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Best Dental Insurance Guide

Contributors:  Natalie Asmussen & Amanda Napitu
Medically reviewed by:  Dr. Karen Kemp-Prosterman

This is a review of the best dental insurance plans in 2023. We've reviewed upwards of 30 plans available, looking at details like costs, both hidden and upfront, and coverage inclusions.

In this article we'll go over:

  • The best full coverage dental insurance: Humana
  • Best dental coverage without a waiting period: NCD
  • Best affordable dental insurance plans: Aetna
  • Best dental insurance plans with a large network: Delta Dental
  • Best dental insurance plans for preventive coverage: Cigna
  • Best for kids orthodontic: Guardian
  • Policies for families, seniors and individuals

If you need help choosing a dental insurance company, keep reading to find the best dental insurance in the US for you or your family.

Best dental insurance plans in the US

Major treatment coverage: Humana dental insurance

Humana is one of the top dental insurance companies in the country in terms of size, offering both individual dental insurance plans and group dental insurance plans. They have special Humana Extend plans (Humana Extend 2500 and 5000) and then they have three PPO plans and a DHMO.

The Extend plans are designed to prevent problems before they happen and provide coverage if they do. Both plans offer extensive preventive dental services including:

top dental insurance plans
Best dental insurance that covers everything
  • 2 oral exams per year
  • 2 cleanings per year
  • 2 fluoride treatments per year
  • 1 comprehensive oral exam every 3 years
  • 1 perio exam every 3 years
  • 1 panoramic x-ray every 5 years

Highlights for the 2500 plan include: 

  • $1,000 annual maximum for implants per person
  • $2,500 annual maximum per person in general

The Humana 5000 plan offers even greater benefits: 

  • $2,000 annual maximum for implants per person
  • $5,000 annual maximum per person in general

And both offer a $100 teeth whitening allowance per year.

Furthermore, with these Humana plans, the waiting periods can be waived for customers who have prior dental coverage. 

Humana also offers a DHMO plan, called their Humana Dental Value plan, with 100% coverage of preventive services and no deductible. With this plan, non-emergency office visits cost just $15.

You can find out more in our guide to the best dental insurance for major dental work, and dental implant insurance.

No waiting period: NCD by Nationwide

NCD offers two exceptional full-coverage plans with no waiting periods (if you have prior coverage — even partial!) the 3000 and the 5000. These plans offer high plan maximums and low deductibles, plus a wide range of coverage.

best dental insurance plans
No waiting periods help when you can't put treatment off

All preventive services are covered 100%, and basic services and care like panoramic x-rays, sealants, amalgams, and extractions are covered 80% with no waiting period.

Major restorative treatments like implants, dentures, crowns, and oral surgery are covered 50% and as mentioned above, there is no waiting period if you have prior coverage. If you don't have prior coverage, you can still get coverage for these services, but the waiting period is 12 months.

These plans have a high annual maximum of $3,000, but with the 5000 plan, you can buy up and get an additional $2,000 for a total annual maximum of $5,000.

Best affordable: Aetna

Aetna plans
Insurance from Aetna

Aetna offers an affordable dental plan — a PPO plan — for both individuals and families called Aetna Dental Direct. This plan covers 100% preventative treatment with no out-of-pocket costs.

And if you are switching from another dental plan there's no waiting period before your coverage kicks in. Aetna may be one of the top dental insurance companies if you are looking for individual dental insurance plans.

Other components include:

  • Annual deductible: $50 (individuals); $150 (family)
  • Annual benefit maximum: $1,500
  • PPO network of over 372,000 providers
  • Option to enroll in a dental and vision insurance plan

If you get Aetna dental through your employer, in addition to a PPO you may also have the option of a Dental Maintenance Organization (DMO) which is a lower-cost benefits plan, or a Dental Indemnity Plan for greater freedom.

Biggest network: Delta dental insurance / AARP

insurance from Delta
A well-known name

If you're looking for dental insurance accepted everywhere, you'll want to opt for one of the biggest names in the market, like Delta Dental.

They offer both DHMO and PPO plans. Under-50s can purchase directly through Delta, while Delta dental insurance plans for seniors are offered through AARP dental insurance. You can read more about the best dental insurance for seniors here, or Medicare supplemental dental insurance.

The PPO plans include Delta Dental PPO and Delta Dental Plus Premier. With the standard PPO you get low out-of-pocket costs as long as you get care from within the network. With the Plus PPO, you can visit your Delta Dental Premier dentist even if they aren't in the PPO network, and receive covered benefits.

best dental health insurane
Delta offers a large network of dentists

DeltaCare USA, a DHMO-style plan, maybe the best dental insurance for pre-existing conditions, as it offers immediate dental insurance coverage with no annual maximum and no deductible.

You pay an annual fee for coverage, then any treatment you need is provided at a pre-determined, discounted rate. This includes treatment for pre-existing conditions, dentures, crowns, and up to 24 months of orthodontic braces — you can read more in our article about Delta Dental and braces.

You're limited to visiting just one dentist, which you must choose in advance from Delta's extensive approved network.

Finally, Delta also offers their Delta Dental Premier plan, which is a fee-for-service benefits program. Delta pays participating dentists directly for the covered services, and members can go to any licensed dentist but will save more if they choose a Delta Dental Premier dentist.

Preventive coverage: Cigna dental insurance

Cigna insurance
PPO dental from Cigna

Cigna has three levels of dental PPO plans. The most basic plan covers just preventive care and costs from $19 per month. You may get preferential rates on other treatment just from being a Cigna member, but there is no guarantee of this. There is no deductible, and no maximum benefit, although there are limits on the frequency of each treatment type.

The Cigna Dental 1000 Plan costs from $30 per month and after a 6-month waiting period you receive an 80% discount on basic restorative work. Major restorative work comes with a 50% discount after 12 months. A $1,000 annual benefit and $50 deductible applies for individuals and a $150 deductible for families.

best afforable dental insurance
Preventive care plans are cheaper

If you upgrade to the Cigna Dental 1500 plan, from $35 per month, the annual benefit increases to $1,500. The plan also covers orthodontic work after a 1-year waiting period, at a rate of 50% up to a $1,000 lifetime limit.

With all of these plans, you may choose to visit any dentist. However, the stated discounts only apply to network dentists. If you visit a dentist outside of the network, a Maximum Allowable Charge (the most Cigna will pay for out-of-network care) is applied to calculate your discount.

Orthodontic: Guardian dental insurance

Dental discount plans from Guardian

There are two levels of PPO cover available from Guardian: Gold and Silver. Benefits of paying the higher premium for Gold include free preventive care and more extensive benefits such as orthodontic cover for under-19s up to $1,000. There's also no waiting for preventive, or basic services.

Even the Silver level of coverage gives dental implant insurance, although a lifetime maximum of $700 applies.

Both levels have a tiered annual limit which increases in the third year to a maximum of $1,000 for Silver and $1,500 for Gold.

compare dental insurance plan
Some plans offer orthodontic coverage

Refreshingly, Guardian provides a clear list of limitations and exclusions up-front. This makes it much easier to know whether you're looking at dental insurance that covers everything you need. For example, purely cosmetic work is excluded, as is orthodontic treatment (unless it's specified in the plan).

If you want to get started right away comparing dental insurance plans, you can go to Simply enter your zip code and date of birth, and this online marketplace will let you browse a wide range of plans available in your state. You can also call 888-626-0057 to speak to one of their helpful licensed agents.

If you're looking for options with coverage for orthodontic work or implants, it's quick and easy to search the different options and check prices.

Types of dental insurance plans

Dental insurance plans can be divided into three main types which we'll talk more about now:

Dental indemnity insurance plans

Indemnity dental insurance lets you see whatever dentists you want, as there is no network. That means you don't need to choose your primary care dentist, and you might not need referrals to see specialists.

When you compare dental insurance plans, you'll notice that indemnity plans normally have an annual deductible and coinsurance. The deductible means that you will pay out of pocket for services until you reach the deductible. Once you meet the deductible, your dental insurance plan will share the costs with you for covered services—that's the coinsurance.

This type of plan typically costs more than the other types of dental insurance, but it may be the best dental insurance plan for you if you want more freedom and fewer restrictions and requirements.

dental checkup
Checkups are often included

DHMO (Dental Health Maintenance Organization)

Also known as a Dental HMO, this type of plan offers coverage through a particular network of dentists. Members benefit from discounted rates for their treatment, and some services, like cleanings, exams and x-rays are usually covered 100%. DHMO networks are typically quite small and there is no cover if you are treated by a dentist from outside the network.

As you compare dental insurance plans, you'll find the lowest premiums with this type of plan, often with the added benefit of no annual limits or deductibles. Some plans come with little or no waiting period, even for major dental work, so they can be a popular last-minute purchase for people facing otherwise unaffordable treatment.

PPO (Preferred Provider Organization)

PPO dental insurance plans are similar to DHMO, but usually with a wider network of approved dentists.

These plans may provide some level of coverage for treatment with dentists outside the network, too. However, you can expect to receive a smaller discount if you use a non-approved dentist. These plans also typically cover 100% of in-network preventive care like cleanings, exams, and x-rays.

With a PPO, you do have to pay higher premiums, and you'll have higher deductibles and coinsurance than with a DHMO plan.

Plan Type



Best for...

Indemnity insurance

High annual caps for a broad range of treatments; see any dentist

High premiums and annual deductibles; usually only for groups

People who want high limits and less restrictive coverage


Offer a % discount without deductibles or paperwork; low cost premium; some preventive care may be included

Restricted network of providers

People who need affordable dental insurance and are happy to stick to an approved provider network


Offer a % discount without deductibles or paperwork; more flexible and broader benefits than DHMO; can see any dentist

Higher premiums than DHMO; lower discounts for out-of-network dentists

People who need the flexibility to see any dentist for a range of treatments

What is the best dental insurance for cosmetic treatment?

Cosmetic dental treatment like teeth whitening, braces, veneers, and cosmetic contouring is rarely included in cheap dental insurance plans. (Find out more about dental insurance for veneers). However, more premium plans may offer some level of cover.

Orthodontic treatment for children is more likely to be included than for adults. Read more about dental insurance for braces and Invisalign insurance. You can read more about this topic in our full guide to cosmetic dental insurance.

Explanation of terms

It's easy to get lost when talking about insurance if you don't understand some of the basic terminology, so let's go over that now:

  • Annual maximum benefit limit: An annual maximum is the total amount your dental insurance provider will pay for dental care within a 12-month period. Under your dental plan, you will be responsible for covering costs that exceed the limit. The most affordable dental insurance plans will have a lower annual maximum.
  • Annual deductible: Dental insurance policies with an annual deductible require you to pay a fixed amount before any reimbursement is given. Some insurers waive the deductible for routine diagnostic and preventive treatment.
  • Copay: This is a set rate that you will pay for dentist visits, prescriptions and other services under your family or individual dental insurance plan.
  • Waiting periods: This is the period of time you must wait after you purchase your insurance, before your coverage kicks in.
  • Coinsurance: This is the percentage of your care cost that you are responsible for paying, after you've met your deductible and paid your copay.

Is dental insurance worth it?

Yes, dental insurance is worth it, especially preventive care plans, or if you have constant dental treatment needs. And if you can't afford one, you should try to find a discount plan.

The long answer is: The cost of dental care has increased by 20% over the past decade, and almost a third of uninsured Americans say they have avoided getting the treatment they needed for financial reasons.

Despite the high cost of dental care, around 74 million Americans don't have dental insurance through an employer, group program, or public program. Are you one of them? If so, it's understandable.

What is the best dental insurance?
Find the best dental insurance plans for you

But a consequence of not having insurance on a national level is that 41% of adults have medical and dental debt — as was found in a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. What's more, three out of four dentists plan to increase the costs of care this year.

Even though an insurance plan can help spread the cost and protect against any unexpected bills, plans can cost a lot and provide little coverage for the most expensive procedures.

That being said, it's worth the effort to compare dental insurance plans and at least sign up for a low-cost dental plan that covers preventive care, if nothing else, so you don't have to pay for more expensive restorative procedures down the road.

All in all, the best dental insurance plans for you will be the plan that you can afford, and that provides at least basic coverage, and coverage for some of the procedures you may need in the future.

Choosing a dental insurance company

The best dental insurance plan for you will depend a lot on the products available in your state and the work you need to have done. If you already know what treatment you need, it can be well worth taking the time to work out exactly how much you'll have to pay with different insurance plans.

Some things to keep in mind include:

  • Insurance coverage is usually priced out for either individual or family coverage
  • Age can impact pricing
  • The top dental insurance companies should offer plans that follow a cost model similar to: 100% coverage for preventative, 80% of basic services, and 50% major procedures
  • Your insurance provider may send the check for dental payments directly to you instead of the dental office, in which case it is your responsibillity to ensure your provider receives these payments

In this detailed case study from Policygenius, a patient needing basic preventive care, a filling, and an extraction could get their annual expenses down from $1,488 to $420 with one particular insurer. A patient requiring a root canal and porcelain crown saved almost nothing with that same insurer, but could more than halve their expenses with a discount plan.

To find out more about dental discount plans, read our article here.

In the table below you can view more information about selected PPO plans from the providers mentioned to compare dental insurance plans:

Plan Type



Best for...

Indemnity insurance

High annual caps for a broad range of treatments; see any dentist

High premiums and annual deductibles; usually only for groups

People who want high limits and less restrictive coverage


Offer a % discount without deductibles or paperwork; low cost premium; some preventive care may be included

Restricted network of providers

People who need affordable dental insurance and are happy to stick to an approved provider network


Offer a % discount without deductibles or paperwork; more flexible and broader benefits than DHMO; can see any dentist

Higher premiums than DHMO; lower discounts for out-of-network dentists

People who need the flexibility to see any dentist for a range of treatments

Dental insurance plan alternatives

4 Ways to finance your dental care

Dental insurance

Pay a monthly premium in exchange for more affordable care.

Dental loans

Fund your dental work now and make affordable monthly repayments.

Dental tourism

Pay less for quality treatment abroad.

Dental discount plans

Save money on treatment costs in exchange for a yearly membership fee.

Often lumped in with insurance plans are payment plans and discount plans (also called savings plans). While these are not dental insurance plans, you may find that either a savings plans or a payment plan works better for you.

  • Discount/Savings plans: Discounts for dental savings plans are from around 10-50% depending on the type of treatment. The annual fee often includes free dental checkups and cleanings. This preventive care is a good way to protect against and identify any potential problems before they become more costly.
  • Payment plans: A dental payment plan is simply a way to pay for an expensive dental procedure in stages, or installments.

How to get dental insurance

There are two routes you can go to sign up for dental insurance:

  • Choose a health and dental insurance plan: You can search for these plans through the Affordable Care Act on the online insurance Marketplace, but you can only do so during the enrollment period, unless you have a major life event that could affect your insurance eligibility like losing a job, changing income, or moving.
  • Purchase a stand-alone dental plan: If you already have health insurance and you're looking for a separate dental insurance plan, or a supplemental dental insurance plan, you can search for these through the government's online marketplace, or you can go directly to insurance companies' websites and enroll there.

In the video below, you can watch a summary of some things you should consider before choosing a plan and a carrier. The video is provided by Delta Dental, but the considerations can be applied to every company.

When it comes to dental insurance, there are many carriers out there. Learn how to find the best one using by looking at these four important factors.

What's the best dental insurance in my state?

Insurance options vary based on where you live. We have individual articles about dental plans available in each state. Choose your state from the dropdown list to find out more.


Dental insurance as it is today isn't the perfect solution for most American households, but one thing is for sure: it's way better than nothing. We encourage you to enroll in a plan now so that you aren't bombarded with unexpected fees in the future.

Remember, if you can’t find an insurance plan that works for you, you can also consider dental discount plans, which are typically more affordable and still provide great discounts, especially for preventive care. 

Read more about other options for paying for a cheap dentist without insurance. If you're looking specifically for a family plan, check out our full article about family dental insurance as well.


Can you get supplemental dental insurance?

Most insurance companies allow you to sign on to one of their plans as a supplement to insurance that you already have that may not cover the procedures you need.

In some cases, you may be able to get a discount plan to supplement your insurance plan, but you'll need to discuss this with your insurance provider.

Additionally, HSA and FSA accounts allow you to put tax-free dollars from your paycheck aside to be used for dental procedures.

Is there Medicare dental insurance?

Normal Medicare doesn't cover dental, but you may have the option to enroll in a sort of Medicare supplemental dental insurance, in the form of a Medicare Advantage Plan (Medicare Part C). These plans are offered through private dental insurance companies that are approved by Medicare. Not all Medicare Advantage Plans cover dental.

If you are enrolled in Medicare and don't have dental coverage, you should also enroll in a dental insurance plan, or consider enrolling in a dental discount plan. The best dental insurance for seniors on Medicare may be offered by any of the insurance companies we go over in this article. One of those is Delta Dental through which AARP offers dental insurance plans for seniors.

How much does dental insurance cost?

The average dental insurance cost is between $200 and $400 per year per individual, with an annual deductible between $50 and $200, and the annual maximum benefit between $500 to $2,000.

Some plans also offer discounts to customers who participate in annual preventative screenings.

What is the cost of dental insurance?

Affordable dental plans are easy to find — dental insurance costs anywhere from $300 to $700 per year for the average plan. This is much less than standard health insurance. Standard insurance can have monthly premiums of $200 for basic coverage. But keep in mind that many plans have yearly maximums of around $1,000 and deductibles of $1,000 as well.

What is the best dental insurance?

The best dental insurance is a plan that covers your specific needs. It doesn't really matter which company you choose, you need to consider what dental expenses you may have in the future.

Do you just want routine preventive care? Then the best plan for you might be one will a low annual fee, and no deductible. However, if you think you might need major restorative services, your plan may be one that costs more, but has a higher annual maximum to cover more expensive treatments.

Does health insurance cover dental?

Health insurance plans don't automatically cover dental. However, if you're looking for health plans on the ACA marketplace, you can find some plans that offer dental as well. Another option is to buy a stand-alone dental insurance plan.

Is there dental insurance for college students?

Your school may offer a limited insurance plan, but some providers have plans for low-income individuals. You may also want to consider dental discount plans.

Keep in mind that under the Affordable Care Act, adult children can stay on their parent's insurance plan up to 26 years of age. Read our full article on dental insurance for college students.

Best Dental Insurance Guide
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Natalie used to work as a Community Health Worker and Health Insurance Navigator. She continues to follow her passion for connecting people with the healthcare they need by writing informative content about dentistry and medicine.
Amanda specialises in writing informative content about dentistry. She has been a regular contributor to since 2017, and collaborates with dozens of dentists to keep this content accurate and up-to-date.
Medically reviewed by:
Dr. Karen Kemp-Prosterman is a practicing pedodontist with over 17 years of experience. She completed her dental education at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN in 2002. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, and among other achievements is currently the Founder and CEO of PGP Dental Consultancy in Stamford, Connecticut.