Dental insurance can help you be prepared for any dental emergencies that arise – but those emergencies aren’t going to wait six to 12 months for your benefits to kick in and your waiting period to end. If you have a dental emergency, you may want a plan with no waiting periods.
Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable dental insurance options out there that don’t involve any waiting periods. If you want to purchase dental insurance that starts offering benefits immediately, read on to learn about dental insurance options that don’t have any waiting periods.
What is a dental insurance waiting period?
Simply put, a dental insurance waiting period is the period of time between when you enroll for a plan and when you can start receiving benefits. Waiting periods can vary greatly from policy to policy.
The following factors might determine the length of your waiting period:
The type of dental insurance you purchase – many Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) plans don’t involve any waiting periods, while Dental Preferred Provider Organization (DPPO) plans usually do.
Your insurance provider – policies can vary a great deal from provider to provider.
Type of dental service – Some dental insurance companies will not pay for any work done during the waiting period, but most dental insurance companies will still cover preventive services.
Why do some dental insurance plans have a waiting period?
Insurance is meant to be purchased before you need it – not as a quick fix right after something major happens. Many insurance companies have waiting periods to make sure people don’t sign up for dental insurance just to get a quick discount on major services, only to cancel the policy once the problem has been taken care of.
Can I visit the dentist during my waiting period?
You can visit the dentist at any time, but if you do so during your waiting period, it might cost you. Many preventive dental procedures are covered from day one of coverage, even if your policy has a waiting period. But if you have a dental procedure done that isn’t covered by your insurance during your waiting period, you’ll be responsible for the full cost.
Full coverage dental plans
Good news – not all dental insurance plans have waiting periods. Even the longest and strictest of waiting periods usually vary depending on the type of service. Most insurance providers split dental procedures into three categories: preventive procedures, basic procedures, and major procedures. Preventive services are usually not subject to waiting periods, but basic and major dental care often are subject to waiting periods. These are the most common types of dental insurance with no waiting periods:
Employer-provided dental insurance with no waiting period
About two-thirds of Americans have private dental coverage, and about 90% of them get their benefits through an employer or other group program¹. Employer-provided dental insurance often doesn't have any waiting periods, though some do institute a waiting period ranging from a few days to a full year. If your employer’s group plan doesn’t have a waiting period, you can start enjoying coverage right away. Contact your employer’s HR department or benefits representative to find out if that might be an option for you.
Dental insurance for veterans with no waiting period
Some providers offer special dental insurance plans for veterans with no waiting period through the Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Program (VADIP). You and your dependents might qualify for these sorts of policies if you’re enrolled in the VA health care program.
DHMO plans – full coverage dental insurance with no waiting period
If you’re looking for dental insurance with no waiting period for root canals, braces, or other major services, a DHMO plan could work for you.
DHMO plans offer full coverage dental insurance with no waiting period. A DHMO dental plan is an arrangement where dentists agree to give their patients a reduced cost for services as an in-network provider.
Patients on a DHMO plan typically enjoy lower costs and plenty of coverage. Plus, DHMO plans usually offer dental insurance with no waiting period and no maximum. Some other dental insurance plans have a maximum dollar payout for each benefit year, but that isn’t usually the case with DHMO plans. Many DHMO plans don’t have a deductible either, but there may be a charge per dental office visit and a copay.
What is preventive care?
Preventive dental care is any type of dental care that cleans your teeth and helps you avoid any more serious dental problems later. This usually includes:
Most of the time, you’ll start receiving benefits for these sorts of services immediately when your policy becomes effective. This is great because most dental insurance also covers preventative services at 80% to 100%.
If it’s been over a year since you’ve been to the dentist and you don’t have dental insurance already, purchasing some can pay off just with regular preventive dental visits alone.
Basic and major dental care
The two other main types of dental services are basic services and major services. Basic services might include procedures like fillings and non-surgical extractions. Major services often include larger (and more expensive) procedures like root canals or surgery.
Though policies vary greatly from provider to provider, many dental insurance plans require a waiting period of anywhere from six to 12 months before they’ll pay out any benefits for basic services. A typical waiting period for major services could be anywhere from 12 to 24 months.
Waiting out a waiting period
Sometimes there’s no getting around waiting periods, especially if you’ve decided a DPPO plan would be a better fit for your needs or if you’ve already committed to a certain provider.
Here’s how to take good care of your teeth during your waiting period so you maybe avoid needing any basic or major procedures before your insurance kicks in:
Brush your teeth twice each day with fluoride toothpaste
Clean between your teeth daily, using floss or another interdental cleaner
Eat a healthy diet that limits sugary beverages and snacks
Visit your dentist twice a year for prevention and treatment of oral disease
Of course, these suggestions are important whether you currently have full dental insurance coverage or not. It’s always better (and more cost-effective) to prevent oral health issues than to treat them.
How to buy dental insurance with no waiting period
If you’re looking for dental insurance with no waiting period, start searching for a DHMO plan. Look over any policy you’re considering very carefully. Review terms for waiting periods, which type of services will be covered when, and coverage for pre-existing conditions.
If your employer doesn’t offer dental insurance with no waiting period, you can still obtain an excellent, affordable plan on your own. Dental insurance is available for purchase online, over the phone, or through an insurance broker.
Guardian Dental Managed DentalGuard (DHMO) plans have no waiting periods, no deductibles, and no maximums. Plus, it’s available for purchase year-round, with instant approval and guaranteed acceptance. Click here to get started.
No waiting period dental insurance advice & insights
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. 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.
Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.
1. https://www.nadp.org/Dental\_Benefits\_Basics/Dental\_BB\_1.aspx, 2017
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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.(exp.08/22)