Military Dental Insurance: How Does It Work and Do You Need It?
If you currently work or have worked in the US Armed Forces, you’re probably entitled to military dental insurance. TRICARE military dental plans offer affordable dental care for you, your spouse, and your children.
Since these programs are run by the government through selected providers, there is no need to shop around for the best deal. But you might still have questions about what the insurance covers and whether it’s worth getting for you and your family.
In this article you’ll find information on dental insurance for both active and retired military personnel so you can make a more informed decision. Our full article on dental insurance has more information about regular dental plans so you can compare your options.
Table of contents
TRICARE military dental insurance
The government-run program TRICARE provides health and dental benefits to current and retired US Armed Forces personnel, and their dependents. TRICARE dental is separate to TRICARE medical, so don’t assume that just because you have medical cover your teeth are protected too.
The program is part of the U.S. Department of Defense Military Health System. There are currently three types of military dental plan available through TRICARE:
- TRICARE Active Duty Dental Program (ADDP) for active duty service members
- TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) for family of active duty service members, and selected reserve and IRR personnel and their spouses and dependents
- TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP) for retired military personnel and their spouses and dependents
So how do you know if it’s worth enrolling?
Benefits of TRICARE
You or your spouse may already have dental insurance from another source, such as an employer, but it’s still a good idea to compare plans. You might find that the TDP is more affordable because of the preferential features it offers:
- Competitive premiums (with a 60% discount for certain enrollees)
- No annual deductible
- No waiting periods
- Monthly payments
- Two cleanings and checkups per year included
- An allowance for braces, implants, and dentures
The TRDP plan for retirees offers slightly different benefits, which you can read more about below. But unlike some traditional dental plans, you won’t be refused cover because of your age or medical history, and there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
The TRICARE Dental Program (TDP)
Service members who are not on active duty and their families, plus families of those who are on active duty, can sign up for TDP cover. Active duty service members receive separate cover under the ADDP.
Fixed-rate premiums apply, as laid out in the table below.
|Sponsor's military status||Active Duty||Selected Reserve and IRR (Mobilization Only)||IRR (Non-Mobilization)|
|The following monthly premiums apply according to the type of applicant|
|Sponsor and family||N/A||$83.28||$99.94|
These monthly payments are fixed for a year at a time. The figures above are for the 2017-18 year but are subject to change on May 1 annually.
TDP insurance used to be administered by Metlife but United Concordia recently took over the contract.
Enrollees whose policies began before May 1, 2017, will continue to receive cover from Metlife dental military insurance until May 1, 2018. After that date, all policy administration will switch to United Concordia.
Military dental insurance benefits from United Concordia
The TRICARE Dental Program is a kind of PPO plan, which means you receive set discounts on treatments at TDP network dentists. You can still visit any dentist you wish outside of the network, but your out-of-pocket costs may be higher.
TDP benefits depend on your pay grade and service area. In the table below you can see the schedule for some common treatments at an approved network dentist. The percentages shown are the amount paid by the insurer.
|Pay grades E-1 to E-4||Pay grades E-5 and above||Command-sponsored beneficiaries|
|Diagnostic & preventive||100%||100%||100%|
|Basic restorative (fillings & prefabricated crowns)||80%||80%||100%|
|Root canal, extractions, surgery||70%||60%||100%|
|Major restorative (crowns, onlays, bridges, etc.)||50%||50%||50%|
|Implants, dentures, orthodontics||50%||50%||50%|
|Emergency pain treatment||100%||100%||100%|
These amounts are subject to an annual maximum benefit of $1,500 per person. In addition, there is a $1,200 annual maximum per person for dental accident coverage and a $1,750 lifetime limit for orthodontics.
The TRICARE Retiree Dental Program (TRDP)
TRICARE’s retired military dental insurance is administered by a different provider: Delta Dental. Delta has held this contract since 2012 and now insures over 1.5 million Uniformed Services retirees.
Under the TRDP, military retirees of any age can receive affordable dental care both in the United States and internationally. The insurance covers a wide range of dental treatments including dentures, implants, braces, and accident and emergency cover.
Eligible retirees can also enrol their spouses, plus children up to age 21 (or 23 if they are studying full time). You can view the full list of eligibility criteria here.
Members can enrol at any time, but those who sign up within four months of retiring get to skip the 12-month waiting period that usually applies to certain major treatments (more details below).
You can see any dentist with a TRDP plan, but Delta says its enrollees save an average of 22% by visiting a TRDP network dentist. This is because these dentists have pre-agreed maximum amounts to charge for each type of treatment.
Another benefit is that network dentists handle your claim directly with the insurer rather than you having to pay the full amount up-front and then submit tiresome claim forms.
Delta Dental military retiree dental plan
The following table shows an overview of the co-insurance percentage for various treatments with a TRDP network dentist. Be aware that an annual maximum of $1,300 applies per calendar year, except for the treatments where a different limit is stated. There is also a deductible of $50 per person or $150 per family, per year.
|Treatment||% Paid by Delta Dental|
|Diagnostic & preventive||100%|
|Basic restorative (fillings)||80%|
|Root canals, periodontics, extractions||60%|
|Emergency pain treatment||80%|
|Dental accident||100% (up to a maximum of $1,200 per person per year)|
|Treatments below are subject to a 12-month waiting period unless you enrol within four months of retiring:|
|Major restorative (crowns, onlays, bridges, etc.)||50%|
|Orthodontics||50% (with a lifetime maximum of $1,750 per person)|
Premiums depend on your location and the number of family members you insure, so you’ll need to contact Delta directly for a quote.
If you are collecting retirement pay, your monthly premium will automatically be deducted from that. Otherwise, you’ll need to arrange an alternative payment method.
Discover more about the plan and how to enrol in the video below:
Is it worth getting military dental cover?
This decision will largely depend on how much dental care you need and what value you place on the peace of mind that comes from knowing you (and your family) are insured. Tooth decay and dental accidents don’t discriminate by profession!
TDP insurance covers a relatively high percentage of costs for the majority of basic and complex procedures, when compared to commercially available insurance policies for families and individuals. Premiums are fairly competitive, particularly if you qualify for the 60% discount.
If you compare TRDP insurance with standard private dental insurance you’ll probably find that the co-insurance terms are more favorable with TRDP. There is also no age limit, as there is with some senior dental insurance. The annual maximum, however, is not as high as with some other dental plans.
In this post, one retired service member explains why he and his family decided they were better off without insurance. He describes the thought process they went through in evaluating whether insurance was really worth it, and he offers some tips for saving money if you don’t have insurance.
Whatever you decide, we hope you have found this article helpful. Our aim is to provide comprehensive information on dental care so you can make the right choices for you and your family.