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Updated on August 10, 2023
14 min read

Which Companies Offer the Best Dental Insurance in California?

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Dental Insurance in California

Routine dental visits support oral hygiene.1 The costs of visiting the dentist once or twice yearly can add up. Dental insurance can cover most out-of-pocket expenses even if you only visit the dentist once or twice yearly. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends visiting your dentist regularly to stay proactive. Certain diseases can manifest in the mouth and present signs, so early detection and treatment are crucial.2 

Choosing the right dental insurance in California can minimize costs and help you receive the necessary treatment. It pays to review your dental insurance policy details, as the right one can save you hundreds of dollars or more. 

Types of Dental Coverage 

Dental insurance companies classify plans into three categories: 

  1. Dental health maintenance organization (DHMO)
  2. Preferred provider organization (PPO)
  3. Discount plans 

Each plan type carries unique characteristics such as monthly or annual premium costs, typical coverage, and freedoms regarding which dentist you choose. 

Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO)

DHMO plans are sometimes called dental maintenance organization (DMO) or dental HMO plans. These dental coverage options work like standard health insurance. 

The basic features of a DHMO plan include: 

  • Receipt of care from a single primary dental physician 
  • Primary dental physicians can refer you to specialists as needed
  • Little to no waiting period
  • Low or no-cost diagnostic and preventive care
  • Some plans offer no annual limits or deductibles
  • Lower monthly or yearly premiums
  • Copayment for certain treatments
  • Plans typically don’t cover cosmetic or orthodontic treatment
  • Major work (root canals, dentures, crowns) requires longer waiting periods and offers smaller discounts 

DHMO insurance plans work best for people who want affordable care and have an established relationship with a dentist within the approved network. 

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

If you prefer to choose which dentist you’d like to go to, consider a PPO dental plan. 

These plans include the following dental benefits: 

  • A wider network of dentists (compared to the DHMO network) 
  • A discounted rate on services from an in-network dentist
  • Higher monthly or annual premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance 
  • Longer claims process and higher costs for out-of-network dentists
  • No waiting periods for preventive and diagnostic dental care
  • Up to 100% coverage for diagnostic and preventive services
  • Waiting period for procedures last between 3 and 12 months
  • May include partial orthodontic and cosmetic treatment coverage 

The most significant differences between DHMO and PPO plans lie in the following: 

  • The freedom to choose your dentist
  • Waiting period for preventative care
  • Preventative care costs coverage
  • Annual or monthly premiums 

PPO and DHMO dental insurance plans are the two main types of dental insurance you can choose from. However, you can also opt for discount plans that give you a break on total costs. 

Discount Plans

For immediate coverage, many people turn to dental discount plans. These offer an affordable alternative to true dental insurance for preventative care such as cleanings and X-rays. 

Though dental benefits are less than with a PPO or DHMO plan, there are no claims to process or deductibles to calculate. 

5 Best Dental Insurance Plans in California

1. Delta Dental — Best for Largest Dental Network

Delta Dental commands one of the largest dental networks nationwide. This insurance carrier offers both DHMO and PPO plans.3 Seniors can also access Delta Dental plans through AARP.  

DHMO plans from Delta Dental fall under DeltaCare USA. Members receive lower rates with this type of dental plan, which requires you to visit a single in-network dentist. 

If you prefer to work with a dentist, PPO dental plans grant you access to a broader network of approved dentists. You can also opt into Plus PPO plans to visit Premier dentists without paying higher fees. 

Delta Dental also offers dental plans for immediate coverage. The No Wait and Immediate Coverage plans come without waiting period restrictions for basic preventative care. 

DeltaCareUSA Plan

This Delta Dental DHMO plan offers lower rates but requires members to visit dentists who are in the network. 

Many find this dental plan best because it provides the following: 

  • Immediate coverage, even for pre-existing conditions
  • No deductibles or annual maximum limits
  • One annual membership fee
  • Established and discounted rates
  • Includes 24 months of discounted coverage for braces

Plus and Premier PPO Plans

You may prefer Plus and Premier PPO Plans if you want to visit more than one dentist in a more extensive network. These plans are helpful if you plan on moving or enjoy the freedom of choosing which dentist you see regardless of your insurance coverage. 

Delta Dental PPO plans include: 

  • Gold — This plan features a $50 annual deductible and a $1,000 annual maximum.
    • 60 to 100% coverage for cleanings 
    • 50 to 80% coverage for fillings with a 6-month waiting period 
    • 0 to 50% coverage for crowns with a 12-month waiting period 
  • Platinum — This PPO plan includes a $50 annual deductible, a $100 lifetime deductible, and a $1,500 annual maximum.
    • 80 to 100% coverage for cleanings 
    • 60 to 80% coverage for fillings with a 6-month waiting period 
    • 0 to 50% coverage for crowns with a 12-month waiting period 
    • Up to 50% orthodontic coverage with a 12-month waiting period
  • Diamond This plan has no deductible and a $2,000 annual maximum. The lifetime maximum is $1,500.
    • 80 to 100% coverage for cleanings 
    • 60 to 80% coverage for fillings with a 6-month waiting period 
    • 0 to 50% coverage for crowns with a 12-month waiting period 
    • Up to 50% orthodontic coverage with a 12-month waiting period

Plus PPO plans allow you to see Premier network dentists even if they aren’t in the network. Many people choose standard Delta Dental Premier PPO plans for lower out-of-pocket costs throughout the year. 

Dental Plans with No Wait Period 

Choose between the No Wait Plan and the Immediate Coverage Plan. Both plans waive the waiting periods for basic preventative care. The No Wait Plan has a $2,000 annual maximum benefit. 

If you choose the Immediate Coverage Plan for orthodontic work, you must wait 12 months for this type of work. This plan also has a $3,000 annual maximum and a $1,500 lifetime maximum.  

2. NCD — Best for No Waiting Periods

NCD 3000 and 5000 dental plans offer full coverage for major services without a waiting period.4 However, you must have previously had dental coverage to qualify for this benefit. If you haven’t had previous coverage, you’re subject to a 12-month waiting period. 

Here are the basic elements of NCD dental insurance plans:

  • 100% coverage for preventative services 
  • 80% coverage for basic services such as sealants, extractions, and panoramic X-rays
  • 50% coverage for major services, including dentures, implants, and crowns
  • $3,000 annual maximum for NCD 3000 plan
  • $5,000 annual maximum for NCD 5000 plan 

NCD dental plans typically have low deductibles and high annual maximums. However, they provide a wide range of preventative and basic care coverage. Many people choose NCD dental plans for their clear benefits and pricing structure. 

3. Humana — Best for Basic Preventative Care 

Humana’s Extend dental insurance plans offer the best coverage for preventative services.5 The Extend 2500 and 5000 plans include: 

  • Bi-annual exams, cleaning, and fluoride treatment
  • A comprehensive oral exam every 3 years
  • An exam every 3 years
  • A single panoramic X-ray every 5 years

Choose the Humana 2500 plan if you want a $2,500 annual maximum per person, with a $1,000 annual max per person for implants. The 5000 plan has a $5,000 annual maximum per person with up to $2,000 per year per person for implants. Each plan includes a $100 allowance for teeth whitening. 

Humana also offers several other dental insurance plans, including a single DHMO and three PPO plans. Here’s a quick look at two of the most popular:  

  • Humana Dental Value Plan — Preventive services are free with this DHMO plan. Non-emergency dental visits are only $15, and there’s no deductible. 
  • Dental Loyalty Plus Plan — This plan includes no waiting periods and a $150 deductible. Over the first 3 years, the plan’s coverage changes. The copayment decreases while the annual maximum increases from $1,000 to $1,500. 

Each of the PPO plans includes free preventative care. Humana also offers special dental insurance plans for veterans and their family members. You can also save money by enrolling in dental and vision coverage. 

4. Aetna — Best for PPO Plans

People looking specifically for a PPO dental plan often choose Aetna Dental Direct.6 This plan waives waiting periods if you’ve had prior dental coverage. It also offers low rates and a wide range of dental providers. 

Basic Aetna Dental Direct PPO plan features include: 

  • 100% coverage for preventative treatment
  • $50 annual deductible for individuals
  • $150 annual deductible for families
  • $1,500 annual maximum 
  • Over 370,000 providers to choose from 

Aetna also offers vision insurance to pair with your dental coverage. If you select Aetna through your employer, you can also choose a DMO plan at a lower cost. However, you must stick to one dental provider with this plan. 

5. Covered California — Best All-In-One Health Package 

You must be an existing member of the Covered California health insurance company to add dental insurance to your health insurance coverage.7 

You can find the following DHMO and PPO plans through the Covered California health exchange: 

  • DHMO — These plans come without an annual limit or deductible. Children can access medically necessary orthodontics coverage through this plan. Maximum out-of-pocket costs are $350 for a single child and $700 for two or more children for family coverage. 
  • PPO — Each adult has a $50 deductible with this plan. Children have a $65 deductible waivable for preventive dental services and no annual limits. However, adults are subject to a 6-month waiting period for major work and a $1,500 annual limit. Covered California dental insurance plans do not cover implants or braces. Copayments are much higher if you go to a dentist that’s out of network.  

If you’ve already purchased health insurance coverage through Covered California, you can add dental coverage and save. This bundling opportunity can make Covered California health plans even more affordable. 

Comparing the Best Dental Insurance Plans in California

Sorting through California dental insurance facts and figures can be stressful and confusing. Here’s a quick reference table to help you decide which dental insurance plan is best for you.  

FeaturesDelta DentalNCDHumanaAetnaCovered California
Coverage Type DHMO and PPODHMO and PPODHMO and PPODHMO and PPODHMO and PPO, but you must have Covered California health insurance already
Preventive Care60 to100% covered100% covered80 to 100% covered 100% covered100% covered
Basic Services80 to 100% covered 80% covered30 to 50% covered Up to 80% covered100% covered
Major Work0 to 50% covered50% coveredVaries by plan Up to 80% coveredVaries 
Deductibles$0 to $50$50 to $150 $0 to $150$50 to $150$0 to $65
Waiting PeriodsUp to 12 months for major work, but otherwise, no waiting periods No waiting period with prior coverage, but up to 12 months without No waiting period with prior coverage  No waiting period for major work with prior coverage, otherwise, a 12-month waiting periodUp to a 6-month waiting period for major work but can shorten with proof of previous dental coverage  
Orthodontic/Cosmetic CoverageImmediate Coverage Plan and DeltaCare USA PlanSome cosmetic but no orthodontic coverage Does cover braces through the Dental Savings Plus discount plan8Varies by plan No coverage for adults, but children can receive medically necessary orthodontic care 
Child/Family CareDiscounts for familiesDiscounts for families Discounts for families Discounts for familiesDiscounts for families 

What is the Average Cost of Dental Insurance in California?

The average monthly cost of dental insurance is between $15 and $85, depending on which plan you choose.9 Other factors, such as deductibles, annual maximums, and lifetime maximums, vary. 

You can offset the cost of dental work with flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs). Discount plans can also alleviate the financial burden of dental visits, though actual prices vary based on which dental plan you choose. 

Understanding Dental Insurance Policies in California

You should carefully review dental insurance policies to confirm what services are covered and where coverage gaps exist. Individual and family dental insurance plans that cover the most common costs can be well worth the monthly premium. Full coverage for more extensive procedures can also reduce how much you pay for dental services. 

Here are some basic dental insurance terms you’ll come across: 

  • Plan or policy — Your dental insurance plan includes what’s covered and excluded. Dental insurance carriers often name plans according to what’s covered. For example, Humana’s 2500 plan includes a $2,500 annual maximum per person. 
  • Benefits or care — Your benefits describe what type of care you can receive and at what costs. Insurance carriers list coverage in dollar amounts or percentages depending on the plan. Certain services may be available at an extra cost. 
  • Deductible — Many plans offer annual deductibles you must pay out of pocket before the insurance begins covering costs. Higher deductibles often come with lower premiums.  
  • Copayment and coinsurance — Once you’ve met the stated deductible, you may owe coinsurance (a percentage of the bill) or copayment (a specific rate). 
  • Annual maximum — Dental insurance companies set this amount to specify how much they will pay each year on your behalf. 
  • Waiting period — Dental care plans require that you wait a certain number of months after you obtain coverage to seek out specific care. Many people prefer plans with no waiting period so they can receive care immediately.

Is Dental Insurance Mandatory in California?

Dental insurance is not mandatory in California. Dental insurance can provide several advantages and disadvantages, including the following: 

Pros

  • Most plans cover 80 to 100% of preventative care 
  • Freedom to choose from several providers and plans 
  • Take advantage of significant discounts
  • Supports your oral health by reducing financial barriers
  • Rates are comparable to and more affordable than health insurance premiums
  • Discounts for bundling health, dental, and vision insurance 

Cons

  • Insurance may cost more than the discounts it provides
  • Selecting the best plan for you can be challenging and confusing
  • Even the best plans may not offer full coverage
  • Matching coverage and providers can require research  

How to Choose the Best Dental Insurance Plan

Dental insurance plans vary depending on what you or your family need. 

Here are a few tips to help you select the best dental plan that saves you money when you receive the necessary services:

  • Determine whether you want or need individual or family dental plans
  • Consider how the insurance carrier will cover costs, either by sending you a check or paying the dental provider directly
  • Balance lower premiums with higher deductibles, especially for your monthly budget
  • Avoid paying for coverage you don’t necessarily need, such as orthodontic care, if your children are still young
  • Consider bundling your health, dental, and vision insurance with a single provider, as they may offer discounts for multiple services 

Finding the perfect dental health plan can be difficult. You may often choose a plan that saves you the most money in one area versus across the plan itself. It all boils down to what dental care you need and when.

Summary

Choosing the right dental insurance plan in California can help cover basic dental treatment costs and save money. Getting the most value from your dental insurance plan requires selecting the coverage you’ll use. 

From basic preventative care to emergency dental visits, California's best dental insurance plans reduce your financial contributions. 

If you’re looking for new dental insurance in California, consider the plans we’ve discussed above. DHMO dental care plans can help if you haven’t selected a dentist yet but may need specialized care. 

PPO plans make it easy to choose your dentist and still benefit from fully covered preventive services. Remember this as you search for the best dental insurance in California.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does any California health insurance company offer dental coverage?

Some California health insurance companies provide dental coverage if you bundle your insurance plans. California dental insurance plans commonly pair with vision insurance as well. 

How much does dental insurance cost?

Dental insurance can cost less than $20 per month or up to $100 per month. Comprehensive plans tend to have a higher monthly premium but can offer more valuable benefits.  

Does Medi-Cal cover dental work? 

Yes, Medi-Cal provides pediatric and adult dental insurance coverage.10 Benefits include coverage for preventative and restorative services.  

Do California dental plans cover preventative treatment? 

Most California dental plans cover all or at least part of preventative treatment, such as bi-annual exams, X-rays, and fluoride treatments. Check your plan details to learn more about the services covered. 

Last updated on August 10, 2023
Last updated on August 10, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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