What is a Waiting Period for Dental Insurance?
Understanding how your policy will work is key when purchasing dental insurance. Whether it be the deductible and copayments or the difference between a “basic” or a “major” procedure, the details of various dental insurance plans can sway wildly. One of the most misunderstood terms regarding dental coverage is the “Waiting Period.” A waiting period is the amount of time that must pass once you are enrolled in your policy before you can use certain benefits in your dental plan. Dental insurance waiting periods are common with some policies having waiting periods as long as 12 months, but there are dental policies that advertise themselves as "no waiting period."
Waiting Periods for Specific Dental Procedures
Dental procedures are often classified into three classes: Preventative, Basic, and Major. The waiting period within a certain dental plan can differ within these categories.
- Preventative dental services include routine cleanings and fluoride treatments. Most quality plans will not include a waiting period for these procedures, but they are usually limited to once every 6 months.
- Basic procedures are minor services including fillings and extractions. Many plans will include a waiting period for these services.
- Major dental procedures often include crowns and oral surgery. Again, many plans will include a waiting period.
The waiting period between these classifications of services will often differ depending on your dental insurance plan. Before going in to see your dentist, consult your dental insurance carrier to ensure the procedure you are receiving will be covered at that time.
Why Do Dental Insurance Policies Have Waiting Periods?
In the era of ACA (Obamacare) style health plans, waiting periods are not always familiar to consumers. The assumption is that once you have dental insurance, you are protected regardless of the procedure. However, dental insurance is not health insurance. Waiting periods allow dental insurers to protect themselves from individuals who do not seek insurance coverage until they face a costly dental procedure. Unfortunately, this practice also affects people who did not put off dental coverage until it was absolutely needed. In many cases, if you can prove that your new policy began directly after another dental policy ended, your carrier may waive the waiting period.
Reducing Your Out of Pocket Dental Costs
Dental coverage needs depend on the individual. If you are not in urgent need of a basic or major dental procedure, enrolling in a dental insurance plan with a long waiting period can reduce your monthly premium.
If you are in need of a major dental procedure like a crown or oral surgery, you may want to enroll in a “no waiting period” dental insurance plan. If this type of dental plan is not available in your area, an alternative to dental insurance is dental discount cards. Although not classified as a traditional insurance plan, discount cards provide reduced rates on dental services. Find both traditional dental insurance plans and discount cards on our online dental comparison tool.