Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Truth about Dental Insurance

Forty years ago dental insurance benefits averaged $1,000, which was the equivalent of around $8,000 today. Here’s the kicker; the average insurance plan is still close to $1,000. We’d like to explain the facts and fiction of what everyone calls “dental insurance”.

Fiction: You have a major medical problem, which includes surgery and hospitalization. You expect your insurance to take care of the major expenses after the deductible, and it does so. You would think dental insurance works the same way, but it doesn’t. Just calling it insurance is complete and total fiction.

Fact: People who think they have dental insurance really only have limited and restricted benefits that are controlled by an insurance company. A dental benefit is more like a coupon. It is only worth what the insurance company says its worth. It has nothing to do with what the dentist charges.

Fiction: To believe these two statements. “My dental insurance will pay for it.” or “My dental insurance will pay 80 percent”.

Fact: $1,000 was a lot of money when I graduated from dental school in 1973. That year, we bought a brand new Buick for $3,000. My crown fees were $250 and the insurance company paid well. Basically, a patient could get two or three crowns a year on old broken down, filled teeth and in a few years, their mouth was fixed. Plus, the patient could get two cleanings a year and not even max out their insurance. It was a great deal for patients and dentists.

If benefits kept up with inflation and raised the benefit ceiling each and every year with today’s benefit close to $8,000, people would still have a good deal. As it is, today’s crown price for one tooth will basically wipe out a year’s benefit. Not only that, the insurance company (yep, the one with the skyscrapers in New York, Chicago and San Francisco) often goes out of its way to deny your benefits.

Fact: Today’s dentistry is nothing like it was 40 years ago. If patients had problems, the choices were to pull, fill or crown. Today’s dentistry serves the patients with some of the most advanced, pain-free techniques in medicine. These procedures are not even covered by the dental benefit contract, or the procedures cost more than the paltry yearly benefit.

Back then, there was no such thing as Managed Care. Today’s insurance companies want you to choose a dentist based on cost and assume that all doctors are equally talented, knowledgeable, caring, ethical, available and personable – and that just isn’t true. The dentist making the deal with the insurance company may take a cut up to 30 -50 percent. In order for them to stay in business, they have to see more people, do more procedures and cut costs in some manner. And even though it is a managed care system, dental benefits still acts as a coupon and not insurance.

Fiction: The dentist and dental team should understand a person’s dental benefit, what it will cover, pay, etc.

Fact: The contract is between the employer, employee and insurance company. The dentist has no role to play whatsoever; they are simply caught in the middle. Dentists, as a whole, are great people who love to help others. They try very hard to accommodate by hiring extra staff just to handle the paperwork, phone calls, etc. that insurance companies require.

Most Important: Never let an impersonal insurance company dictate your dental care. They couldn’t care less about your health, comfort, peace of mind or appearance. Be happy you have that coupon for some dollars off, but never expect them to rebuild your burned-down house.

Dr. Fenlon has earned thousands of hours in postdoctoral education, with an emphasis on Cosmetic and Reconstructive Dentistry, Implant Dentistry, Sedation Dentistry and the treatment of Headaches as well as Snoring and Sleep Apnea. If you have any dental questions, you can call him at (410) 442-2800 or visit him on the web at www.howardcountydentist.com

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is Invisalign Your Best Option?

Today most dental patients have a familiarity with the term Invisalign. It is a cosmetic alternative to the more traditional form of braces, which may have applications for some people considering orthodontics. However, in the field of adult orthodontics there may be a better alternative. 6-Month Smiles are a form of short-term orthodontics, which can also be classified as adult cosmetic braces. Both Invisalign and 6-Month Smiles have their limitations when it comes to the specific needs of any one patient: neither may be appropriate for all cases of orthodontics. However, 6-Month Smiles may offer some significant advantages over Invisalign.

First, 6-Month Smiles is probably the less expensive alternative. Secondly most times 6-Month Smiles can be accomplished in a shorter period of time. In most instances, a 6-Month Smiles orthodontic treatment can be accomplished between checkups, which is a huge factor. Adults do not want to be faced with wearing ugly traditional braces for 2 or 3 years. Third, because of the nature of how Invisalign works, a sequence of progressing through numerous retainers, and the number of office visits can be a burden. Finally, compared to Invisalign, 6-Month Smiles is much more proficient it fixing rotations of teeth. It is difficult to do this with the Invisalign retainers alone.

6-Month Smiles, or short-term adult orthodontics, is a relatively new concept with about 1500 certified practitioners worldwide. Its popularity is growing exponentially and I believe will soon rival Invisalign as the go to alternative to those ugly “Railroad Tracks” known as traditional Orthodontics.

Please feel free to leave us your comments and to visit our website at www.howardcountydentist.com. Call us at (410)-442-2800 or email us at info@howardcountydentist.com