I honestly thought that I was winning when I made a downgrade to our health insurance last year while squirreling the money that I was saving every month through cheaper premiums into a separate account for emergency bills and our ridiculously high coinsurance responsibilities. The initial plunge was nerve wracking, but even with my Month Of Doctors, MRIs and procedures in May, I still pulled out way ahead and learned a lot about how health insurance works in the process, including the fact that sometimes you won’t ever get billed for the charges outlined in your Explanation of Benefits as your responsibility. But you know what? I never thought about dental. And why would I? We went for routine cleanings every 8 or so months, paid out of pocket for everything ourselves and that was that. In our particular situation, dental insurance didn’t really make much sense. But then of course, a situation developed and I was sent through the rabbit hole of researching dental plans, drawing up comparative spread sheets, and coming up with the worst case what if scenarios.
My personal dental history is quite extensive and complex. Trips to the dentist was never pleasant and the majority of the cavities that I had filled in my childhood (and there were many) were done without novocaine. It’s not just by happenstance that we’re diligent about restricting sugar for the kids; there’s a reason for that. I won’t lie when I say that the lack of dental insurance is a prime motivating factor in making sure that we have good checkups. I didn’t really come from a culture where dental health was considered important and neither my parents had access to regular dental care growing up. In contrast to my problematic early dental history, the girls have excellent teeth and aside from one small cavity between them, have had stellar dental visits. But now we’re facing a situation where recent orthodontic consultations have recommended that we do all kinds of invasive and potentially expensive things to deal with an issue that has arisen. I handed over 100 dollars in cash for a 15 minute consultation today alone. Throw in inevitable braces starting in 2 years for both kids and now I’m looking at bills that I hadn’t really anticipated. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never get ahead. I never considered dental to be such a financial gamble, but I was wrong and I should have known better. I was once reduced to tears when I forked up over 5 grand of my own money – all the money that I had saved in the world during my last few months of grad school because I had to replace most of my old fillings and have a couple of teeth crowned.
So…friends…tell me. Do you have dental insurance? What does it pay for? Does it cover partial expenses for braces? Enlighten me!
Update: Thank you so much for your comments and insights so far!