Dental insurance premiums can be more expensive than simply paying out of your own pocket for routine checkups and cleanings. So if you're one of the millions of Americans with no dental coverage, is a policy for your pearly whites worth the cost? The answer may depend on whether you expect to face bills for aching teeth.
Most dental insurance policies emphasize prevention and diagnostics, typically covering two annual exams and cleanings, plus X-rays and, for children and older adults, fluoride treatments, says Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans, or NADP.
But the real benefit is being covered for bigger-ticket procedures, such as fillings, root canals and crowns, says Carrie McLean, a consumer specialist with eHealthInsurance.com.
"It's like health insurance -- you're really buying peace of mind," McLean says.
Fewer than 6 out of every 10 Americans had dental benefits in 2010, according to a report released in late 2011 by the NADP and Delta Dental Plans Association.