What are dental insurance waiting periods?

waiting periods and dental insurance

You waited forever to buy dental insurance and now that you finally have it, you are probably eager to use it. But wait a minute — what is all this business about waiting periods? What exactly is a dental insurance waiting period, and is it possible to find a dental insurance plan with no waiting period?

Whether you already have dental insurance, or you’ve just started comparing plans, take a few minutes to understand waiting periods — what they are, why they exist, and how to get dental care with no waiting period.

What is a dental insurance waiting period?

People are often surprised to learn they can’t necessarily take advantage of all their dental insurance benefits from day one of coverage.

Many dental insurance plans have waiting periods, lasting between a few months and a full calendar year from the time you first sign up for coverage. Your dental insurance carrier won’t pay for certain procedures during this waiting period.

While this might sound unfair, dental insurance waiting periods help keep insurance costs low in the long run. Think of it like insurance for your insurance company. Dental insurance waiting periods encourage customers to seek regular treatment rather than purchasing last-minute insurance coverage for a major procedure and then dropping the plan when the procedure is complete. If a good majority of people carry dental insurance even when their teeth are healthy, this keeps the cost of premiums and coverage low for everyone.

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Can I visit the dentist during my waiting period?

Dental insurance waiting periods commonly apply to major procedures like crowns, bridges, and implants. If your dental insurance plan has a waiting period, it will be listed in your benefits summary along with the length of wait time and the procedures for which the waiting period applies. If you have a dental procedure that isn’t covered during the waiting period, you are responsible for the full cost.

But some dental services are covered from day one of coverage. In most cases, there is no dental insurance waiting period for routine care like exams, cleanings, and x-rays. These services are considered preventive; they keep your teeth healthy and help you avoid more costly procedures down the road. Because of this, preventive care is usually covered from day one, even if your dental insurance plan has a waiting period for other procedures.

Dental insurance with no waiting period

All of this being said, finding dental insurance with no waiting period is still possible. For example, the Delta Dental Clear Plan has no waiting period. You can see more details of that plan here.

Also, many employers offer dental coverage with no waiting period. If you are enrolled in a dental insurance plan through work, talk to your human resources staff about your options.

If you purchase dental insurance with a waiting period and find yourself in need of major treatment, get in touch with your insurance carrier. Many dental insurance companies waive the waiting period if you had other dental insurance coverage before enrolling in your current plan.

The bottom line: before you buy a new dental insurance plan, make sure you know what waiting periods may apply.