Should My Child Have Dental Insurance?

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – As the month wraps up, I’d like to focus on one of the questions we receive quite often: “Should I sign up my child for dental insurance?” The answer is like many in life – it depends.

First, the military offers two great dental insurance plans through TRICARE. For Active Duty families, the TRICARE Dental Program is available. The TRICARE Retiree Dental Program is open to families of retirees. Both programs have competitive pricing with civilian plans, a healthy selection of enrolled providers, and at least partial coverage for most dental services. The TDP is managed by MetLife and the TRDP is managed by Delta Dental. Visit www.tricare.mil/dental.aspx for more information on both programs. You can also view more information on the TDP at www.shaw.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123439841.

The benefits of being enrolled in an insurance plan are mostly based around financial security. If your family members require a significant amount of work, root canals, crowns, braces, the premium cost is a small price to pay versus the total cost of care. Both military programs have dental accident coverage and dental emergency coverage to help pay for those times when you weren’t expecting additional dental treatment. Considering the potential cost from an errant baseball to the mouth, this alone could be worth the premium price.

Some of the drawbacks of these insurance plans revolve around fees and choice. If you don’t require much dental care, the cost can feel exorbitant for just an annual exam and a couple of cleanings. Also, only certain providers known as network providers, can be utilized to maximize your benefits. If you have been going to a dentist most of your life and the dentist decides to opt out of the insurance plan or not enroll, you may find yourself looking for a new dentist or being charged additional fees.

If you elect not to sign up for dental insurance, I would at least recommend starting a “self-funded plan” and set aside money to prepare for future dental care. There are several potential benefits to doing this. Some dentists offer discounts if the bill is paid in cash. Since you are not tied to a plan, you aren’t limited to just network providers. Finally, since you own your plan, the money stays with you so you are able to earn interest and determine how you spend it.

The biggest drawback of opting out of a dental insurance plan is the financial risk you undertake. If you are unable to set aside money, an expensive dental bill can easily wipe out savings. Some can cost as much as $10,000-$20,000. Even a routine bill can stress your pocketbook if you have not set aside money according to your plan. If your family requires significant dental care, I would highly recommend a traditional plan over self-funding.

With all the costs associated with dental care, I highly stress having a plan in place to ensure your family is taken care of when needed. Which plan you choose, though, is your decision and should be based on your family’s needs, desires, and budget.

To enroll your child in the TRICARE Dental Program, call (855) 638-8371 or visit www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/Dental/TDP.aspx

To enroll your family in the TRICARE Retiree Dental Program, visit www.trdp.org