Why Dental Insurance May be a Waste for Some Physicians

December 22, 2014

Physicians may want to think twice prior to purchasing dental insurance. Here's why.

A strong reason to buy insurance is to share the small risk of a large loss. Typical dental insurance does not perform this task, and seems like a shaky choice for many physicians.

In the case of health insurance, your premiums ultimately buy you an unlimited amount of medical cost coverage. With property insurance, your home and automobiles are usually covered for both a total loss as well as providing significant liability coverage.

Dental insurance, however, comes with rigid caps on benefits. So if you are unlucky enough to have a serious dental cost liability, you are likely to find significant restrictions on how much the insurance will ultimately pay. These plans also come with restrictions on which dentists you can visit. It's becoming increasingly common for dental “patients” to be herded into corporate dental clinics. I cannot prove it, but often hear that the providers in these clinics are incentivized to sell services and products, especially those not covered by the relatively low fee schedule of insurance-covered services.

If you are an employed physician, and your employer heavily subsidizes a dental insurance plan, then it might make financial sense to participate. However, I will go out on a limb here and suggest that most of you reading this will do better by staying out of the dental insurance market (subsidized or not) and choosing a good “fiduciary” dentist. The average family does not spend a great deal on routine dental care, and sacrificing your choice of care to save relatively little seems like a poor buy. Remember that any large expenses for dental care are likely to be excluded or restricted by most dental insurance policies.

Do an experiment with a dental insurance policy. Add up your expected family dental costs for a year. Subtract out the cost of the policy, copays, and deductibles and see how much you’d really save. Understand that particularly expensive care such as orthodontia and oral surgery often has severe financial co-responsibilities that limit any benefit.