Paying for a dental plan you’re not using? Start using it.

By Karyn Glogowski

Senior Vice President, Sales and Business Development, Delta Dental of Illinois

More than 1 in 3 adults across the nation — including almost 45% of those ages 19 to 34 — will not visit the dentist over the course of a year, despite having private dental insurance.1 In Illinois, 25% of people who have dental insurance coverage have not visited the dentist in the past year.2 In short, they are paying for dental insurance they are not using.

If you have dental insurance coverage and are not using these benefits regularly, you could be leaving money on the table and shortchanging your health. Now is a good time to assess whether you’re making the most of your dental coverage — and taking proper care of yourself. Here are five ways to get the most from your dental insurance benefits before your coverage year ends:

  1. Take advantage of low-cost preventive care – just $1 now can save up to $50 later.  Most dental plans cover preventive care at little or no cost. In fact, plans often pay for 100% of routine exams and cleanings. Preventive care can help treat oral health problems before they become more time consuming, complex and costly to treat. Research shows that every $1 spent on preventive care can save up to $50 in restorative and emergency treatments.3
  2. Get an assessment of your overall health through a dental exam. During a regular dental exam, a dentist can help identify diseases early and you can get treatment before they progress and lead to more serious problems. In fact, a dentist can detect the signs of more than 120 diseases — including heart disease, diabetes and oral cancer — which have symptoms that appear in the mouth.4 Early detection can make treatment easier and less expensive. It may even be a lifesaver.
  3. Worry less about your annual maximum (you’ll seldom reach it). Not even 3% of people nationwide reach or exceed their dental plan’s annual maximum benefit — or the total amount their dental plan will cover annually.5 So don’t let the fear that you’ll reach your annual maximum prevent you from going to the dentist. Your benefits, deductible and annual maximum reset at the start of your dental plan year. If you have a balance remaining on your annual maximum, you may lose part of this benefit if you don’t visit the dentist. Halfway through the year is a good time to see where things stand.
  4. Save money by visiting a network dentist. Most dental plans offer access to a dental network. Network dentists agree to reduced or pre-established fees as payment in full. Make the best use of your dental plan by staying in network to save the most money.
  5. Don’t forfeit your money from flexible spending accounts. Make sure you use money that’s yours. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) through a group or employer, those tax-free dollars set aside for out-of-pocket health care expenses also reset each year. That means you will lose any money left over at the end of the plan year, or after a grace period, depending on how your account is set up.6 More than $400 million is forfeited from flexible spending accounts each year when employees miss or forget the deadline.7 Most dental expenses qualify as FSA health care expenses, so budget some of your FSA dollars for your dental needs and use the money you set aside.

1 Health Policy Institute, American Dental Association, pages 2-3,

2 2018 Delta Dental of Illinois Oral Health and Well-Being Survey,, page 5

3 University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry,

4 U.S. Surgeon General Report on Oral Health 2000 – Chapter 3 – Diseases and Disorders,, page 37

5 National Association of Dental Plans,