How Much Do Patients Really Understand Dental Insurance?

In this article, we share three stats that reveal how few patients understand dental insurance. And we provide four steps your practice can take to educate your patients — so they use their insurance more.

If your practice is like most, your patient list is stacked with patients who have dental insurance.

And as you probably notice, many have trouble knowing what's actually available with their benefits.

We uncovered these surprising statistics, which highlight just how much patients struggle to understand dental insurance.

We also provide four ideas that will boost insurance literacy so patients will maximize their benefits with your practice.

Only 9% of Americans Understand Basic Insurance Terms

A study in 2016 found that only 9% of Americans actually understand the basics of insurance, like what a deductible is.

That means, in a practice of 1,750 patients, about 1,590 are scratching their heads about how to use their benefits.

How many of your patients are unsure of covered cleanings and discounted treatments that keep them and their teeth healthy.

Millennials Understand Dental Benefits the Least

One company actually studied how well different age groups understand dental insurance.

It turns out, Millennials — that large group of young adults between 22 and 37 years old — fared the worst.

The company found that Millennials are the most confident in their understanding — but they actually had the lowest comprehension of all the groups in the study.

(There's actually some good news, though: it’s easier than ever for practices to reach this group because of how communication savvy they are. More details on that at the bottom.)

Nearly Half of Patients with Insurance Don’t Use It

About 75% of patients have dental insurance.

But the kicker — 40% of them aren't using it.

And according to the study, one reason is that those patients with insurance thought dental care would still be too expensive.

In other words, they don’t really understand how dental benefits work.

Why These Dental Insurance Statistics Matter

Why does it ultimately matter whether a patient understands their benefits?

Because according to a 2018 study, when patients don’t understand insurance, they don’t seek out the care they need.

And that’s the case even when their insurance usually covers most of the cost.

The same study found that 16% of patients with a lower understanding of insurance avoided preventive services, like a cleaning, completely, even though it was covered by insurance.

So, What's a Practice to Do?

The good news is that your practice can overcome these dental insurance statistics.

Newsletter Articles

Including articles in your regular newsletter to focus on insurance helps patients build real insurance literacy — which will inevitably turn into more appointments. For example, include an article covering the most frequently asked questions about dental insurance, and add another one that defines basic insurance terms, like "deductible" and "co-pay."


Use campaigns to remind patients about their expiring insurance or new benefits. It may not turn them patients into insurance experts — but they will get them in the door. For example, send an end-of-year insurance reminder in the fall to prompt patients with outstanding treatment to schedule an appointment before it's too late. One practice in Colorado used RevenueWell campaigns to send a similar campaign to over 2,000 patients, and the results were huge! They scheduled 34 visits and earned nearly $15,000 from a single campaign — how's that for dental insurance statistics!

Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram aren't just for sharing before-and-after photos, dental puns, and reviews. When you've got the time to manage it, social media is perfect for patient education. For example, post a video of a team member breaking down what commonly misunderstood insurance terms mean. Or share friendly reminders with your followers about upcoming expiring-insurance dates.


An often-forgotten tool in a practice's patient communication strategy is the website. Because of a website's limitless space (and its SEO friendliness), it's the ideal medium for educating patients. For example, add an entire section on your website about dental insurance, and include pages on what insurance you accept, how patients can maximize their insurance, and what do common insurance terms means. While the dental insurance stats above may make it seem pointless to invest in educating your patients, it's possible — and profitable — to do so. By investing even just a small amount in patient education, you can build a basic understanding among your patients and become known as the practice that advocates for their patients' dental —and financial — health!

Learn more about how RevenueWell helps patients better understand their dental insurance and get the most out of the benefits available to them.