What do dental benefits cost on a group basis or if I buy them directly as an individual?
For most the cost of dental benefits is less than your daily cup of coffee. Depending on what you buy that might be regular coffee or it might be Starbucks. (NOTE: Costs will vary by area of the country and coverage.)
Individual policies are generally more expensive than a group policy and the coverage may also be somewhat limited. Individual policies generally do not cover orthodontia. There may also be other coverage limitations and/or waiting periods particularly for major procedures. NADP has not estimated national average monthly and annual dental premiums for individual products since 2009. At that time, they ranged from $4 to $15 more than similar group products for individuals and $20 to $35 more for family coverage.
Employer Provided Dental Benefits: Depending on the type of dental benefit—DHMO, DPPO or Dental Indemnity, the employee’s premium is about the cost of having dinner out once a month—ranging from about $15.81 to $20.86 monthly or $190 to $250 on an annual basis in 2017 for DHMO or DPPO coverage. Even at the high end of that range—the annual cost for dental benefits are about the cost pf one month’s medical premium. Dental premiums for 2017 for employer groups with coverage are outlined below as national averages for typical group coverage for all size groups:
DHMO : $16.64 to $18.31 a month--$200 to $220 annually
DPPO : $28.70 to $30.71 a month--$344 to $369 annually
Indemnity : $35.97 to $37.35 a month--$432 to $448 annually
Discount Dental Plan fees can range from a few dollars a month to $10 or $12 dollars a month for an individual or $20 to $30 a month for a family. The Consumer Health Alliance (CHA) reports that 62% of discount programs cost less than $200 annually and result in about 40% savings on cost of dental services
In 2015 about 1/3 of the medical policies offered on marketplaces included a pediatric dental benefit. Of those 90% made that benefit subject to the medical deductible that averaged just under $3000. Of the 90% two thirds waived the deductible for diagnostic and preventive care making the pediatric benefit a “prevention only” benefit.
In 2016 the number of children applying for commercial coverage again increased; it was 1,068,631. Of these 115,304 applied for separate dental coverage. Again, no information was made available as to whether the other applicants obtained medical policies with pediatric dental coverage. About 1.4 million individuals overall applied for separate dental coverage, i.e. primarily adults.
In 2017, the number of children applying for commercial coverage through all public exchanges was approximately level to the prior year, i.e. 1,068,082 vs.1,068,631 the prior year. The number of overall applications in all public exchanges was down slightly as well, 12,200,000 vs. 12,600,000 the prior year. Overall there were about 1.9 million public exchange applications for SADPs with approximately 134,000 of these applications for children in the 0-17 age group.
 NADP 2019 Dental Benefits Report: Financial Operations and Premium Trends, January 2019
 Ibid. NOTE: Average of all groups is displayed; premiums for small groups (under 50) will usually be higher than the average shown here while the largest groups (500 or more) will be lower.
 Discount Health Care Programs: Evolution and Prospects for Continued Growth, Consumer Health Alliance, 2017.
Are dental plans accredited? Is there any method of licensing or registration?
NADP member companies are licensed where appropriate in their states of operation as insurers or health plans—usually through the Department of Insurance. NADP member companies also support a consumer access and rights policy. All states license and regulate dental carriers that provide dental insurance products such as dental HMOs, dental PPOs and dental indemnity products. There are 34 states that regulate discount plans of which 23 require licensure or registration.
There is no type of accreditation service or seal of approval for all functions of companies that offer dental benefits. Some dental plans have received separate certifications of their dental clinics, provider credentialing, claims processing or utilization review process from an accreditation service that focuses primarily on medical plans.
Separate from NADP, there is also an affiliation of Delta Dental Plans, i.e. DDPA—their website and that of NADP provide the names of companies that are most active in the dental benefits arena. NADP members provide benefits to over 90% of Americans with dental coverage; DDPA’s members cover about 26% of Americans—together our associations represent virtually all of the market.
Also check with state insurance or health regulatory authorities to make certain that the dental company you are considering is licensed if the company provides a dental HMO, dental PPO or dental Indemnity plan. Discount dental plans are not licensed in most states as they are not insurance products although an increasing number of states are requiring some type of registration or regulation. Regulatory authorities also track complaints and their published summaries show dental products in the lowest ranges of consumer complaints.