Dental Costs and the Importance of Insurance

Dental expenses can be quite high.  You never know when you’ll need it, which is why it is vital to have dental insurance.

Some time ago, I shared a post discussing my desire to save money on dental care.  In it, I outlined the costs of a wisdom tooth removal that I was going to have done.  I’m still waiting on that, but that’s another story for another day.   Anyway, in giving details on the estimated costs to my readers, I got some varied responses on what people would do.

Well, there is one aspect of dental costs that I find hard to debate: the importance of dental insurance.

Now, I’ve spent some decent money in recent years on dental care, after a lifetime of teeth that held up really well.  I suppose at some point, we get problems. That’s the thing that I suppose some folks might not think too much about, is that these problems can up out of the blue without warning.

I was reminded of this in a conversation I had with somebody younger than I, with much less work experience.  He shared a story about how he got into an accident a few years ago, and the aftermath of it.  One of the problems he encountered was the loss of a couple of front teeth. Yikes!

That’s no fun as it is, as it required major dental work and replacement “fake” teeth to be put in. Beyond that, there’s also the cost factor. You see, this guy had no dental insurance at the time.  He made that comment to me, while adding that he was still paying it off after a few years!

He basically stated that the dental bill was significant, and fit into his finances just like another monthly payment that was to be made.  In other words, sort of like housing or a car. Not that we want any debt, but I suppose those types of debt seem to be more “mainstream”.  But dental debt? Over several years?

It got me thinking how close people could be to losing money in different situations.  As we’ve discussed here before when discussing math and money, it can be hard work to recover from money losses based on simple math.  In the case of this dental care example, I had 3 quick takeaways:

  1. Keep dental insurance, and don’t just brush it off (lame pun intended) as unimportant because your teeth have always been good.
  2. Review your insurance coverage in general, as we need to take stock periodically to see where we may be underinsured
  3. Remember to protect against losses.  This can take many forms, including health care, investing, etc.  Bottom line is to not just think about upside and potential, but think about the floor. In other words, consider risks and downsides of situations and not just the upside.  I’m all for positive thinking, but realism and caution has its place too!

My Questions for You

Have you or anybody you know gone without any type of health insurance for an extended period of time?

Have you ever been hit by big expenses that could have been prevented?

What do you think about the idea of taking dental care and insurance seriously?


  1. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever gone without medical insurance, but I have, and am now, self-insuring for dental care. My brother once went without health insurance for an extended time–too expensive! He got lucky and had no major expenses. As medical expenses are the #1 reason for bankruptcy in the U.S., clearly many are not so lucky.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kurt – that’s just lucky, but you’re right – not many are that lucky, and do end up losing a lot of money.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kathleen – we all have to do what’s best for us. If minimal work is needed, perhaps the cost doesn’t end up so bad.

  2. says

    I was 6 years without any type of health insurance and now it’s included in my health insurance (and it’s actually reasonably priced). It took me a while of saving up in order to get my teeth all fixed. I did it slowly and now know that I really don’t ever want to go without getting my teeth checked.

    • Squirrelers says

      bogofdebt – it’s good to get dental problems taken care of, I know from experience with a root canal! Makes me appreciate getting teeth checked.

  3. says

    Agreed on the dental insurance. We found out our health insurance was leaving right after my wife was pregnant with twins! Talk about scary! Luckily, I happened into an HMO in my new position. HMOs have to cover prenatal, so everything worked out okay. Phew!

  4. says

    Even with dental insurance, some procedures can be very expensive. The coverage from a large group policy is a huge benefit of working at a big company.

    • Squirrelers says

      Eric -oh, I agree that some procedures can still be quite costly. It’s not like having insurance means no costs. It’s just that not having insurance could end up being very costly!

  5. says

    The problem with dental insurance is that it doesn’t cover against catastrophies. Most plans have a yearly max of $1000-$1500. Your friend who lost his two front teeth could have easily had a dental bill in excess of $10,000, so even with insurance, he’d still have an enormous bill to pay off.

    • Squirrelers says

      Gen Y – I can see your point, though he could have still saved a fair amount with insurance. Not sure what his alternatives were, or if he could have gotten supplemental dental insurance.

  6. Squirrelers says

    FI – well, I know that self-insuring is something some people do in this case. I can say that at least you’re doing preventative maintenance by regularly brushing!

  7. says

    I didn’t have healthinsurance for a few years after college, from age 20 until 23 I was uninsured. (since I’m in Canada we do have the public healthsystem but I had no private coverage for things like dental care) during that time my wisdom teeth decided to create a mess. It hurt, I was able to get them out after crossing the 6 month wait on my insurance policy and by using my first emergency fund, four impacted wisdom teeth were removed. Ouch! I regret postponing it, I was so scared of the bill which as it turned out was very manageable. $1,100 after insurance. Because I waited so long my bottom teeth started getting crowded, I had braces for years so that’s a bummer… now.. I’m saving up to have that fixed!

    • Squirrelers says

      Andrea – ouch is right! Glad you got the issue taken care of, though it seems like more work might be on the way. These costs can add up.

  8. says

    I distrust dentists so much that it’s hard for me to get in there. It is now to the point where I tell them “Listen, I just want a cleaning. I don’t want you to sell me anything.” That reminds me…I need to make an appointment.

    • Squirrelers says

      John – I once thought that way, until a follow up with a different dentist indicated that the first one wasn’t just selling me on possible services. I really did need them!

  9. says

    As my 87 year old aunt said ‘They say you can’t take it with you, but I’m trying hard to do that with all the dental gold in my mouth!”

    I’ve spent a bundle on caps for teeth with cracks – chewing nicotine gum to quit smoking – and chewing it way too long after quitting caused several teeth to break. Luckily I had dental from work at the time. The insurance paid about half of the cap. Now I have less coverage….

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