Navigating Benefits

Small Business Dental Insurance: Finding the Right Dental Plan for Your Organization


  • Dental plan options typically include HMOs, PPOs and discount plans; you may also have indemnity plans, EPOs or dental office plans as options

  • Carefully examine plans for their network size, premium costs, annual maximums and covered services

  • Also, consider wait times and location availability to ensure it will be easy for your colleagues

Posted by January 28, 2019

Finding the best small business dental insurance plan for your organization is an important task that you shouldn’t take lightly. Here’s a brief overview of the factors you should consider, as well as helpful tips to get you started.

Are You Legally Required to Offer Dental Insurance?

Unlike the legal requirements for health insurance coverage, the requirements for dental insurance are much more lenient. If you have 50 employees or more, then your business may be required to offer Affordable Care Act-qualified insurance plans or face a fine. All ACA-compatible plans must cover essential health benefits, which include dental insurance for anyone ages 18 or younger.

However, businesses with 50 or fewer employees aren’t required to offer health insurance. There are no legal requirements that any business smaller than this size must offer dental insurance for adults. And starting in 2019, individuals will no longer be fined if they don’t have health coverage.

With all this in mind, you shouldn’t make your decision about offering dental insurance based on legal requirements alone. Some small businesses may enjoy tax benefits from offering health or dental insurance, so talk to your health care broker (or accountant) for more details. In addition, many businesses have found that offering dental insurance saves them money in the long run because preventive care can cut down on employees’ long-term dental and health expenses.

Dental Insurance Types

If you want to offer a dental plan for your colleagues, there are several options. First, your organization can simply offer a health insurance package that comes with dental coverage. It could also offer a standalone dental plan or a discount plan. Standalone plans are typically PPOs, DHMOs, EPOs or indemnity plans.

What’s the difference between a dental PPO and HMO? Well, PPOs have premiums and deductibles. They’ll typically cover 100 percent of preventive services, a lower percentage of major services and at least some percentage for out-of-network dentist visits. The downside is that they may not cover all services, including cosmetic procedures, and they may have a yearly maximum.

DHMOs, meanwhile, may not have any deductibles or annual maximums. However, they’ll require that you choose a primary dentist and they won’t cover out-of-network services. In general, they may cover fewer services than PPOs. So, there are trade-offs when choosing a dental PPO or HMO.

In some cases, you may also have the option of a traditional, indemnity or fee-for-service plan. These are similar to PPOs but may have a larger network with higher costs. You might also have an option of a dental EPO, which often has lower costs than a PPO but a smaller network. The differences among these plans can be subtle, so read the fine print closely!

A discount plan, meanwhile, provides discounts for in-network dentists in exchange for an annual (or monthly) fee. Some of these offer extensive discounts, occasionally even including cosmetic work that isn’t covered by other plans. These typically don’t include yearly maximums, but may not offer free preventive services.

What to Look for in a Dental Plan

When reviewing dental plan options for your organization, look into whether the plan has an annual maximum, what services it covers and the average waiting period. Some plans cover extensive services while others cover very little. The waiting periods can also differ. Some plans have long waiting periods for any major work, some only have waiting periods for people with preexisting conditions and some have no waiting periods at all.

You’ll also want to review the plans’ network. Are nearby dentists covered by the plan? If you have remote employees, do they have local options under the plan, or do you need to offer a different plan with more options in their region?

There’s a lot to consider when choosing small business dental insurance. If you want to make sure you offer the best for your colleagues, consider anonymously surveying them about what they need and how they feel about the company’s current options.

Looking for tools and resources that could help you decide on the best dental insurance plan for your organization? Explore the Dental Plan Navigator hosted on United Concordia Dental’s website.

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