Your Guide to Navigating a Changing Dental Economy
You might be surprised to learn that rather than fear or anxiety, the most common sentiment I encounter among my patients, and the community at large, as it pertains to visiting the dentist is confusion. For a variety of reasons, it’s becoming less and less clear what to expect leading up to, during, and following a trip to the dentist. Naturally, your dentist should be explaining and clarifying the myriad nuances of your dental health, as well as any steps that ought to be taken to improve it. Therefore, why the confusion? Two words: dental insurance. Sadly, the dental economy at large is changing, and not for the better. Those with dental benefit plans (notice I didn’t call them “dental insurance” plans, because that would be a misnomer, albeit a common one) often see those benefits shrinking yearly. What most call “dental insurance” is nothing more than a gift card with unconscionable amounts of stipulations and red tape. A plan might cover cleanings, exams, and necessary x-rays twice yearly, as well as a percentage off of SOME procedures. That’s not insurance, as most understand it. Medical insurance is easy. Meet your deductible, and you’re in the clear. You’re covered. When’s the last time you went to the hospital, and the physician’s staff sat you down to go through an itemized list of procedures you needed to have done, going through what the out-of-pocket would be for each? Probably never. They just do what they do and send you a bill. How easy! Dental patients would stage a mutiny if any dentists did that! As a result, more and more patients just say “I only want to do what insurance covers,” thereby letting a nameless, faceless third party dictate their treatment. Who loses the most in that arrangement? The patients, who are unable to see that just because a “dental insurance” company arbitrarily won’t cover a procedure doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. What’s the solution? There’s no straightforward answer, as “dental insurance” companies have inserted (and subsequently entrenched) themselves between patients and dentists. One alternative is to seek out a dentist who offers a VIP in-house membership program, which, for a low annual fee, often includes, on an annual basis, two checkups, two cleanings, necessary x-rays, and a discount on any needed treatment. Programs like these serve to not only keep dental expenses manageable for patients, but they also lower the barriers that prevent patients from receiving ideal dental treatment. One of my primary goals for my patients, in addition to providing excellent dental care, is for the financial side of things to be as transparent as possible. What many of my patients have found is that an in-house dental membership plan is a hugely viable alternative to traditional “dental insurance” plans not only economically, but also in terms of feeling confident about having complete control over their dental care.