New college graduates have mountains of decisions to make. In addition to finding a job and renting an apartment, one important item you may have overlooked is your dental insurance. Whether you have perfectly white teeth or you need a filling, good oral health and can help you maintain your overall health and dental insurance can help you cover the costs.
If your new job does not offer dental insurance benefits or you haven’t found a job yet, don’t despair, recent college graduates have several options to obtain dental insurance.
1. Parent’s dental insurance
Even after graduating from college, if you are still under age 26 you might be able to remain on your parent’s dental insurance. This is an option many new graduates and their parents use until their new job starts or the graduate can afford their own policy. Insurance for a 26-year-old and above may need to be purchased separately from the parent’s policy.
2. Employer-sponsored dental insurance plans
This can be the least expensive way to get dental insurance coverage for a new college graduate. Since most employers that offer group dental insurance plans have a large number of participants, the monthly or weekly premiums may be low. However, remember that these plans are not customized for your specific needs and, many times, you may not be able to use your own dentist for treatment.
3. Individual dental insurance plans
If you cannot stay on your parent’s dental insurance policy, or over age 26, or do not go to work right away for an employer with a group dental plan, you can enroll in an individual dental insurance plan. There are two main types of individual dental plans you can purchase: Dental Health Maintenance Organization Plans (DHMO) or a Dental Preferred Provider Organization Plans (DPPO). Unlike employer-sponsored plans, individual dental insurance allows you to compare plans before choosing the one that makes the most sense for your needs and budget. Learn more about the pros and cons of DHMO and DPPO plans.
If your new income is low or your life situation meets certain conditions, you might qualify for health care and some dental care through Medicaid. Although Medicaid require states to provide some level of dental care for children, states are not required to provide dental for adults. Each state decides whether to provide those and, if so, which dental services they will cover.
5. Dental discount plans
Dental discount plans offer services much like a buyer’s club. For an annual fee, you can join the plan and obtain dental services from member dentists at a discount rate. The dental discount company contracts with dentists who agree to give members a discount on their fees. If you join one of these plans, you pay all the dentist’s fees up front at a reduced rate determined by the dentist’s contract. You do not get reimbursed or file claims.
Why do new college graduates need dental insurance?
During your days as a student, the world of health, dental, automobile, and homeowner’s insurance may have been something you didn’t have to worry about.
If you needed to have your teeth cleaned or a filling, your dentist probably billed your parent’s dental insurance, and Mom or Dad paid the deductibles and copays.
After graduation, those days may be gone. Now, if a tooth breaks and needs a crown, or if you wake up in the middle of the night with a toothache and a swollen face, you may be responsible for finding and paying for needed dental care.
Dental insurance can help protect you and your bank account from unanticipated dental expenses that can be quite costly. According to a 2017 dental fee survey by Dental Economics, the fees for a single filling can range from $200 to $300 each. Crowns can cost over $1,000.1 Pay for those service out of pocket could prevent you from paying other bills or saving for a new home.
Few people have perfect teeth. Even if you have never had a cavity, your teeth can become infected or damaged in an accident. Dental insurance can help defray much, if not all, of the cost for needed dental treatment.
Questions to ask a dental insurance provider
Here are some questions a new college graduate should ask before purchasing a dental insurance plan.
- Can I choose my own dentist? If not, can I see a list of dentists that I can use before starting the policy?
- Does the plan have specialists in the network, such as oral surgeons, endodontists, or orthodontists?
- What are the costs of the plan? Include premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance fees.
- What is the annual maximum the plan will pay?
- How often can I get my teeth cleaned and examined?
- Is there an out-of-pocket limit? If so, how much is it?
- Are there limitations are in the plan? If so, what are the limitations?
- Will the policy pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions?
- If I am already missing a tooth before the policy starts, will the plan pay to have that tooth replaced?
- Will the plan pay for oral hygiene devices prescribed by the dentist such as electric toothbrushes or water flossers?
- Is there a waiting period for any or all services? If so, how long is it?
- Does the plan cover braces for adults? Are there limitations on this treatment?
- Does the plan pay for emergency treatment when I am away from home? What about when I travel out of the country?
- Can I add a family member later if I get married or have a child?
Making the decision to buy dental insurance
It is easy for new college graduates to overlook the need for dental insurance. Having depended on parents to pay for dental services in the past makes it difficult to comprehend the true cost of not having dental insurance. This is especially true during the tumultuous times immediately after graduating from college when you are faced with so many decisions. But, unexpected dental care can be expensive and dental insurance can help you cover the costs.
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This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.