When you’re filling out your calendar around the holidays, don’t forget to make room for an appointment with your dentist between all those holiday gatherings. Of course, you’ll want a clean, bright smile when you see your family and friends and get any necessary procedures done before devouring those cookies and pies. But the most important reason involves your wallet. If you have a calendar-year plan (i.e., one that’s effective from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31), learn how using up your dental benefits before the ball drops can save you money in the long run.
Why you should use your dental benefits before year-end
Avoid starting over with your deductible
You’re paying for dental benefits, so use them! The vast majority of plans pay 100% of the costs for diagnostic and preventative care, which includes your biannual checkups, cleanings, and X-rays.* Even if you need a procedure that isn’t fully covered, you won’t pay as much right now if you’ve already met part or all of your deductible this year. Waiting until the beginning of next year will mean starting over on your deductible. In other words, you’ll have to pay it in full again and, thus, experience higher out-of-pocket expenses.
For example, you may need a filling that costs $100.** Now, say your dental plan has a $50 deductible and will cover 80% of this basic procedure ($80). If you’ve already made $40 in claims this year, you’ll only pay $30 out of pocket right now to account for the remaining deductible ($10) and coinsurance ($20). Your benefits carrier will cover the remaining $70. However, if you wait until January to get the filling, you’ll be on the hook for $70 ($50 deductible and $20 coinsurance).
Use up your annual maximum
Dental plans have a cap that limits how much benefits providers will pay for in claims each year. This is called an annual maximum. Using what’s left of your max now can prevent it from going to waste if you need a costly procedure. However, note that some of your unused annual maximum can roll over to next year. Under Beam’s policies, for instance, you can get one-fourth of your annual max rolled over to next year if you used less than half of it this year. If you’ve already used up more than half of your annual max — making you ineligible for a rollover — but the procedure you need won’t take you over the limit, you may want to use up the remaining amount so you don’t lose it. Additionally, if you’re under the halfway mark and the procedure won’t put you over — meaning you’re eligible for the rollover — you can use your benefits now and still get a higher annual max next year.
Split up pricey procedures
If you need expensive dental work, you can potentially alleviate the cost by splitting it up between this year and next year. Let’s say you need two dental crowns that cost $800 apiece** and your carrier will cover 50% of the cost. If your plan’s annual maximum is $1,000, it won’t cover both crowns in one year. By getting one crown put in now and saving the other for next year, you can ensure both procedures are covered by your benefits provider.
Taking full advantage of your dental benefits now helps you keep money in your pocket in other ways, too. Preventative care keeps your teeth and gums healthy, reducing your risk of developing serious — and costly — issues down the road. Schedule your next appointment today!