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Dental insurance for college students

Janelle Vreeland

What you need to know when looking for dental insurance as a college student

Contrary to what your list of important investments in college may look like, dental care should be near the top. Living at home with your parents, you probably received a lot time and care at the dentist’s office. But living on your own lifts the responsibility of health care from your parents to you.

The Government Accountability Office states that only 30 percent of colleges in the country require their full-time students to have health insurance. Of those colleges that require it, most do not offer preventative services such as routine dental exams or vision care. So how do college students acquire dental insurance and dental care without a huge cost?

Many college students get health insurance through the university that they attend. However, inside Higher Ed reported in 2008 that 67 percent of students received health insurance through their parents by employer-sponsored plans, which cover employees and their dependents. Furthermore, only 7 percent were covered by private insurance like student plans and 6 percent through public programs. Although many students are still covered under their parents’ plans, there are still roughly 20 percent of students uninsured not only for dental insurance, but for general health insurance.

It’s no surprise that college students live on a budget. When you’re living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, who’s thinking about dental insurance? Albeit at times expensive, oral care is necessary for healthy teeth and gums as well as a healthy body. Keeping your mouth healthy at a young age prevents complications later in life. Dental insurance is definitely not an easy or cheap to acquire, but there are ways to get it. If you are employed by a business or company chances are they offer insurance plans that you can pick up for a smaller fee than if you went with an individual policy. Some colleges and universities also offer dental insurance, but at an additional cost to the regular health insurance.

Loyola University in Chicago is one of the universities that started offering supplementary dental insurance at an added cost in the 2010-2011 academic year. Laura Zaucha of Loyola Universities BURSAR, the office responsible for billing of tuition and fees, stated that “the plan is handled directly through United Healthcare, as enrollment is totally optional and not mandatory. Students enroll and pay United Healthcare [for dental] directly. We do not bill the student’s account for dental coverage.”

Even though it’s at an added cost of about $200 a year, the option for the dental insurance makes it easier for students who want to be covered. “We sent out a survey last academic year to those students who were enrolled on Loyola’s student health insurance asking their interest in a dental plan. Quite a few students showed interest, so we asked our health insurance carrier to supply us with a couple different quotes,” said Zaucha. As she explained, the insurance carrier offered two separate options. Loyola then sent out another survey asking students which option they preferred and went with the most popular one.

The insurance plan that United Healthcare offers for Loyola students covers two periodic oral evaluations, or general cleaning and preventative dental exam. This is the most important aspect of dental care and is the key to preventing future oral complications. Chances are that if your college or university offers dental insurance it will, at the very least, offer this in the plan.

While Loyola’s offer for dental insurance is very beneficial to its students, a lot of universities still do not offer dental insurance. If your university is one that doesn’t offer this, there is one other solution. You should check and see if your university has a college of dentistry. If it does, you can use your school’s dental students as your dental care resources. Dental students need to fulfill a certain amount of hours in clinical studies, meaning they need to apply what they learn in class on actual teeth. You can allow dental students to examine and clean your teeth at a significantly lower rate than the rate charged an established dentist. While they are not certified dentists yet, don’t worry. The dental students are supervised and are not just let loose to wreak untrained havoc on your teeth. As an article in Say Educate confirms, “you’ll pay for your visits, but the rates are substantially lower than what your dentist charges. Students are observed by their teachers who are dentists themselves.” If you have no insurance, this is definitely a smart way to acquire dental care at a low cost.

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