Dental Insurance
July 26, 2004 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice on dental insurance. My girlfriend's employer does not provide it and she generally doesn't need it because she has magic cavity-preventing saliva. seriously, she's never had a cavity, never goes to the dentist! But now, she can feel one of her wisdom teeth starting to act up and probably needs an extraction. (others should probably be extracted while she's at it.) Should she go with bargain insurance (and can anyone recommend a good dental insurance company), or should she just get the work done without insurance and pay it back over time? If it makes a difference, we're in the Bay Area.
posted by badstone to Work & Money (14 answers total)
is it possible to get insurance to pay for existing ailments? here at least you can only claim for things that go wrong after you start the insurance.

(or maybe that's true there too but you're going to be economical with the truth? - yet another argument for healthcare funded through taxes, i guess ;o)
posted by andrew cooke at 11:01 AM on July 26, 2004

Get the insurance. Or, at least, check the insurance reimbursement rates for wisdom teeth and oral surgery, and then decide. I've got crappy Delta Dental of CA, which isn't great, but it's much better than nothing. For 70 bucks a year, you get dental insurance, which has been covering about 50% of my fillings' costs.

You could also contact UCSF Dental School to see if they do low-cost extractions, although dental students/oral surgeon students would be practicing.

on preview: I haven't heard of "pre-existing condition" BS for dental, but I guess that's a consideration, too.
posted by gramcracker at 11:04 AM on July 26, 2004

Response by poster: the one bargain insurance web site I looked at so far specifically says they cover pre-existing conditions, so it is possible, just wondering if it's safe to go with such insurance.

Dental School is an interesting idea, if a little scary. We'll look into that.
posted by badstone at 11:11 AM on July 26, 2004

pre-existing conditions

apologies for my insinuations, then ;o) but check what the minimum period of cover is and/or how long before they start to pay out. unless you have some strange laws, they must be asking for a certain minimum, otherwise you could simply sign up for a month every time something goes wrong...
posted by andrew cooke at 11:25 AM on July 26, 2004

A friend of mine, when he had no dental insurance, had his wisdom teeth extracted quite inexpensively through a dental school in L.A. (either USC or UCLA -- can't remember which). He said it was fine, though a little laborious; three of them came out pretty easily, but the fourth one was apparently quite difficult, so they brought in one of the supervising surgeons to take care of that one.
posted by scody at 11:32 AM on July 26, 2004

Also note that most dentists will give you a discount for paying cash (mine has given me 15% off). It's a lot of hassle for them to fight with the insurance companies... they LOVE folks that just write them a check.
posted by Daddio at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2004

I won't speak to the direct issue, except to expect that benefits will be limited in the first year or three -- a plan that will immediately cover wisdom tooth extraction might be hard to find. If for no other reason, the insurance companies didn't just fall off a turnip truck and know that they can expect a lot of immediate claims.

At any rate, whether or not she has insurance...

Unless your girlfriend is a Navy SEAL, circus geek, or teaches interrogation resistance courses for the Mossad, she wants to spring for the maximum amount of sedation or outright unconsciousness that she can at all afford. I've only had mine out the one time when I was knocked way the hell out, but this really does seem like one of those experiences that you don't want to be there for.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2004

I did the dental school route for my wisdom teeth extraction when I was poor and in college, and it was awesome. They only used novacaine, but it went fairly smoothly and was very cheap.
posted by bshort at 1:53 PM on July 26, 2004

Most dental insurance companies are selective about the pre-existing issue. Some pre-existing conditions are covered without question while others are refused, so make sure you double-check. My current insurance company refused to cover the cap on my implant because I had the tooth pulled before I joined this plan. Really pissed me off.

Personally, I always thought dental insurance was a good thing. Most of the time, the cost of the yearly premium is about the same as the cost of two six-month cleanings, so you come out even - plus you're covered if something else happens.
posted by widdershins at 2:13 PM on July 26, 2004

...the same as the cost of two six-month cleanings - which are usually covered in full. Hence the evenness. Doh!
posted by widdershins at 2:15 PM on July 26, 2004

My wife also has magical anti-cavity saliva. We've attempted transfusions, but no luck.
posted by mecran01 at 4:21 PM on July 26, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all!
posted by badstone at 4:30 PM on July 26, 2004

BTW, I have good dental insurance, and I still got shafted for $500 or so when I got four wisdom teeth out. 80% coverage on a $3,000 bill is good but not great.
posted by smackfu at 7:37 PM on July 26, 2004

I have Delta Dental and they have told me "we are not an INSURANCE company!" Thus, allowing it to circumvent state insurance regulators. I know that Delta will not cover any treatment on a tooth that was treated in the past and paid for by Delta even if Delta only covered a small portion of the cost. On the other hand, the cost of removing wisdom teeth is pretty high and even if you can only get 80%, it will help a lot.

I do agree with the ROU in that she should spring for the best pain killer/anethesia possible. I was in the Air Force when I had all four wisdom teeth removed. I was given a morphine IV. It was great. They could have amputated a limb and I wouldn't have cared. Ahhh morphine......
posted by Juicylicious at 11:19 AM on July 27, 2004

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