Average cost of an individual dental policy
The National Association of Dental Professionals (NADP) reports that as of 2011, between 40-50% of adult Americans carried dental insurance.
For policyholders, most policies are employer-sponsored (versus individual policies). Most dental policies cover 100% of routine care, 80% for routine problems (fillings, root canals), and half of more extensive care (crowns, bridges, implants).
- Typical policy costs for an employer-sponsored plan range from $234 to $432, and average around $360.
- Most plans cover up to $1,500 on covered care expenses in a calendar year, but no more.
- Typical policy costs for an individual plan are around $50 per month or $600 annually.
What dental care costs
If you—like me—do not have dental insurance, here’s about what you can expect to pay for routine services in the following areas.
- Cleaning and checkup: $75 – $200 (less for hygienist-only appointment)
- X–rays: $100 – $300
- Extraction: $100 – $200 per tooth (simple) / $200 – $400 per tooth (surgical)
- Filling: $100 – $300 per tooth
- Root canal: $600 – $1,500 per tooth (depending on tooth location)
- Bridge: $2,000 – $3,000
- Crown: $700 – $1,200 per tooth
Questions to ask before buying a policy
Even if you have access to an employer-sponsored plan, purchasing dental insurance is typically optional. When I worked for an employer that offered healthcare in the past, I typically would purchase a dental insurance rider. This was because I primarily worked for large blue chip companies that had tremendous negotiating power, and often my dental policy rider was just $10 or $20 per month.
Now, with options priced in the $40 and $50 range, I am still undecided. But at least I now know how to decide if buying a policy is the right choice for me.
Here are the best questions to ask to make the choice for yourself:
- What options do I have for purchasing dental insurance? (An employer-sponsored plan? An individual plan? Both?)
- What is my personal dental history? (Checkups only? Fillings every other year? Early periodontal disease?)
- What is covered under the policy I am considering? (Preventative care? Fixing problems only? A bit of both?)
- Do I have the disposable income to gamble on a policy purchase?
- Could I afford a sudden out-of-pocket cash outlay of up to $2,000 for dental work?
Estimating annual dental costs
After answering these questions, the final step is to calculate a few scenarios to see whether buying a dental policy is a win-win or a lose-lose.
Example 1: You have had no major dental issues for the past three years. You have paid for a cleaning and checkup and X-rays each year – total 3-year costs: $225 x 3 = $675.
- Outcome: Unless you get a great (read: cheap) deal on a policy, you may want to opt for self-pay dental care, because you probably won't get much use out of your policy in exchange for tying up your available cash.
Example 2: You had one filling last year, and the dentist mentioned the tooth next to it was likely to go next. You have also been feeling twinges in a wisdom tooth that was never removed.
- Outcome: You are looking at a potential dental bill of $200 (filling) + $400 (wisdom tooth extraction) + $225 (cleaning and X-rays) = $825. Now your policy is beginning to show its value so a purchase might make sense.
Example 3: After a sports accident a few years ago, your dentist predicted you would need a bridge within the next three years. You've also named the three teeth in the back of your mouth that don't yet have root canals.
- Outcome: Buy the policy! $2,000 (bridge) + $1,000 (another root canal) + $225 (cleaning and X-rays) = $3,225.