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By Andrea Agostini
Updated: October 19, 2021 3:24 PM ET | Originally published: October 18, 2021
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Best for Braces
Best for Major WorkBest for ValueBest for No Waiting PeriodsBest Discount Dental Plan
Delta DentalGuardian DirectHumanaSpirit Dental Insurance1Dental.com
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Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Preventive, basic and major

Preventive, basic and major

Preventive, basic and major

Discounts on eligible services

Deductibles

$50, $150 annually

$50 annually

$50-$150 annually $150-$450 one-time

$100 one-time

Varies per plan

Sample Premiums

$20.58 to $48.48

$22.26 to $45.75

$19.99 to $39.99

$31.39 to $89.90

Varies per plan

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,500

Up to $1,500

Up to $1,5000

Up to $5,000

Varies per plan

Best for Braces
Delta Dental
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Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$50, $150 annually

Sample Premiums

$20.58 to $48.48

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,500

Best for Major Work
Guardian Direct
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Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$50 annually

Sample Premiums

$22.26 to $45.75

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,500

Best for Value
Humana
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Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$50-$150 annually $150-$450 one-time

Sample Premiums

$19.99 to $39.99

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,5000

Best for No Waiting Periods
Spirit Dental Insurance
Our Partner
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Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$100 one-time

Sample Premiums

$31.39 to $89.90

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $5,000

Best Discount Dental Plan
1Dental.com
Our Partner
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Coverage Options

Discounts on eligible services

Deductibles

Varies per plan

Sample Premiums

Varies per plan

Maximum Annual Benefit

Varies per plan

If you already have health insurance, having to purchase a stand-alone dental policy is undeniably frustrating. Still, it's best to have some sort of coverage, even if it’s just preventive. Lack of dental care can seriously impact your overall health, especially as you age.

The best providers feature plans at different price points, coverage levels, and annual benefit maximums that are not too low. Make sure you’ve got all your bases covered by reading our reviews for the best dental insurance plans of 2021.

Our Top Picks for Best Dental Insurance Plans

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Best Dental Insurance Reviews

Pros
  • Low NAIC complaint index
  • No waiting period on preventive services
  • Available on state and federal exchanges (marketplaces)
  • Some plans include teeth whitening
Cons
  • Available plans vary significantly per state

Delta Dental offers multiple comprehensive coverage options within one of the largest provider networks in the country. We chose Delta Dental as the best dental insurance plan for braces because orthodontic coverage is available at several price points for both children and adults.

To get started, input your zip code on Delta Dental’s main website to see which plans, rates and benefits are available in your state. Currently, Delta offers four plans: Delta Dental PPO, Delta Dental Premier, Delta Dental PPO Plus Premier and DeltaCare USA (HMO).

A sample quote for New York includes two plans with orthodontic coverage. Delta Dental PPO covers 50% of orthodontic care, while DeltaCare (DHMO) sets a fixed copayment fee. With copayment, your out-of-pocket costs will vary by state.

Coverage is available in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. Delta Dental plans also qualify for the government marketplace, Healthcare.gov, where qualifying plans are required to offer pediatric benefits.

Pros
  • PPO and DHMO plans available
  • PPO network of 100,000 dentists
  • Premiums start at $20 monthly in most states
  • Low NAIC complaint index
Cons
  • Well below industry average in J.D Power's 2020 Dental Plan Satisfaction Study
  • 12-month waiting period for major work

Guardian Direct’s Dental Plan tiers are split into Bronze, Silver and Gold plans. Starting at $22.26 a month, the Bronze plan includes 100% preventive care coverage with no waiting period and 50% basic care coverage with a 6-month waiting period.

Complete major dental care is available with Guardian Direct’s Silver and Gold tiers. Major care includes crowns, complex extractions, oral surgery, implants and partial dentures. You do not need to meet any deductible to get major work coverage in-network. Unfortunately, a 12-month waiting period applies, but Guardian Direct will cover 50% of all major work coverage once the plan is active, up to a $1,250 limit.

Limits increase once a year, and by the third year, the maximum benefit amount will be $1,500.

Pros
  • 100% coverage for preventive services
  • Broad network of participating providers
  • Affordable preventive care and dental savings plan
  • Plan option with no waiting period on any services
  • Some plans include annual allowance for in-office teeth whitening
Cons
  • High NAIC complaint index in a lot of its state subsidiaries
  • High deductible on some plans
  • No coverage for implants
  • No coverage for orthodontic care

Humana ranks in our list as the best value for its Loyalty Plus plan. While plans with no waiting periods and one-time deductibles tend to be very expensive, Loyalty Plus features these benefits for under $30 a month in some states. There are no waiting periods on any services, including major work, and individuals only need to meet a $150 deductible once over the life of the plan.

Loyalty Plus coverage increases the longer you’re a member. Preventive care is fully covered from the start. During the first year, Humana covers 40% of routine care and 20% of major work up to a $1,000 annual maximum.

By the third year of membership, your coverage looks like this: 100% for preventive care, 70% for basic dental services, and 50% for major services with a $1,500 annual maximum.

In addition to Loyalty Plus, Humana offers six different plans at varying price points and levels of coverage, including a dental savings plan and preventive care plans.

Pros
  • Coverage for implants and major services
  • No upper age limit
  • In-network and out-of-network coverage
  • Available in 50 states
Cons
  • $5,000 maximum limit benefit is not available in all states
  • Expensive premium rates
  • Limited data on customer satisfaction

Generally, dental insurance companies enforce waiting periods on most services, except preventive care (cleanings and exams). Spirit Dental is one of the few providers on the market that extends this benefit to all levels of coverage. There are no waiting periods for dental care, including treatment options like dentures and implants.

Spirit Dental plans offer a calendar year annual maximum of up to $5,000 in select locations – a significant jump from the industry average of $1,000. This is a big relief for members who may need to finance several major services within one year like implants, dentures or periodontal disease treatment. Other coverage highlights include two to three cleanings per year, one-time $100 deductible and out-of-network coverage.

Find out more about Spirit Dental’s coverage in your state by downloading one of their brochures.

Pros
  • No deductibles, waiting periods, annual limits
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Orthodontic discounts apply to children and adults
Cons
  • Not dental care insurance, and all payments are out-of-pocket
  • $100 yearly membership fee
  • Unavailable in Vermont and Washington

1Dental is a dental discount plan that guarantees 15% to 60% savings at participating dentists and oral care specialists. Members can access up to 131,000 dental care providers through the Aetna Dental Access Network.

The three dental savings plans work as follows:

  • Dental Access – 15% to 50% discount on all procedures, offering the best savings with dental specialists
  • Careington Care 500 – savings of up to 60%. The highest discounts apply to preventive and basic care, meaning that you’ll save the most with general dentists.
  • Preferred Plan – bundling option that includes Dental Access and 500 Series Careignton at a discount. Members get the highest savings at both specialists and dentists and access to a broader provider network.

Both Dental Access and Careington Care 500 charge a $99 annual membership fee, while the Preferred Plan comes in at $129 per year. Customers may pay on a monthly basis, but know that this will be more expensive in the long run. Additionally, 1Dental charges a one-time, $20, non-refundable setup fee on top of the membership.

All eligible dental services qualify for a flat-rate discount, no matter the plan you choose. Actual savings depend on how much the dentist charges. To get an idea of how discounted rates work, look at 1Dental’s sample savings table.

Pros
  • Affordable preventive plan
  • No waiting period for preventive care
  • $1,500 annual limit on basic, major and restorative services
  • In-network and out-of-network coverage
  • Coverage in all 50 states
Cons
  • 6-month waiting period for basic care
  • 12-month waiting period for major work
  • Extremely high NAIC complaint index in some of its subsidiaries

Seniors looking to supplement their insurance can start with Cigna’s affordable Dental Preventive Plan. Members enjoy access to over 297,000 dental care locations nationwide, with monthly premiums starting at $19. The plan includes two dental exams and cleanings a year, along with routine x-rays, without deductibles or copays.

For more comprehensive coverage, Cigna offers two plan options for preventive, basic and restorative work:

  • Cigna Dental 1000: Premiums start at $30 and benefit maximums are capped at 1,000 per person per year.
  • Cigna Dental 1500: Premiums start at $35 and benefit maximums are capped at $1,500 per person per year. This plan includes orthodontic coverage.

Retirees and seniors who’ve lost employer-provided coverage can still get immediate dental care. Provided you had dental insurance in the past 12 months, Cigna will waive all waiting periods on restorative care, including cavity fillings and root canals.

Pros
  • Top position in J.D Power's 2020 Dental Plan Satisfaction Study
  • Affordable options for preventive and diagnostics coverage
  • Personal and state/federal marketplace plans available
Cons
  • 18-month waiting period on major work
  • Restorative work subject to a 6-month waiting period

We chose DentaQuest as the best for routine care dental insurance due to its prevention-focused oral health and plans that include complete coverage for routine care and no waiting periods for preventive services. Personal Dental Plan covers 100% of diagnostic and preventive services, like checkups, x-rays and cleanings, with starting premiums as low as $8 in some states.

The following tiers, Personal Dental Plan Basic and Personal Dental Plus add more coverage for restorative services, including extractions, fillings, denture repairs and oral surgery. Personal Dental Plus offers the most comprehensive coverage, with a higher maximum benefit and coverage for complex dental work.

DentaQuest offers vision and dental benefits through personal insurance plans and state and federal marketplaces. Access to out-of-network coverage depends entirely on the state of residence.

Pros
  • Multiple PPO plan options
  • Comprehensive coverage
  • Options at multiple price points
  • 4-month waiting period on basic services
Cons
  • Not available in AL, CA, DE, Washington DC, HI, ID, ME, MA, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, ND, RI, SD, VT, VA, WA
  • Ranks below industry average in J.D Power's 2020 Dental Plan Satisfaction Study
  • Above average NAIC complaint index

Plans with no waiting periods can be prohibitively expensive for many people. United HealthOne’s Essential plan meets the needs of patients that require preventive and basic care but can afford to wait a short time. There are no waiting periods for preventive services, and basic care only has a four-month waiting period (most providers make you wait at least six months).

Starting at $24.56, the plan includes:

  • Preventive coverage - 80% coverage from day one. Coverage increases to 100% by year two.
  • Basic coverage - fillings and extractions. The policy covers 50% after four months. Coverage will increase to 80% by year two.
  • No major work coverage.

Aside from the Essential plan, the company also has nine additional dental insurance plans. Most include preventive care with no waiting period. Other, more expensive options feature no waiting periods for preventive and basic services, coverage for implants and orthodontic care for adults and children.

Pros
  • Comprehensive coverage
  • High benefit maximum
  • One-time $100 deductible
Cons
  • Very high premium rates
  • Limited data on customer satisfaction
  • Not available in AK, KS, ME, MO, MT, NC, NH, MN, NY, PA, SD, UT and WA

Denali Dental offers two dental insurance plans: the Denali Summit Plan and the Denali Ridge plan. The Denali Summit plan is beneficial for patients who need to finance complex care, like braces, implants, dentures and bridges. Coverage includes 100% preventive care at the onset and 90% diagnostic, 60% major work and $6,000 maximum benefit by year four.

The Denali Ridge plan is more limited at a slightly lower premium rate. It includes 100% preventive care at the onset, 80% diagnostic, 50% major work and a $2,500 annual benefit maximum by year four. However, there is no coverage for orthodontic treatments.

Both plans exceed industry standards in terms of preventive care benefits, covering two exams and up to four cleanings per year. There are no waiting periods on any procedures. Once your plan is approved, coverage is effective on the 1st or 15th of the month. You can find a breakdown of benefits and rates in the company’s plan brochure. If you live in CT, IL or NJ, you can find coverage details here.

Pros
  • You go to the dentist of your choice
  • Three plan tiers to choose from
  • Direct deposit of reimbursed funds
Cons
  • It does not replace primary dental insurance
  • You must file claims for reimbursement
  • No 100% preventive care coverage
  • Dental insurance quotes are unavailable online

Aflac focuses on a variety of supplemental insurance products for groups and individuals, including accident, cancer, critical illness, short-term disability and vision insurance. The company’s supplemental dental insurance is divided into three tiers: basic, standard and premier. The difference between the three is the number of benefits payable:

  • Basic: $285 benefits payable.
  • Standard: $400 benefits payable
  • Premier: $450 benefits payable

Aflac’s policies are designed to supplement your primary dental insurance policy and help you increase savings at the dentist’s office. There are no network restrictions – if the service is listed under covered dental treatments and procedures, Aflac will pay regardless of the provider.

Once policyholders pay for the dental provider of their choice, they may file an online claim to receive a fixed-rate reimbursement for eligible services. Reimbursements go directly to the insured.

Pros
  • Wide selection of dental discount plans
  • Price match guarantee
  • Includes prescription discount card
  • Plans activate within 3 days
Cons
  • Not an insurance provider
  • Sign-up is only available by phone
  • Limited selection of dental insurance plans
  • Limited participating pharmacies for prescription card

DentalPlans.com is a marketplace for dental discount plans and a smaller selection of dental insurance policies. Members have access to over 140,000 dentists and discounts range from 10% to 60% on most dental procedures.

To buy a dental plan, you can search by dentist, procedure, or savings to compare the discounts you’ll get with each plan. For additional savings on specific procedures not fully covered by insurance, like orthodontia or implants, selecting the type of dental procedure will help narrow down your choices.

Finally, members may purchase more than one discount plan to use with separate providers. This proves valuable if your general dentist participates in one plan, and you need to see a specialist who works with a different discount plan.

Other dental insurance plans we considered

This section lists companies that didn’t meet the requirements for any of our “Best for” categories. Many of the companies below offer comprehensive dental coverage at an affordable price and are worthy of consideration.

Renaissance Dental

Pros
  • 3 PPO plans
  • No waiting period on preventive services
  • Affordable preventive care plan
  • $1,000 annual maximum for all plan tiers
Cons
  • Limited coverage for basic and major services
  • No orthodontic care coverage

MetLife

Pros
  • DHMO and PPO plan options
  • Low or no deductible options
  • PPO program is active nationwide
  • DHMO plan covers 75% of orthodontic care for adults and children
Cons
  • Ranks well below industry average on J.D Power's 2020 Dental Plan Satisfaction Report
  • DHMO plans are limited to California, Florida, New York and Texas
  • Most affordable policy has a low annual maximum benefit of $750

Smart Health Dental Dental Insurance

Pros
  • National network of over 200,000 licensed dental providers
  • Preventive PPO plan without deductible
  • Plans with no waiting period on major procedures
  • Underwriter has low NAIC Complaint Index
Cons
  • No quotes or premium estimates available online
  • Preventive care plan has a very low annual maximum limit of $750.00

Ameritas

Pros
  • 3 plan options available
  • Premiums range from $25 to $57
  • Maximum limit for the highest tier starts at $2,000 and increases to $2,500 after one year
Cons
  • Preventive care plan has a very low annual maximum benefit of $750 with a $50 deductible
  • 50% Orthodontic care is available for children only in their mid-tier plan

Physicians Mutual

Pros
  • Three plans to choose from: Preferred Plus, Standard Plus and Economy Plus
  • No deductibles
  • No waiting period on preventive care
Cons
  • No 100% coverage on preventive care
  • No orthodontic coverage
  • Waiting period of 12 months for major care
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Dental Insurance Guide

In this section, we explain how dental plans work and the types of policies available on the market. We also break down the costs associated with dental care and what steps you should take to choose the right dental insurance provider.

How does dental insurance work?

Dental insurance covers costs associated with dental care, from routine cleaning and x-rays to major work, like implants and crowns. Providers are regulated at the state level, which means that plan availability, benefits and rates will vary per state. Monthly premiums and coverage benefits also depend on plan type – each insurer sets its exclusions, deductibles, annual limits and waiting periods.

Most people have access to dental insurance through their employer. However, those who are uninsured or underinsured – like Medicare beneficiaries – need to purchase standalone policies. You can learn how to do this with our guide on how to get dental insurance with Medicare.

You can also purchase standalone policies directly with the insurance company or through the marketplace. Dental plans sold on Healthcare.gov have to meet the criteria set by the Affordable Care Act, which include offering coverage for pediatric dentistry, emergency services and prescription drugs.

Types of dental plans

The three types of dental plans on the market today are dental preferred provider organization (DPPO), dental health maintenance organization (DHMO) plans and dental indemnity insurance:

Dental preferred provider organization (DPPO)

Pros
  • Best rates are within dental provider network
  • Out-of-network coverage available
  • No referrals needed
  • Wide provider network
  • More flexibility
Cons
  • Higher premiums
  • Higher out-of-pocket costs

Dental health maintenance organization (DHMO)

Pros
  • Works within a dental provider network
  • Affordable premiums
  • Specialists require referral
  • Fixed copayment for each visit
Cons
  • Limited flexibility
  • No out-of-network coverage
  • Smaller provider network

Dental indemnity insurance

Pros
  • Visit any provider of your choice
  • Insurance pays a flat rate for eligible services
Cons
  • You may need to file a claim for reimbursement
  • Higher out-of-pocket expenses
  • May not cover all services

Dental discount plans are also a popular alternative. A dental discount plan is not dental insurance – it’s a membership program that charges an annual fee in exchange for discounts on eligible dental services of participating providers.

Pros
  • No waiting period for any services
  • Discounted fee for out-of-pocket expenses at participating dentists
  • Annual membership fee instead of monthly
  • Uninsured individuals access dental care at a reduced cost
Cons
  • Not a healthcare plan and patients must pay out-of-pocket
  • Discounts rates vary, from 10% to 60%
  • Network of participating dentists may be smaller
  • Coverage is not guaranteed for all dental services

Besides dental discount plans or preventive coverage, you can invest in additional products to brush up on your dental hygiene. Devices like electric toothbrushes and water flossers make it easy to keep cavities and gum disease at bay. Take a look at our best electric toothbrushes and best electric water flossers to pick the one that best fits your budget.

Types of coverage

There are three types of dental care:

  • Preventive care: oral exams, cleanings, sealants and x-rays
  • Basic or routine care: fillings, non-routine x-rays, denture repairs and simple extractions
  • Major procedures: root canals, surgical extractions, dentures, implants and braces

These terms are not standardized – you may find variations across providers that still refer to the same dental care services, such as “routine, minor and complex care”.

The percentage of coverage for each category ranges from 15% to 100%, depending on the plan. A good rule of thumb is to look for providers that cover 100-80-50: 100% preventive coverage, 80% basic work, and 50% major work.

Dental insurance also includes pre-existing conditions clauses, like congenitally missing teeth. This means that your plan won’t pay for any restorative treatment, even if the policy does cover services like implants and bridges.

Waiting periods

Once you have an active policy, providers may enforce a waiting period on certain services. Although this ultimately depends on the plan type and company, standard waiting periods look a bit like this:

  • Preventive services: 0 months
  • Basic procedures: 6 months
  • Major services: 12 to 24 months

Dental plans with no waiting periods on basic care and major dental treatment are costly. Coverage starts small and increases yearly. For example, implants are immediately covered, but the company will only pay 15%. However, if the patient waits six months or more, the company will pay 50% of the same procedure.

Most dental savings plans don’t have waiting periods. Consider these if you need immediate dental care coverage and wish to save a fraction of the cost.

How much is dental insurance?

The cost of dental insurance depends on these factors:

  • Plan type
  • Number of people in the policy
  • Level of coverage
  • Provider
  • State of residence

Policyholders pay monthly premiums for their coverage, but that’s not the only factor to consider when evaluating the cost of dental care. Look at deductibles, copays, coinsurance and annual limits to determine just how much you will pay for your dental care.

Premiums

Dental plans premiums range from $17 to $96. Plans with the lowest premiums focus on 80% to 100% preventive coverage, with minimal or no coverage for basic and major procedures. Plans with high premiums tend to have low deductible rates and comprehensive coverage for preventive, basic and major work.

Deductibles

A deductible is the amount of money a policyholder is responsible for paying before their insurance coverage kicks in. In dental insurance, annual deductible rates are usually set at $50 per person and $150 per family.

Other policies charge a one-time deductible. These tend to have higher rates and a higher deductible ($100-$200), but the policyholder only needs to meet it once instead of annually.

Coinsurance

After you meet your deductible and your insurance coverage kicks in, you’re still responsible for a portion of your dental care. This is called coinsurance. Consider a policy with 80% major work coverage: this means that insurance pays 80% of the procedure (up to the annual maximum limit) and the policyholder is responsible for paying the remaining 20%.

Copay

Similar to coinsurance, a copay is the amount of money you’re responsible for paying out-of-pocket. Copayments are a fixed rate, while coinsurance is always a percentage amount. Policyholders pay a fixed copayment for certain services like prescriptions and office visits. Copay rates should be clearly listed on your insurance card or policy document.

Annual maximum limits

Annual maximum limits are the most your provider will pay towards dental care in a calendar year. Most policies set limits between $1,000-$1,500, depending on plan type and service. Certain services, like orthodontia, have their own annual or lifetime limits within the policy. Once you exceed the benefit maximum, all other dental expenses payments come out of your pocket.

Cost of common dental procedures

The cost of dental care depends significantly on the provider and location. We gathered estimates for the most common procedures to give you a general idea:

Cost with dental insurance Cost without dental insurance
Routine x-rays $0 $25-$750
Cleanings $0 $90-$200
Dental filling $90-$160 $165-$305
Root canal $450-$800 $900-$1,600
Dental crown $500-$2,000 $250-$1,000
Braces $2,000-$3,000 $5,000-$6,000

How to get dental insurance

Individuals can get dental insurance directly from insurance companies or through healthcare marketplaces. Most plans offer quick, easy online enrollment, but others may require that you speak with a representative to sign-up.

Follow these steps to get the right dental insurance policy:

  • Establish your dental needs. Do you have healthy teeth that just need preventive care or do you anticipate restorative or major work?
  • Determine how much you can pay for dental care
  • Do comparison shopping on Healthcare.gov and other private marketplaces
  • Look for 100-80-50 coverage: 100% coverage for preventive care, 80% for basic care and 50% for major work
  • Compare the cost vs value of DHMO, PPO, direct reimbursement and dental savings plans
  • Evaluate premium rates, deductibles, copay, coinsurance and annual limits
  • Check the companies of your choice (and their subsidiaries, if applicable) with state regulatory agencies. You can also look up any licensed insurance provider with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which registers and analyzes consumer complaint data from across the country.
Best Dental Insurance FAQ
How much is dental insurance?
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Dental insurance cost varies significantly per provider, type of dental plan and state. Policies with very limited coverage can cost as little as $19 per month, while full coverage plans will be more expensive. Consider monthly payments, coinsurance percentages, deductibles and annual limits when evaluating the cost of your dental care.
How much is dental cleaning without dental insurance?
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Dental cleanings without insurance cost an average of $90 to $125. The cost depends on the academic preparation of your dentist and the local rates. Dental cleanings in urban areas and cities will be more expensive than dental cleanings in rural or suburban settings.
How to get dental implants covered by insurance?
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Dental implants are eligible for coverage if tooth loss results from injury, trauma, or a medical condition. Congenitally missing teeth are not covered. Additionally, coverage only applies to the root replacement (the titanium post placed in your jawbone). The actual missing tooth (the crown) may be excluded.

Dental discount plans could help save on implants by reimbursing a portion of the payment. You can combine discount plans with your existing insurance coverage, as long as your doctor accepts it.

How much does a dental bridge cost without insurance?
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A dental bridge ranges from $700 to $5,000, depending on the type of bridge. Traditional fixed crown bridges are the most affordable, bonded bridges are mid-range, while a three-unit bridge is the most expensive.
Is HMO or PPO better for dental care?
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Both plan types are appropriate for dental care. The choice between an HMO or PPO plan depends on your budget and the level of flexibility you'd like. HMO plans are more affordable but require that you stay in-network. This may limit your options, especially when it comes to specialists. PPO plans let you see both in-network and out-of-network providers, but premiums are higher.

How We Chose The Best Dental Insurance Plans of 2021

To rank the best dental insurance plans of 2021, we first evaluated plan tiers and available coverage benefits. For cost comparisons, we looked at premiums, deductibles and annual benefit limits. Finally, to measure customer satisfaction, we used J.D Power’s 2020 U.S Dental Plan Satisfaction and the complaint index set by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Summary of Money’s Best Dental Insurance Plans of 2021