What is a dental emergency? Generally speaking, a dental emergency is any unplanned problem with the teeth or supporting tissues that requires prompt treatment. This may include broken teeth, oral infections, failing crowns and fillings, or other oral issues which, if left untreated, negatively impact overall health, or impair the ability to eat, drink, or speak.
If you’re fortunate enough to not have experienced such problems, you may not know if your current insurance provides emergency coverage, or you may simply have never purchased dental insurance. In either case, there are a few things you should know.
Most health insurance plans do not cover dental costs, so if you have not purchased either a dental insurance rider (an add-on to your health insurance) or separate dental insurance, you will probably have to cover all costs of any dental emergency you might encounter. Such costs can be significant. For this reason, we recommend dental insurance with emergency procedure coverage.
It may sound silly, but when you buy dental emergency insurance, be sure you’ll be able to use it. If you already have a dentist you like, make sure you purchase insurance that he or she accepts. If you’re thinking of switching dental practices, base your decision on the insurance accepted by your new dentist. Most dentists accept more than one insurance provider, and each provider usually offers multiple coverage options.
Most dental insurance providers list their policy options and coverage on their website or in informational documents. Unfortunately, comparing dental policies between providers isn’t as easy as it might sound.
While it’s true that most insurers list the procedures they cover and the amounts they will pay, companies may use different terms to describe the same procedure. If you’re not familiar with dental terminology, you may not be sure you’re comparing the same procedure when you look at different options. In addition, not all policies cover emergency procedures, and the ones that cover them don’t always pay a significant portion of the costs. If you have questions about any of these or other issues while comparing insurance options, ask your dentist to help. He or she will likely be familiar with the companies you’re considering and can tell you which policies most thoroughly cover emergency procedures.
Another challenge is sorting through premiums. One approach is to sit down and consider the likelihood of needing emergency procedures during the next year or two. If your children have dealt with significant dental issues recently, or your dentist says you’re on the road to major dental problems, it may be worth paying a higher premium to obtain better emergency coverage. Obviously, your household’s budget will also factor into this decision.
The bottom line, emergency dental coverage provides peace of mind. Costs for emergency dental services can be high compared to routine dental treatments. By definition, emergency problems aren’t usually planned or budgeted for. And as noted, most regular health insurance doesn’t cover dental costs. So, do yourself and your family a favor and err on the side of caution. Ensure yourself against dental emergencies.