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Individual Dental Insurance Is on the Rise: Do You Need It?

Dental insurance is a popular benefit for Americans.
woman hugging mother, individual dental insurance is on the rise: do you need it

More than half of Americans have dental insurance, and most receive coverage through an employer or group program.

But individual dental insurance is on the rise. At the end of 2016, 7.2% of Americans purchased individual dental plans outside of their employer — more than a 5% jump from 2011.

Why are private, individual dental plans becoming more popular?

Between federal healthcare reform and rising healthcare costs, individuals without employer-sponsored dental plans have been looking for different ways to purchase dental insurance.

What Is Individual Dental Insurance?

Individual dental insurance is dental coverage that can be purchased on a state or federal marketplace, or on a private exchange.

You may want to purchase an individual dental insurance plan if your current health insurance plan doesn’t include dental benefits, or if the benefits are too minimal for yours and your family’s needs.

If you’re unemployed or aren’t offered adequate dental coverage through your employer, you may want to purchase an individual dental insurance plan.

There are three types of individual dental plans you can purchase:

  • Dental Health Maintenance Organization Plan (DHMO)
  • Dental Preferred Provider Organization Plan (DPPO)
  • Dental Indemnity Insurance

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.

Who Buys Individual Dental Insurance?

Freelancers and the Self-Employed

One contribution to the rise of individual dental insurance is America’s self-employment growth.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 10% of American workers are self-employed, with a separate study estimating that over 40% of the nation’s workforce will be self-employed by 2020.

Since self-employed Americans can’t get medical or dental insurance through an employer, they may turn to individual dental plans.

Freelancers benefit from the security of coverage for dental care, as they never know when there may be a lull in clients or unexpected business expense that makes it hard to cover preventative care or costly dental emergencies.

Find out how you can get medical and dental coverage as a freelancer >

Baby Boomers

A Gallup poll reported that only one-third of baby boomers in the U.S. are still working. Plus, two-thirds of the baby boomer generation are leaving employer-sponsored insurance plans as they enter retirement.

Baby boomers need coverage that can supplement their Medicare and provide a safety net as social security benefits dwindle. Dental insurance helps lessen the cost of procedures like bridges, crowns, flippers and dentures.


Although employers purchase group health plans for employees rather than individual health plans, they can purchase these plans on a private exchange.

The Affordable Care Act requires that companies with more than 50 full-time employees must provide their employees with health coverage, or else face a tax penalty. However, businesses aren’t required to offer dental coverage, to either full- or part-time employees.

How to get health and dental benefits if you work part-time >

But that hasn’t stopped many companies from offering dental as an employee benefit anyway. About half of companies offer it as part of their benefits package. 

Providing dental coverage is a smart move for employers looking to incentivize and retain employees — better dental insurance is one of the top employee benefits desired by job seekers in 2017.


As 26-year-olds age out of their parents’ healthcare plans, many turn to private health plans for coverage.

26-year-olds who are unemployed, working part-time, or who freelance may not have employer dental coverage, or may want better or cheaper coverage than what their employer offers. Individual dental plans give 26-year-olds the ability to find coverage that satisfies their lifestyle and budget as they shop for their own plans for the first time.

Unemployed Americans

Like freelancers and the self-employed, unemployed Americans who don’t qualify for dental coverage through an employer can find an affordable private dental plan that suits their coverage needs.

Americans who may qualify for dental coverage through their employer but who want a plan with different coverage options can also choose to buy a private plan that better fits their needs.

Benefits of Individual Dental Insurance

Although individual dental insurance means you have to pay a monthly premium and other out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and co-pays, preventative dental care can save you money if you look at the big picture.

The savings from dental coverage come into play when you’re faced with expensive procedures like fillings, root canals and crowns. These types of dental emergencies can make a dent in your wallet if you’re not covered.

Dental insurance covers preventative care like routine cleanings, so you can catch small issues like cavities or plaque build-up before they evolve into dental emergencies.

And if you think your mouth is healthy and you can skip your annual cleaning, you may want to think again: 27% of adults ages 20 to 64 have untreated tooth decay. Annual cleanings covered by your insurance help curb this decay before it turns to cavities, gingivitis, and enamel loss.

How to Get Individual Dental Insurance

Individual dental plans are offered on the state or federal marketplace, and on a private exchange. Guardian Life offers dental coverage options to suit your and your family’s coverage and budget needs.

Regardless of the plan you choose, it’s best to do your research and get a few quotes to compare.

It’s easy to get an instant quote for dental insurance now >

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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