How To Get Dental Insurance?

6 min read
Feb 22, 2024

Investing in your oral health is important. A healthy smile not only enhances your overall well-being but can also boost your confidence. Dental insurance plays a key role in maintaining that bright smile by providing coverage for routine checkups, cleanings, and other necessary dental treatments. In other words, it offers cost-saving benefits for you and your family.

Now, let’s look at how to get dental insurance so you can enjoy these benefits.

How to get dental insurance

There are three main ways to get dental insurance: through your employer, from an insurance company, or via the health insurance marketplace.

1. Coverage through an employer

You can get dental insurance for you and your dependents through your employer if they offer it as part of your employee benefits package. These plans often have a network of dentists that offer employees negotiated rates on in-network services. Your employer may pay for all or a portion of your premiums, which are typically deducted directly from your paycheck.

It's important to note that dental insurance plans also consider out-of-network providers. While you often have the flexibility to choose a dentist outside of the network, the coverage may differ, and you might face higher out-of-pocket expenses.

How to apply for dental insurance from your employer:

To get employer-sponsored dental insurance, you need to enroll during your company's open enrollment period or when you’re hired as a new employee. You may also be eligible for a special enrollment period if you experience a qualifying life event (QLE) — such as getting married, divorced, or having a child. Check with your human resources (HR) department about open enrollment dates, because they can vary.

2. Coverage directly from an insurance company

If your employer doesn’t offer dental insurance, another option is to purchase individual or family coverage directly from an insurance company. Buying directly from insurers means you're not constrained by enrollment periods, since coverage is available year-round. Research reputable dental insurance providers and compare the plans they offer. Consider things like premiums, deductibles, and available dentist networks.

How to apply for dental insurance from an insurance company:

After selecting a plan that aligns with your needs, contact the insurance company to request a quote online or over the phone. If you're satisfied with the plan and its respective costs, you can apply online.

3. Coverage via the health insurance marketplace

Your third option for purchasing a dental plan is to enroll through the health insurance marketplace during open enrollment. Dates can vary by state, but the window to enroll in a marketplace plan is usually between November and December. However, you can also enroll or make changes when you have a qualifying life event.

How to apply for dental insurance from the health insurance marketplace:

To enroll, visit — the official health insurance marketplace website. Once there, you can browse and compare different plans and review price options. Depending on where you live, you may be redirected to a specific marketplace site for your state, like

Keep in mind that in most states, you can only purchase stand-alone dental insurance through the marketplace if you also enroll in a health plan at the same time.1

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The benefits of dental insurance

You have several options when it comes to getting dental insurance, but you may be wondering if dental insurance is worth it. This will ultimately depend on your dental needs and budget constraints, but having dental insurance could:

  • Lower what you pay for dental care
  • Help you maintain your oral and overall health
  • Provide coverage for emergencies and major procedures
  • Cover dental care for your eligible dependents

What to look for when buying dental insurance

When comparing dental insurance providers and policies, consider the following factors to help you choose the plan that’s right for you:

  • Coverage options: Make sure the coverage fits your and your family’s needs. In addition to preventive care, basic care, and major care, check to see if a plan offers coverage for things like orthodontic treatments and emergencies.
  • Premiums: Ensure the cost of your premium works for your budget. Be sure to compare plans as premiums will vary.
  • Deductibles: This is the amount you’ll need to pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. Factor it in when you are comparing plans.
  • Cost sharing: You may also be responsible for coinsurance and copays. So compare these costs, and determine if they make sense for you financially.
  • Provider’s network: Check the plan’s available network of dentists, and see if your preferred dentist is in-network or out-of-network. Keep in mind that in-network dentists typically offer lower negotiated rates, while out-of-network services may lead to higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • Annual maximum: Find out the maximum amount a specific plan will pay for dental care in a year. Once you reach this limit, any additional dental expenses become your responsibility for the remainder of the year.
  • Waiting periods: Some plans may have a waiting period for certain services. Familiarize yourself with waiting periods for things like major treatments and procedures.

Does my health plan have dental coverage?

Most health insurance plans don’t include coverage for dental services. Routine checkups, exams, X-rays, and other preventive dental care are generally not covered by health insurance. However, health insurance may cover dental procedures deemed medically necessary, such as those related to accidents, trauma, or specific health conditions.2

Ultimately, for comprehensive dental coverage, you likely need to purchase a separate dental insurance plan. However, if you get your health insurance through the marketplace, insurers are required by law to provide dental coverage to kids ages 18 and under.1

There may be certain circumstances where you have the option to opt into a dental plan, either as an addition to your existing health insurance or as a stand-alone benefit. Consult with your employer or insurance provider to discuss your options.

Can I get dental insurance from my spouse or parent’s plan?

Yes, in some cases, you can get dental coverage through your spouse or parent’s insurance. For instance, if your spouse has employer-sponsored dental insurance, they can add you as a dependent to their plan. Many plans allow employees to add their spouse and children as eligible dependents.

If you’re a dependent child under the age of 26, you may be eligible for dental coverage under your parent’s plan.3 Again, this can vary by employer or insurance provider, so be sure to review your plan details to learn who’s eligible.

To be added as a dependent, your spouse or parent would need to do this during their plan’s open enrollment period or during a special enrollment period.

How does COBRA work with dental insurance?

If you no longer have access to health insurance because, say, you lost your job or your hours have been reduced, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) can help. COBRA typically allows you to retain your coverage for medical, vision, and dental benefits.4 But keep in mind that COBRA coverage is temporary and normally lasts for 18 or 36 months.5

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1 “Dental coverage in the Marketplace,” Accessed Feb 22, 2024.

2 “What Dental Procedures Are Covered By Medical Insurance? (Completed Examples),” CDHP Dental Health Project. Accessed Feb 22, 2024.

3 “How to get or stay on a parent’s plan,”, Accessed Feb 22, 2024.

4 “Can I Keep My Dental and Vision Plans While On COBRA?” Accessed Feb 22, 2024.

5 “An Employee’s Guide to Health Benefits Under COBRA,” U.S. Department of Labor, Sept. 2022. Accessed Feb 22, 2024.

Nothing in these materials is intended to be advice for a particular situation or individual. These materials are for general information purposes only.