Dental Waiting Periods


When you sign up for dental insurance, you might assume that the coverage will kick in immediately. And you may be ready to make an appointment with your dentist to get the care that you need. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, there’s a dental insurance waiting period that you have to complete before you can reap the benefits of the plan you enrolled in. 

Below, we break down what a waiting period is, and we also cover dental insurance plans with no waiting period, so you can get a better idea of what your options are when you’re shopping for coverage. 

What are waiting periods for dental insurance?

A waiting period is a specific length of time that needs to pass before the full benefits of your dental insurance take effect. 

During this time, you might not be eligible to receive any coverage at all, or you might only be able to receive certain benefits until the waiting period is over. In other words, some dental care services might be covered right away, so the waiting period might not even be a problem, depending on what you need. However, if you receive treatment that isn’t covered during the waiting period, you’ll need to pay for it out of pocket. 

The good news is that, once the waiting period ends, you’ll be able to take complete advantage of the range of benefits included in your plan.

Why does dental insurance have a waiting period? 

You might be wondering why an insurance provider would force a waiting period on its customers. Well, this is a strategy that’s used to ensure you aren’t buying a plan just because you know you’re going to need expensive treatments soon. Insurers also worry that you might buy the plan, use it to cover pricey dental services, and then cancel it when you no longer need it.  

Some plans also come with what’s known as a pre-existing condition exclusion period. What does this mean? Basically, if you sign up for a plan, but you have a pre-existing oral health condition, you’ll need to wait before the coverage takes effect. Again, this is to help prevent people from signing up for a plan simply because they know they have a problem that needs to be treated. 

How long is a dental insurance waiting period? 

The length of a waiting period will depend on the plan you sign up for. Different providers impose different waiting periods, and some policies have no waiting periods at all.  
Generally, a waiting period might be several months long, or it might be as long as a year or more. Also, the waiting period may be different for the various categories of services that you can receive. 

What’s covered vs. not covered during a waiting period?

At first, a waiting period might seem kind of scary, and you may be wondering why anyone would sign up for a dental plan that has one. But the good news is that this period often applies only to certain treatments and procedures. 

Here’s an example: a plan might allow you to receive preventive and diagnostic care without needing to wait at all (this would include things like exams, X-rays, and cleanings). On the other hand, you might need to wait six months to get help with paying for basic procedures, such as fillings. And you might need to wait a year for major services like crowns .

We can’t stress this enough: read the fine print on a plan before signing up so you’ll know what’s allowed during the waiting period versus what’s off-limits. 

Are there dental plans with no waiting period? 

If the idea of a waiting period makes you uneasy, don’t worry! The simple solution is to get full coverage dental insurance with no waiting period. That’s right: it’s possible to find dental insurance with no waiting period for major services too!

One smart strategy might be to purchase a DHMO plan that provides full coverage and specifies that there is no waiting period. With this type of plan, you’ll be able to get everything from cleanings to root canals and dentures without waiting. 

See if you can have the waiting period waived

There are some instances in which you might be able to get your insurance provider to waive the waiting period. 

For example, if you had a dental plan , but it was cancelled shortly before signing up for your current plan, you might be able to avoid the waiting period. This will depend on your insurer, though, so it’s something that you may want to ask about before enrolling.  

As another example, if you were on an employer’s dental plan, but you don’t work for them anymore, you might be able to have the waiting period waived if you go directly to the insurer to purchase a similar policy on your own. 

Find great dental insurance with no waiting period!

With a clearer understanding of what waiting periods are, you can shop strategically when you want to invest in a plan that will help you get the care you need from dentists and specialists. To start your search for the ideal policy that won’t make you wait, check out the Direct Benefits Marketplace