for health care without any strong recommendations/proof of quality and/or enforceable regulations for the foreign patient makes me wary.

    @eemusings: Well, honestly, the distance and traffic he’s facing makes the dental school almost out of reach for him anyway. I’m just hoping that we can make arrangements anyway.

    It would be really good for you to get checked out at least once a year for a good cleaning. Dental problems left untreated are awful.

    @serendipity: Thanks for the tip, I’ll look it up.

    @Carrie: For anything routine, I agree that it’s not worth bothering with insurance.

    @FAM: Pretty much the same result can be had from any bad dentist, I’m sure, but you don’t intentionally choose a bad dentist in the States whereas it does seem more risky to travel for unlicensed care.

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