What are dental insurance waiting periods?

waiting periods and dental insurance

Buying dental insurance is a great step toward maintaining a healthy smile — and you’re probably eager to start using your dental benefits. But what about waiting periods? Does dental coverage start right away?

If you’ve just started comparing plans, waiting periods can make a big difference in the choice you ultimately make, so it’s important to understand what waiting periods are, why they exist, and how you can find a plan that gives you the coverage you’re looking for from day one.

Looking for dental without a waiting period? Explore our individual and family plans to find coverage that works for you.

What is a dental insurance waiting period?

A dental insurance waiting period is the length of time before your full dental benefits begins. During this time, your dental plan may not pay for certain dental services or procedures.

Depending on the plan you choose, the waiting period may be anywhere from a month to a full year from the time you first sign up for coverage.

Waiting periods for dental plans can range from 30 days to 1 year

Keep in mind that waiting periods – and what benefits you may or may not be able to receive during that time – vary from plan to plan. It’s also important to note that:

  • Routine care may be covered during the waiting period; the waiting period usually applies to specific procedures
  • Not every dental plan has a waiting period
  • Some employer-based dental plans often don't have waiting periods
  • If you're switching dental insurance providers, your new provider may waive the waiting period with proof that you didn’t previously have a break in coverage, usually no more than 63 days.

Why is there a waiting period?

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 the majority of people carry dental insurance even when their teeth are healthy, this keeps the cost of premiums and coverage low for everyone.

Can I go to 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 time before full coverage begins, as well as the specific 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 your plan. 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

Finding a dental plan with no waiting period is possible. The Delta Dental Clear Plan, for example, has no waiting period. You can see more details of that plan here

Many employers also offer dental coverage with no waiting period. If you are enrolled in a dental insurance plan through work, talk to your employer about your options.

If you had previous dental coverage, get in touch with your insurance carrier. Many dental insurance companies will waive the waiting period for major procedures if you had dental insurance coverage prior to 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.

Looking for dental without a waiting period? Explore our individual and family plans to find coverage that works for you.