Why Aren't Implants Covered By Dental Insurance?

Annie Keller

Denture plates should be a thing of the past in the modern day of dental implants, but there's one complication: implants are almost never covered by dental insurance. Why not? The short version is that they're considered cosmetic, but the long version is a bit more complicated.

First, an explanation as to what implants are. Dental implants are a titanium rod inserted in the jaw and topped with a crown to replace a missing tooth. Unlike dental bridges, implants don't need to be replaced. Since they are implanted in the jaw, they help preserve the jaw bone itself. Implants don't decay, and unlike bridges are easy to floss between. While they might be more expensive at first, ultimately they save money. Bridges are one thing usually covered by dental insurance, though - unlike implants.

If they save money, it should be a sure thing for any savvy dental insurance company. However, dental implants are more expensive than bridges initially. A single tooth implant can be $3,000 or more, while replacing multiple teeth with implants can run to over $45,000. The typical dental insurance program only covers $1,500 of treatment before maxing out for the year. That's about half of a dental implant. The problem with implants is not that they're cosmetic, but expensive.

There are other procedures not covered by most dental insurance. The most well known are tooth whitening and veneers, or porcelain tooth covers. Those are also deemed cosmetic. But while discolored teeth might hurt your chances in Hollywood, for most people it's not a serious issue. Dental implants, on the other hand, are usually placed in a category like dentures.

Full coverage dental insurance isn't always the answer either. While it sounds like all procedures would be fully covered, the truth is that most major procedures, including implants, are usually half covered, if at all.

None of these are isolated issues. Even with the new Affordable Care Act, dental insurance isn't included in most medical plans. Many can go years without any significant problems with their teeth, but something as simple as a loose filling can turn into a deadly infection. And as those problems build up over the years, the danger also goes up. Low cost dental clinics are few in number, and most are booked for months at a time.

The American Dental Association has lobbied for dental insurance to be included in ordinary medical insurance, but it has yet to be added. Until then, the costs will remain too much for too many people.

[Picture stock image via Pixabay]