When I was growing up during the sixties, I can remember seeing billboards along the road with a picture of a Volkswagen Beetle and the price – $1995! That was about the time when the concept of “dental insurance” was introduced as a benefit for employers to use to lure potential employees. The average maximum dental benefit most plans paid back then was $1000 – about half of what a low-end car would cost. Patients could get a lot of dental work done and not max out their coverage. What a great deal for both them and their dentist!

Let’s look at what kind of deal that is today. If benefits had kept up with inflation, the benefit ceiling should now be close to $8,000! But sadly, most plans still max out at $1,000. That severely limits the amount of dental work you can have done.

People who have dental insurance really only have limited and restricted benefits that are controlled by an insurance company. The type of policy dictates the control they have. Benefits are only worth what the insurance company says they are worth. They have nothing to do with what the dentist charges. Think of a restaurant coupon – good for a certain amount of your total bill – but excluding alcohol and gratuity. Insurance is like a coupon worth a set amount off of some dental procedures, with exclusions!

Today’s dilemma is this – patients in the sixties had few options available to them – fill, crown, or pull the tooth. Today we can solve problems with the best modern medicine can offer – not only in replacements (implant, bone, etc.), but stunning advances in cosmetics. More often than not, insurance companies routinely deny you benefits for these modern advances.

Today’s insurance companies want you to choose a dentist based on cost and assume that all doctors are equally talented, knowledgeable, caring, ethical, available and personable – and that just isn’t true. The dentist making the deal with the insurance company may have to take a cut of up to 30 to 50 percent. In order for them to stay in business, they have to see more people, do more procedures, and cut costs in some manner. And even though it is a managed care system, dental benefits still act as a coupon and not insurance.

Never let an impersonal insurance company dictate your dental care. They could care less about your health, comfort, peace of mind, or appearance – they are only concerned with their bottom line. So, be happy you have that “coupon” for some dollars off, but never expect them to increase your level of wellness. Look for a dentist who helps you maximize your benefits, but not one that relies on them.

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