I’ve been very good this year! I’ve brushed my teeth in the morning, in the evening and after every meal! I’ve cut down on sweets! I floss my teeth at least once each and every day! I replaced my toothbrush every three months! And I smiled as often as possible!
Oh, please, Santa Claus, may I have dental insurance? I promise to keep up the good work and leave you the best cookies money can buy!
Having dental insurance can be very beneficial for your overall oral health and physical health, most plans include bi-annual cleanings and check-ups as well as basic x-rays. It’s also good for your financial health, providing peace of mind that these needs will be met and that often additional procedures (such as fillings and extractions) will be covered at a lower rate than if you paid for these yourself out of pocket.
Regular preventive care can catch problems before they become expensive to treat, not to mention painful.
Why is Oral Health so important?
Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.*
Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including: *
- Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
- Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:*
- Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
- HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
- Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
Other conditions that might be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, head and neck cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome — an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth.*
Finding and Buying Dental Insurance.
Many people have a dental plan through their employer, (about 90%) but for everyone else, it’s up to you to find dental insurance that works with your needs and budget. It’s also important to check in advance to see if your particular dental practice accepts that form of insurance, otherwise, you may need to switch dental providers or pay out of pocket after all. You should also understand what the cancellation policy is should you wish to cancel and if there are additional fees when you begin or end the policy.
Through the Affordable Care Act, dental insurance is available as an add-on to health insurance plans, and the premiums vary. Annually, if you qualify, you can sign up for a plan from November 1-December 15 (dates may vary). This can be a cost-effective way of insuring your health needs. However, you cannot buy an independent dental-only policy this way.
There are also various dental plans available on the open market and most allow you to pay the premium monthly, thus enabling you to budget for this expense.
The benefits you will receive on your dental plan may vary, but the most common benefits are: Free, in-network bi-annual check-ups and discounts on procedures and treatments, such as fillings, crowns, and extractions.
If you have a major dental repair on the horizon, for instance, a crown, there may be a longer waiting period before your new dental insurance will cover some of the expense, carefully check in advance so you don’t have any surprises. Here at South Charlotte Dentistry, we will assist you by contacting your insurance company in advance when possible to determine the amount that they will cover, so you can budget for the balance.
A sampling of dental insurers in North Carolina:
Delta Dental www.deltadental.com
Blue Cross Blue Shield NC www.bluecrossnc.com
AARP (for seniors 50 and older) www.aarp.org
United Health Care www.uhc.com
Low-income children in North Carolina who do not qualify for Medicaid may be able to obtain health and dental insurance through the North Carolina Health Choice Health Insurance Program for Children (www.ncdhhs.gov). Various Medicare Advantage Plans are available for seniors. Visiting a site such as www.esurance.com may allow you one-stop shopping for your dental needs.
South Charlotte Dentistry does not endorse or recommend one dental company over another and recommends you shop carefully, understand what your premium and policy covers and determine if South Charlotte Dentistry is part of their on-network coverage if you wish to continue your care with us.
The difference between Dental Insurance and Dental Saving Plans.
Dental Insurance is just that, insurance, offering basic to comprehensive coverage (depending on the dental plan you select) for exams and pays a portion on most other procedures. Generally, if you choose a dentist in-network, your bi-annual exams will be at no cost. Bi-annual exams include cleaning, exam, and x-rays as required.
Dental Savings Plans can often look like insurance and are offered by major insurance carriers, but they are discount plans and not comprehensive coverage. These usually offer discounts for a variety of dental services at dentists included in their plans.
As for Dental Insurance, there are numerous options and monthly premiums, as well as out-of-pocket limits and deductibles. It’s very important you find a plan that matches your needs. If you have a child or children in your household and are considering a family plan, check for the pediatric restrictions as well as orthodontic coverage.
Some plans only cover basic check-ups, some offer discounts on procedures, such as fillings (say, 50% covered) and others may have waiting periods before you can have something major done, such as a crown. More insurance companies are offering to cover part of orthodontic work, but usually the limit is low and there is a waiting period (typically 12 months). To determine which plan is for you, read the plan limitations carefully before signing up. Many websites have comparison charts that are easy to read and understand, so you get what you are looking for at a price you can afford.
Billing options vary among insurers, make sure you can meet their payment requirements, you may need a credit card or an automatic draw from a bank account.
By the numbers:
Per the National Association of Dental Plans:
At year-end 2016, there were approximately 249.1 million Americans or 77 percent of the population with dental benefits. The large increase in publicly funded benefits is primarily the result of improved CMS data on adults with access to Medicaid dental benefits.
Two-thirds or 164.2 million Americans have private dental coverage. About 90% of Americans with private coverage get their benefits through an employer or other group program like AARP. Another 7.1% buy individual coverage, while just less than 3% obtaining dental benefits as part of a medical plan. Another 83.9 million Americans receive dental benefits through public programs like Medicaid, the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage, and Indian Health Services.
Individuals without dental benefits are more likely to have extractions and dentures and less likely to have restorative care or receive treatment for gum disease. Furthermore, those without dental benefits report higher incidences of other illness; they are
- 67 percent more likely to have heart disease;
- 50 percent more likely to have osteoporosis; and
- 29 percent more likely to have diabetes.
They also visit the dentist less frequently—missing the opportunity for prevention and early treatment. Many of them account for over 2 million visits to emergency rooms for dental treatment annually.
There are many compelling reasons to make sure you visit your dentist for regular check-ups and preventive care and a lack of care can lead to poor oral health and potentially poor physical health.
Dental care is important for all stages of life.
Children’s dental health starts early with the importance of brushing teeth and learning good oral hygiene habits and becoming comfortable with visiting their dentist. Children may have pain during the transition of Deciduous teeth (commonly known as milk, baby or temporary teeth) to Adult (or permanent) teeth, treatment of cavities, extractions, possible orthodontic needs and young adults may have impacted wisdom teeth that need removed (third and final set of molars).
In adults, check-ups are essential to determine the need for fillings, crowns, inlays, extractions, look for signs of gum disease and cancers of the mouth. Adults may also wish to have teeth straightened, whitened or investigate other cosmetic dentistry options.
Older adults may need extractions in order to prepare for dentures, partial dentures or other prosthetic devices constructed to replace missing teeth. Additionally, older adults should have regular exams to look for signs of gum disease, cancers of the mouth, and to determine the need for any additional treatments.
Follow your heart.
Many studies have shown a connection between gum disease (periodontitis) and other serious conditions, including heart disease. Research suggests that periodontitis is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and that people with chronic gum disease have increased thickness of their neck blood vessels. There is also a strong correlation between diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and evidence that people with diabetes benefit from professional teeth cleanings.*
Even though oral health isn’t a key to heart disease prevention, it’s important to take care of your teeth and gums:*
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Floss daily.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months — or sooner if the bristles become bent.
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
The peace of mind that comes with having a dental insurance policy can go a long way in helping you stay on task with your oral health care and allow you to manage your budget as well as better plan for expenses related to your dental care needs.
If Mariah Carey could sing it again, perhaps her popular holiday song’s lyrics would be, “All I Want for Christmas is-Dental Insurance!”
*Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org)