What do dental benefits cost on a group basis or if I buy them directly as an individual?
For most, the cost of dental benefits is less than your daily cup of coffee. Depending on what you buy, that might be regular coffee, or it might be Starbucks. (NOTE: Costs will vary by country area and coverage.)
Individual policies are generally more expensive than group policies, and the coverage may also be somewhat limited. Separate policies generally do not cover orthodontia. There may also be other coverage limitations and waiting periods, particularly for major procedures. NADP estimates national average monthly dental premiums for individual DHMO plans at $13.83 per month and for individual DPPO plans at $35.16 per month.
Employer-Provided Dental Benefits: Depending on the type of dental benefit—DHMO, DPPO, or Dental Indemnity, the employee’s premium is about the cost of having dinner out once a month—ranging from about $13.08 to $34.71 for DHMO or DPPO coverage, respectively. On average, dental premiums are about 1/20th the cost of medical premiums per person.:
- DHMO -- $16.64 to $18.31 a month--$200 to $220 annually
- DPPO -- $28.70 to $30.71 a month--$344 to $369 annually
- Indemnity -- $35.97 to $37.35 a month--$432 to $448 annually
Discount Dental Plan fees can range from a few dollars a month to $10 or 12 dollars a month for an individual or $20 to $30 a month for a family. The Consumer Health Alliance (CHA) reports that 62% of discount programs cost less than $200 annually, resulting in about 40% savings on the cost of dental services.
Dental Benefits on Public Insurance Marketplaces
In 2015 about 1/3 of the medical policies offered on public insurance marketplaces (aka exchanges) included a pediatric dental benefit. Of those, 90% made that benefit subject to the medical deductible that averaged just under $3000. Of the 90%, two-thirds waived the deductible for diagnostic and preventive care, making the pediatric benefit a “prevention only” benefit.
In 2016 the number of children applying for commercial coverage again increased; it was 1,068,631. Of these, 115,304 applied for separate dental coverage. Again, no information was made available on whether the other applicants obtained medical policies with pediatric dental coverage. About 1.4 million individuals applied for separate dental coverage, i.e., primarily adults.
In 2017, the number of children applying for commercial coverage through all public exchanges was approximately level to the prior year, i.e., 1,068,082 vs.1,068,631 the preceding year. The number of general applications in all public exchanges was also down slightly, 12,200,000 vs.12,600,000 the prior year. Overall, there were about 1.9 million public exchange applications for SADPs, with approximately 134,000 of these applications for children in the 0-17 age group.
 NADP 2019 Dental Benefits Report: Financial Operations and Premium Trends, January 2019
 Ibid. NOTE: Average of all groups is displayed; premiums for small groups (under 50) will usually be higher than the average shown here while the largest groups (500 or more) will be lower.
 Discount Health Care Programs: Evolution and Prospects for Continued Growth, Consumer Health Alliance, 2017.
Are dental plans accredited? Is there any method of licensing or registration?
NADP member companies are licensed where appropriate in their states of operation as insurers or health plans—usually through the Department of Insurance. NADP member companies also support a consumer access and rights policy. All states license and regulate dental carriers that provide dental insurance products such as dental HMOs, dental PPOs, and dental indemnity products. Thirty-four states regulate discount plans, of which 23 require licensure or registration.
There is no type of accreditation service or seal of approval for all functions of companies that offer dental benefits. Some dental plans have received separate certifications of their dental clinics, provider credentialing, claims processing, or utilization review process from an accreditation service that focuses primarily on medical plans.
Separate from NADP, there is also an affiliation of Delta Dental Plans, i.e., DDPA—their website and that of NADP provide the names of companies that are most active in the dental benefits arena. NADP members provide benefits to over 90% of Americans with dental coverage; DDPA’s members cover about 26% of Americans—together, our associations represent virtually all of the market.
Also, check with state insurance or health regulatory authorities to ensure that the dental company you are considering is licensed if the company provides a dental HMO, dental PPO, or dental Indemnity plan. Discount dental plans are not licensed in most states as they are not insurance products, although an increasing number of states require some registration or regulation. Regulatory authorities also track complaints, and their published summaries show dental products in the lowest ranges of consumer complaints.