Margie Campeas sometimes skips her dental checkup. It’s the fear of pain in her pocketbook, not the dentist drill, keeping her away—and she’s not alone.

Even though most Americans purport to understand the link between a healthy mouth and overall well-being, a survey released by Cigna revealed one-fourth of adults with dental insurance don’t take full advantage of preventative care benefits. Visits drop as we age—patients ages 45 to 64 are 50 percent more likely not visit the dentist at all during the year compared to those ages 26 to 34.

Out-of-pocket

"Getting at least one checkup per year (preferable two)—whether experiencing a problem or not, makes a significance impact on oral health."

At the heart of the matter is confusion about what preventive dental plans include. Most plans cover in-network preventive care visits every six months with no or low out-of-pocket costs. Consumers unsure about benefits are advised to ask their dentist or insurer about specifics of their plan.

Knowing the ABC’s of dental care benefits can help overcome the barriers to obtaining preventive care. A Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) is generally considered budget friendly. There are no deductibles, no annual dollar maximum benefit, fixed copay amounts for services and no claims forms to file. A network general dentist provides most of the care, but refers to a specialist as needed.

Bigger savings

A Dental Preferred Provider Organization (DPPO) offers the freedom to use any dentist for both general care and specialist services without a referral. However, greater savings are obtained with using a dentist that is considered part of the network.

No matter the plan, getting at least one checkup per year (preferably two)—whether experiencing a problem or not, makes a significant impact on oral health. One dental expert, Miles Hall, DDS, explains that an absence of pain doesn’t mean there’s not a problem. In fact, the longer a patient waits between dental visits, the more likely a problem will develop. And more complicated issues are more expensive to treat resulting in the situation patients wanted to avoid.