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Published: Jul 21, 2022 30 min read
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Best for Major Work
Best for BracesBest for Variety of Plan OptionsBest for Affordable CoverageBest for No Waiting Periods
Guardian DirectDelta DentalHumanaDentaQuest Dental InsuranceSpirit Dental Insurance
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Company Highlight

Covers implants and orthodontic treatment

Available in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S territories

Ranks 2nd in J.D Power’s 2021 U.S Dental Plan Satisfaction Report

Most affordable preventive care plan

High annual maximum limit

Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Preventive, basic and major

Preventive, basic and major

Preventive, basic and major

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$50 annually

$50, $150 annually

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

$50-$300

$100 one-time

Sample Premiums

$23.27 to $61.56

$21.57 to 64.92

$11.99 to $59.99

$8.35 to $44.43

$29.82 to $108.38

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,500

Up to $1,500

Up to $1,500

Up to $2,000

Up to $5,000

Best for Major Work
Guardian Direct
Our Partner
Check Price
Company Highlight

Covers implants and orthodontic treatment

Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$50 annually

Sample Premiums

$23.27 to $61.56

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,500

Best for Braces
Delta Dental
Check Price
Company Highlight

Available in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S territories

Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$50, $150 annually

Sample Premiums

$21.57 to 64.92

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,500

Best for Variety of Plan Options
Humana
Check Price
Company Highlight

Ranks 2nd in J.D Power’s 2021 U.S Dental Plan Satisfaction Report

Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

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

Sample Premiums

$11.99 to $59.99

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $1,500

Best for Affordable Coverage
DentaQuest Dental Insurance
Check Price
Company Highlight

Most affordable preventive care plan

Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$50-$300

Sample Premiums

$8.35 to $44.43

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $2,000

Best for No Waiting Periods
Spirit Dental Insurance
Check Price
Company Highlight

High annual maximum limit

Coverage Options

Preventive, basic and major

Deductibles

$100 one-time

Sample Premiums

$29.82 to $108.38

Maximum Annual Benefit

Up to $5,000

If your health insurance doesn’t cover dental treatment, a stand-alone dental plan may be the best way to keep up with your oral health. The cost of routine dental care (cleanings and X-rays) generally runs from $40 to $97, while more complex procedures like a root canal may cost over $1,000 per tooth.

Dental insurance can lower your expenses significantly, especially for costly restorative work such as crowns, fillings, implants and braces.

To help you find dental care that works for you, here are the best dental insurance plans for 2022.

Our Top Picks for Best Dental Insurance Plans

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Best Dental Insurance Reviews

Pros
  • PPO and DHMO plans available
  • Large provider network
  • Low NAIC complaint index
Cons
  • Ranks below industry average in J.D Power's 2021 Dental Plan Satisfaction Study
  • No orthodontic coverage for adults

Why we chose it: Guardian Direct stands out because it includes 50% major work coverage on every policy except the Starter, its preventive-only plan option.

Starting at $23.62, Guardian Direct's Core plan covers procedures such as crowns, oral surgery, implants and dentures. Annual maximum limits start at $500 and go up to $1,000 by year three, while dental implants have a separate lifetime maximum of $700.

The middle tier, the Achiever plan, adds orthodontic benefits for people under 19 years of age and increases the annual maximum limits. The plan starts with a $1,000 limit and goes up to $1,500 by the third year.

Finally, the Diamond plan starts with a maximum payout limit of $1,500 for the first year, and adds coverage for teeth whitening (capped at $500 annually).

Plan type Monthly premium for Miami, Florida (33101) Monthly premium for Los Angeles, California (90001) Monthly premium for New York City (10001)
Starter Unavailable $25.26 $23.27
Core $23.62 $33.67 $31.03
Achiever $33.79 $49.01 $45.17
Diamond $42.44 $61.56 $55.31
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

Why we chose it: Delta Dental’s nationwide availability, comprehensive dental benefits and no upper age limit for braces make it an excellent choice for families and individuals in need of orthodontic care.

Delta Dental is one of the few providers that extends orthodontic benefits to children and people over 19 years of age. Sample quotes from California, Florida and New York returned three plan options, two of which include orthodontic coverage.

  • Delta PPO Premium covers 100% of routine care and 20 to 50% of basic and major procedures. Orthodontic treatment has 50% coverage, up to a $1,500 lifetime maximum.
  • DeltaCareUSA, the company’s low-cost HMO dental plan, sets fixed copayment rates for preventive, basic and major services (including orthodontia) without deductibles or annual limits. In the state of California, beneficiaries pay up to $2,800 out-of-pocket for braces and the plan covers the difference. The downsides are that policyholders must pay a yearly premium upfront and the provider network is limited.

Readers interested in Delta Dental should note that, although Delta lists a total of five dental plans on its main website, the benefits and availability of each plan differ per zip code because the plans are administered by independent Delta Dental companies.

To see which plans are available to you, select your state from the company’s drop down menu, which includes all 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S territories.

Plan type Monthly premium for Miami, Florida (33101) Monthly premium for Los Angeles, California (90001) Monthly premium for New York City (10001)
Delta Dental PPO Individual–Basic Plan $21.57 $29.08 $24.24
Delta Dental PPO Individual–Premium Plan $48.79 $64.92 $48.48
DeltaCare USA* $8.92 ($107.04 per year) $8.92 ($107.04 per year) $20.58 ($246.96 per year)

*Made in one single payment for the whole year.

Pros
  • Broad network of participating providers
  • One plan with no waiting periods on preventive, basic and major care
  • Ranks 2nd in J.D. Power 2021 U.S Dental Plan Satisfaction Report
Cons
  • High NAIC complaint index in a lot of its state subsidiaries
  • No coverage for implants
  • No coverage for orthodontic care

Why we chose it: Humana dental insurance offers six dental plan options including four plans with in-network and out-of-network coverage, one dental savings plan and a low-cost HMO plan with a limited provider network.

Humana dental’s plan options start with five PPO policies offering varying coverage levels to suit each beneficiary's dental care needs and budget.

  • Preventive Value PPO is great for people who want preventive care at a low cost
  • The Bright Plus PPO plan adds coverage for basic procedures such as fillings and simple extractions and includes veteran discounts for prescriptions and vision and hearing care.
  • The last two policies, Complete Dental PPO and Loyalty Plus PPO, provide the most comprehensive coverage with benefits for preventive, basic and major procedures.

We particularly liked the Loyalty Plus PPO plan because there are no waiting periods on any covered benefit, including major work. Coverage starts as soon as the plan is active, and Humana increases the benefits annually until the third year of enrollment. By year three, the insurer covers 100% of preventive care, 70% of routine care and 50% of major work up to a $1,500 annual limit.

Humana also offers a dental savings plan and a Dental Value HMO plan. Starting at $11.99, Dental Value HMO covers preventive, basic and major procedures with no waiting periods, deductibles, or annual limits. This policy works best for people that prefer affordable premiums and don’t mind a limited provider network or fixed copayment fees.

Plan type Monthly premium for Miami, Florida (33101) Monthly premium for Los Angeles, California (90001) Monthly premium for New York City (10001)
Dental Value (HMO) $11.99 Unavailable Unavailable
Preventive Value PPO $19.49 $21.99 $19.99
Bright Plus for Veterans PPO $23.99 $26.54 $21.36
Bright Plus PPO $23.99 $26.54 $21.36
Loyalty Plus PPO $35.99 $46.99 Unavailable
Complete Dental $59.99 $59.99 $59.99
Dental Savings Plus $6.99 Unavailable $7.99
Pros
  • Affordable options for preventive, basic and major care starting at $8.35
  • Orthodontic coverage for children and adults
  • Find a dentist near you
Cons
  • 18-month waiting period on major work
  • No out-of-network coverage
  • Ranks close to the industry average in J.D Power's 2021 Dental Plan Satisfaction Study

Why we chose it: For under $15 a month, DentaQuest’s Personal Dental Plus covers 100% of preventive services, 50% of basic care and 30% of major procedures.

DentaQuest offers preventive-only and comprehensive dental care at a significantly lower price than its competitors.

The Personal Dental Plan is a preventive-only plan that covers annual cleanings, X-rays and evaluations for $8.35 a month. The following plan tiers — Personal Dental Plan Basic and Personal Dental Plus — add more coverage for minor and major restorative services such as extractions, fillings, denture repairs and oral surgery.

DentaQuest’s most comprehensive coverage is available under the following policies:

  • Personal Dental Plan Comprehensive Ortho 15000 (annual benefit limit of $1,500)
  • Personal Dental Plan Comprehensive Ortho 2000 (annual benefit limit of $2,000)

Both plans cover 100% of preventive care, 80% of basic work and 50% of major procedures, including braces for both children and adults.

As with other providers, plan availability varies by state. Enter your zip code on DentaQuest’s search tool to see the plan options in your area.

Plan type Monthly premium for Miami, Florida (33101) Monthly premium for Atlanta, Georgia (30301)
Personal Dental Plan $8.35 $12.42
Personal Dental Plan Basic $12.28 $19.77
Personal Dental Plan Plus $14.21 $22.90
Personal Dental Plan Comprehensive with Orthodontia 1500 Unavailable $44.43
Personal Dental Plan Comprehensive with Orthodontia 2000 Unavailable $34.55

*Sample quotes for DentaQuest’s personal dental plans aren’t available in New York or California.

Pros
  • No waiting periods on any plan
  • Plan option with $5,000 annual maximum limit
  • Covers three dental cleanings per year
  • Available in 50 states
Cons
  • Expensive premium rates
  • No coverage for adult orthodontia
  • No HMO plans available

Why we chose it: Spirit Dental is one of the few providers that waive waiting periods on all its dental policies and across all benefit categories, including major and restorative work.

Spirit Dental ’s plan options are split into two groups: Network and Choice.

Network plans offer the best rates with providers within the approved network, while Choice plans allow beneficiaries to pick their preferred provider with no network requirements. The downside to this flexibility is that premiums and out-of-pocket costs are higher.

Two of Spirit Dental’s plans — Pinnacle Choice and Pinnacle Network — also offer a calendar year annual maximum of up to $5,000 (except in Connecticut, Illinois and New York). This benefit is a significant jump from the usual limit of $1,500, which is a big relief for policyholders who need to finance major procedures such as implants or dentures. However, beneficiaries must pay high premium rates and wait until year three of enrollment to qualify for the full $5,000.

Feel free to download Spirit Dental’s brochure for more details about coverage benefits in specific states.

Plan type Monthly premium for Miami, Florida (33101) Monthly premium for Los Angeles, California (90001) Monthly premium for New York City (10001)
Secure Network $29.82 $37.96 Unavailable
Core Network $37.46 $47.67 $54.45 - $63.27
Pinnacle Network $47.23 $60.12 Unavailable
Senior Preferred $54.00 $68.32 Unavailable
Secure Choice $45.33 $57.70 Unavailable
Core Choice $56.74 $72.21 Unavailable
Pinnacle Choice $75.70 $93.35 Unavailable
Senior Preferred Choice $85.47 $108.38 Unavailable
Pros
  • Multiple price options with a range of prices
  • 4-month waiting period on basic services
  • Ranks 1st in J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Dental Plan Satisfaction Report
Cons
  • Benefits stated in the brochure may not apply to all 50 states
  • Above average NAIC complaint index

Why we chose it: While most providers enforce a six-month waiting period, UnitedHealthOne has two plans with a short four-month waiting period for basic dental care.

Plans with no waiting periods can be prohibitively expensive for many people. United HealthOne’s Essential and Essential Preferred plans meet the needs of patients who require basic services like fillings and extractions and can wait a short time.

Starting at $24, the Essential 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, up to $1,000 annually. Coverage will increase to 80% by year two.
  • No major work coverage.

Essential Preferred includes everything available in the Essential plan and adds 15% major work coverage with a six-month waiting period. After year two of enrollment, the major work benefit increases to 60%, with a payout limit of $1,000.

In addition to the Essential and Essential Preferred plans, UnitedHealthOne offers eight dental insurance policies divided into Primary and Premier plans.

The four policies listed under the Primary Plans provide the most coverage for preventive and basic services, while the Premier Plans are best for beneficiaries that need more major work benefits and higher annual limits.

Plan type Monthly premium for Miami, Florida (33101) Monthly premium for Los Angeles, California (90001)
Essential $27.30 $24.16
Essential Preferred $42.89 $37.96
Primary $30.68 $31.04
Primary Preferred $46.05 $46.58
Primary Plus $46.40 $43.17
Primary Preferred Plus $67.71 $63.02
Premier Choice $48.75 $58.21
Premier Elite $54.81 $65.44
Premier Plus $56.67 $67.69
Premier Max $59.15 $70.65
Pros
  • Competitive benefits for preventive, basic and major care
  • 15% discount for each for eligible dependents added to the policy.
  • Ranks above average in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Dental Plan Satisfaction Report
Cons
  • No coverage for implants
  • High NAIC complaint index in some states

Why we chose it: Cigna’s availability combined with a provider network of over 300,000 locations make it our top choice for nationwide coverage.

Cigna offers its beneficiaries in all 50 states two dental insurance plans with preventive, basic and major care coverage, and one preventive coverage policy.

The plans include competitive premium rates, industry-standard payout limits and coverage percentages that compare favorably with other top dental insurance providers:

  • Cigna Dental Preventive — covers 100% of preventive care. No deductible or annual limits apply.
  • Cigna Dental 1000 — covers 100% of preventive care, 80% of basic services and 50% of major work. The payout limit is set at $1,000 per calendar year.
  • Cigna Dental 1500 — covers 100% of preventive care, 80% of basic services and 50% of major work. The annual limit is set at $1,500 and covers orthodontia for children and adults up to $1,000 per lifetime.

Lastly, seniors and retirees who've lost employer-provided coverage and those looking to switch out their insurance can get immediate dental care with Cigna. Provided the policyholder had dental insurance in the past 12 months, Cigna will waive all waiting periods on restorative care, including cavity fillings and root canals.

Plan type Monthly premium for Miami, Florida (33101) Monthly premium for Los Angeles, California (90001) Monthly premium for New York City (10001)
Cigna Dental Preventive $21.00 $25.00 $25.00
Cigna Dental 1000 $34.00 $40.00 $40.00
Cigna Dental 1500 $41.00 $47.00 $47.00
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Other dental insurance plans we considered

The following companies didn’t meet the requirements for any of our “Best for” categories, including providers with higher premium rates and dental insurance marketplaces. However, many offer comprehensive dental care and are still worthy of consideration.

MetLife

MetLife’s five dental insurance options include affordable HMO policies with fixed copayment fees and PPO policies for members who want in-network and out-of-network coverage.

The most comprehensive policy available is PPO High, which has a yearly payout limit of $2,000. The plan covers 100% of preventive care, 80% of basic procedures and 50% of major work. The premium plan starts at $44.90.

Pros
  • DHMO and PPO plan options
  • Covers treatment for congenitally missing teeth
  • Allows policyholders to pay monthly or quarterly
  • Ranked above the industry average on J.D Power's 2021 Dental Plan Satisfaction Report
Cons
  • DHMO plans are limited to California, Florida, New York and Texas
  • No coverage for adult orthodontics

Smart Health Dental Insurance

Smart Health Dental Insurance offers two dental insurance policies (Preventive PPO and Comprehensive Elevate) as well as a dental discount plan.

Preventive PPO covers 100% of preventive procedures and 50% to 80% of basic services such as X-rays and fillings. Comprehensive Elevate offers additional coverage on major services and incremental annual payout limits. However, the starting annual benefit is just $750, a low figure compared to similar policies by other providers.

Pros
  • Network of over 200,000 dental care providers
  • Plans with no waiting period on major procedures
  • Underwriter has low NAIC Complaint Index
Cons
  • No quotes or premium estimates available online
  • No orthodontic coverage
  • Preventive plan has a low annual maximum of $750

Ameritas

Ameritas offers three policies with comprehensive coverage and in-network and out-of-network coverage. Two of these plans also offer payout limits that increase annually up to $2,000.

The company’s dental insurance policies compare favorably with other insurers regarding deductibles, covered procedures and premium rates. However, Ameritas didn’t make it to our top picks because its most affordable plan option has an annual maximum benefit of $750. Similar policies from other providers cap annual payouts at $1,000 or higher.

Pros
  • Three plan options available
  • Premiums range from $25 to $57
  • Covers teeth whitening
Cons
  • No orthodontic care for adults
  • The value plan doesn't cover 100% of preventive care until after the first year

Physicians Mutual

Physicians Mutual’s dental plans cover over 350 preventive, basic and major dental procedures at the provider of your choice. What sets each plan apart is the monthly premium rate and the dollar amount that’s reimbursed to the policyholder for each eligible service.

Standard waiting periods apply to basic and major dental services, but there are no annual maximum limits, no deductibles and no network requirements.

Pros
  • No deductibles or payout limits
  • Covers 350 dental procedures at a discounted rate
  • 30-day satisfaction guarantee
  • Direct deposit reimbursements
Cons
  • No 100% coverage on preventive care
  • No orthodontic coverage

Aflac

Aflac’s supplemental dental plans are designed to fill the coverage gaps of existing health or dental insurance policy. If the treatment or procedure is listed in the schedule of benefits, Aflact reimburses a fixed dollar amount directly to the policyholder.

Unfortunately, Aflac’s website is sparse regarding coverage details; if you want a quote, you’ll need to contact an agent by phone.

Pros
  • Go to the dentist of your choice
  • Three supplemental dental plan options
  • Direct deposit reimbursements
Cons
  • Network dental insurance is only available through employer-provided insurance
  • No 100% coverage on preventive care
  • No insurance quotes online

1Dental

1Dental offers a different way to pay for dental care through its dental discount membership program. The company negotiates discounted rates with participating providers and passes these savings onto its members.

1Dental offers two membership plans for a yearly fee of $119 or a bundle of both for $169. Because these aren’t traditional dental plans, there are no waiting periods, exclusions, annual limits, or deductibles.

Pros
  • No deductibles, waiting periods, or annual limits
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Orthodontic discounts apply to children and adults
Cons
  • Plans are dental discount memberships, not dental insurance
  • All payments are out-of-pocket
  • Membership fees start at $119

DentalPlans.com

DentalPlans.com is a marketplace where you can find both dental discount plans and dental insurance. Once you provide your zip code, the platform lists various dental plan options from providers such as Aetna, Humana, Delta and Renaissance Dental.

Dental savings plans purchased through DentalPlans.com are eligible for a 30-day money-back guarantee. That said, the marketplace charges a $20 enrollment fee that’s non-refundable.

Pros
  • Marketplace for dental savings plans and dental insurance
  • Users can search and compare different plans
  • Dental savings plans are activated within three days
Cons
  • Not dental insurance
  • $20 enrollment fee

Dental Insurance Guide

In this section, we explain how dental plans work and the insurance options available on the market. We also discuss the costs associated with dental care and the steps you should take to choose the right dental insurance provider.

How does dental insurance work?

A dental insurance policy covers expenses for checkups, routine cleanings and other dental restorative work such as fillings, implants and crowns. Many providers such as Humana, Cigna and UnitedHealthOne also offer dental, hearing and vision bundles.

Providers are regulated at the state level, meaning plan availability, benefits and rates may vary per state.

Dental coverage benefits

Dental insurance carriers divide benefits into three categories: preventive care, basic or routine care and major procedures.

  • Preventive care includes checkups (oral exams and cleanings), sealants and X-rays. Most providers offer 100% coverage with no waiting periods and deductibles for these procedures.
  • Basic or routine care refers to fillings, non-routine X-rays, denture repairs and simple extractions. Coverage is generally capped at 80% and beneficiaries must meet the policy’s deductible rate.
  • Major procedures include root canals, gum disease, surgical extractions, dentures and implants. Coverage rarely exceeds 50% after meeting the policy’s deductible.

Even if it’s technically major work, orthopedic treatment is considered a separate category for insurers. It’s easier to find coverage for child orthodontia than for adults, but coverage is capped at 50% regardless of the patient's age.

Companies also enforce a lifetime benefit limit, meaning they will only pay for braces or aligners once for the duration of the policy.

If you are considering braces, take a look at our article on how much Invisalign costs and the choices available.

Dental coverage exclusions

Dental insurance includes pre-existing conditions clauses like congenitally missing teeth. This means your plan won’t pay for implants or bridges to replace missing teeth unless those teeth are missing due to an accident or illness.

Waiting periods

Once you have an active policy, insurers 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: 3 to 6 months
  • Major services: 12 to 24 months

Dental plans without waiting periods on basic and major services exist, but they’re expensive. Coverage also starts small and increases yearly. For example, implants are immediately covered, but the company will only pay 15% of the total cost, which is very little considering that a single implant can cost over $1,600. The company will pay 50% of the same procedure if a patient waits six months or more.

Types of dental insurance plans

The three types of dental plans on the market today are dental preferred provider organization (DPPO or PPO) plans, dental health maintenance organization (DHMO or HMO) plans and fee-for-service plans:

Dental preferred provider organization (DPPO)

DPPO plans have a wider network of dentists, and patients have more flexibility when choosing their doctors. You can see providers both in-network and out of network, but you’ll find the best rates within the dental provider network.

This flexibility comes with a higher price tag — premiums for DPPO plans are more expensive and have higher out-of-pocket costs.

Dental health maintenance organization (DHMO)

A DHMO plan works within a dental provider network. There’s a fixed copayment for each visit, premiums are more affordable and there are no annual maximum limits.

Members of a DHMO plan have a smaller provider network to choose from, and they’ll also need to select a primary care dentist from the plan’s network. Lastly, there’s no out-of-network coverage, and seeing a specialist requires a referral.

Fee-for-service plans

Fee-for-service plans pay a flat rate for eligible services. This plan type allows greater flexibility because patients can visit the provider of their choice.

On the downside, out-of-pocket expenses are higher. Patients can either make a copayment at the dentist’s office or pay upfront and then file a claim for reimbursement with their insurance provider.

Dental discount plans

A dental discount plan is not dental insurance. It’s a membership program that charges a monthly or annual fee in exchange for discounts on eligible dental services of participating providers.

There are no waiting periods on any services, and most procedures benefit from a discounted rate — even orthodontics. With dental discount plans, uninsured individuals can still access dental care at a reduced cost. However, discount rates vary from 10% to 60% and the network of participating dentists may be smaller.

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 find the one that best fits your needs.

How much is dental insurance?

Dental plan premiums range from $17 to $96. Cost varies per plan type, coverage level and state of residence.

The plans with the lowest premiums cover preventive procedures and offer minimal or no coverage for basic and major services. On the other hand, the plans with the highest premiums tend to have shorter or no waiting periods, high annual limits and comprehensive coverage for preventive, basic and major work.

If comprehensive dental benefits are cost prohibitive for you or your family, consider low-cost alternatives to dental health insurance such as dental school clinics and state assistance programs.

Cost of common dental procedures

The cost of dental care depends significantly on the provider, the location and whether the patient’s insured.

To give readers a general idea, we looked at the average cost of common dental procedures in the 2020 Survey of Dental Fees published by the American Dental Association (ADA). Then, we calculated how much that procedure would cost with an insurance policy that covers 100% of preventive care, 80% of basic work and 50% of complex procedures.

Here’s what we found:

Cost without dental insurance Cost with dental insurance
X-rays $40 – $143 $0
Cleanings $73 – $97 $0
Dental filling $171 – $471 $34 – $94
Root canal $369 – $1,325 $184 – $662
Dental crown $528 – 1,386 $264 – $693

Additional costs to consider

Policyholders pay monthly premiums for their coverage, but that’s not the only expense to keep in mind. Deductibles, copayment, coinsurance and annual maximum limits also affect the total cost of dental care.

Deductibles

A deductible is the amount you pay before your insurance coverage kicks in. Most dental insurance companies set annual deductible rates at $50 per person and $150 per family. Other providers charge a one-time deductible, but plans with this type of deductible tend to have higher premium rates and a higher deductible ($100-$200 for individuals and over $400 for family plans)

Coinsurance

Coinsurance refers to the portion of dental care a policyholder must pay out-of-pocket after they meet the deductible and the insurance coverage kicks in.

Imagine you need a root canal that costs $300 and your dental insurance covers 80% of the procedure but charges a $50 annual deductible. If you already met this deductible on a previous visit, the coinsurance for the root canal would be $60 (20% of the total cost). However, if you haven’t yet met the $50 deductible, the procedure would set you back $100.

Copayment

A copay (or copayment) is a fixed fee that policyholders pay each time they seek specific services or products like prescriptions and office visits (no matter if they’ve met the policy deductible or not). Copay rates should be listed on your insurance card or policy document.

Annual maximum limits

A policy’s annual maximum limit establishes the highest dollar amount a provider will pay for dental care in a calendar year. Most policies set limits between $1,000-$1,500, depending on the plan type and service. Certain services like orthodontia have their own limits within the policy.

Once you exceed the benefit maximum, all other dental expenses payments come out of your pocket. For family plans, the annual maximum limit applies to each individual separately.

How to get dental insurance

Most people have access to dental insurance through their employer. However, those who are uninsured or underinsured – like Medicare beneficiaries – need to purchase a standalone policy.

Our guide on how to get dental insurance with Medicare can help you with this process.

You can also purchase a standalone policy directly with the insurance company or through a 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.

Follow these guidelines to pick the right dental insurance provider:

Identify your dental needs.

A young adult with healthy teeth has very different dental care needs than a child with malocclusion or an elderly adult with tooth decay or gum disease. We recommend writing down the dental care needs of you and your family to make it easier to find providers that cover these procedures.

A general rule of thumb is to look for plans that cover 100/80/50: 100% preventive coverage, 80% basic work and 50% major work. However, it’s important to see what’s included in each percentage. A policy covering 50% of major work but excluding implants may be useless if your main concern is missing teeth.

Review the different types of dental plans

We go over common dental plans in our types of dental plans section. Revise each one to see which fits best in terms of coverage benefits, plan options and cost.

Check out which plans are available in your state

Providers don’t offer the same dental plans for every state. For example, Delta Dental offers five dental plans nationwide, but our sample quotes for California, New York and Miami returned only three options.

Compare cost vs value

Besides premium rates, deductibles, coinsurance and annual limits all factor into the overall cost of dental care. Sometimes, patients pay too much for dental insurance and get minimal coverage in return, especially on preventive and basic services.

To make sure the plan is worth it, tally up the insurance cost and compare it to the coverage benefits and an estimate of your yearly dental expenses.

Verify providers with regulatory agencies

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 are more expensive. Consider monthly payments, coinsurance percentages, deductibles and annual limits when evaluating the cost of your dental care. For more details, review our section on how much is dental insurance.

How much is dental cleaning without dental insurance?

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Dental cleanings without insurance cost an average of $73–$97. 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 insurance coverage as long as your doctor accepts them.

How much does a dental bridge cost without insurance?

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A dental bridge ranges from $553 to $1,577, 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 2022

To rank the best dental insurance plans of 2022, we evaluated:

  • Coverage benefits for preventive, basic and major services - Our top picks offer 100% coverage on all preventive services and offer at least one plan that covers 50% of basic and major procedures.
  • Annual maximum limits - Most dental plans limit payouts to $1,500 or $2,000 per year. Providers that set annual limits under $1,000 didn’t make the cut.
  • Premium rates - We excluded plans that charged high premium rates and didn’t offer more affordable options. Paying over $70 a month for dental insurance is not feasible for many, even if the plan offers unique benefits such as no waiting periods or high payouts.
  • Multiple plan options - Dental care needs vary a lot per person. We selected providers that offer something for everyone, be it prevention-focused plans or more comprehensive benefits.

Summary of Money’s Best Dental Insurance Plans of 2022