Should you pay out of pocket for tooth trouble?

If you’re one of the millions of Canadians who don’t have a job with dental benefits, you’ve probably considered signing up for private dental insurance. But is a monthly premium the most cost-effective way to care for your teeth, or should you just pay out of pocket?

What is it: Private dental insurance helps cover the costs of maintaining a healthy mouth when you don’t have group benefits through an employer. 

  • It works like any other insurance policy—you pick one that matches your needs and pay your monthly premiums. A portion of that cost will be covered when you need to visit the dentist. 

What you’ll pay: According to Insurance Business Magazine, the average cost for a dental policy in Canada is $40 per month for basic individual coverage, so $480 a year. 

  • They generally cover check-ups, cleaning or scaling, dental exams, fillings, simple extractions, x-rays and other laboratory tests.
  • More extensive plans will cost more, but cover additional procedures like bridges, crowns, dentures, oral surgery, orthodontics and root canals.
  • And you also need to factor in that you may need to pay a deductible with your policy, an out-of-pocket cost. 

What you’ll save: Here’s the thing—dental emergencies are costly, and a freak accident could break or knock out a tooth, resulting in excruciating pain. A simple tooth extraction could cost up to $250.

  • A root canal can cost up to $1,500, plus you have to factor in exam costs and x-rays. At $40 a month, your policy will have paid for itself if you need to undergo the procedure.

So, is it worth it? Like all insurance, you’re paying for a product you hope you never need to use but inevitably will need to use. So you could look at it as a waste of money, or you could look at it as doing future you a favour—they will appreciate the responsible decision making. 

  • But if you’re a good saver with a good oral history, it might make more sense to forego dental insurance and have a savings fund dedicated to the dentist. 

Dig deeper: If your household income is below $90,000 and you’ve got uninsured kids under 12, they could be covered under the new Canada Dental Benefit.