For small businesses, giving employees access to cost-effective dental insurance has huge implications. In today’s hyper-competitive talent market, offering dental insurance is a baseline necessity to attract and keep top talent.

For new hires and current employees alike, an attractive benefits package is a good reason to commit to a company long-term.

As a small business, offering the right dental insurance plan to your employees is key to securing employee retention, promoting employee well-being, and maintaining productivity.

But how do you know which dental benefits are best for your business, your employees, and their dental care needs?

What can dental insurance for small businesses cover?

Dental insurance covers a wide range of preventative and restorative treatment procedures and care management modalities.

A good dental insurance plan will cover preventative care including annual exams and X-rays, as well as basic restorative care like fillings and extractions.

A comprehensive dental insurance plan should also cover major restorative care (such as root canals, crowns, and dentures) and orthodontic treatment, which includes care related to braces and other teeth aligners.

Small Business Insurance

Small business dental insurance doesn’t need to be confusing

Evaluating and integrating new insurance plans into employee benefits packages can be a daunting task. But dental insurance doesn’t have to be complicated.

Understanding the basics of dental insurance for small businesses will help you more easily evaluate different insurance plans and companies to ultimately make the right decision for your team.

The following is a list of basic terms and concepts you’ll need to understand to make an informed decision about your dental insurance offering:

  • Deductible: the dollar amount the employee pays before the insurance carrier begins covering services. Deductibles often apply to all types of restorative, major restorative, and orthodontic treatment. Routine cleanings, check-ups, and other preventative care treatments are generally covered without a deductible.
  • Co-pay: A fixed dollar amount or percentage that employees pay for each dentist visit or each dental service provided.
  • Coinsurance: The percentage of costs the employee owes for dental services once the deductible dollar amount is met.
  • Annual maximum: the maximum amount your dental insurance provider will pay out within a one-year plan. If an employee exceeds their annual maximum, they are responsible for any charges thereafter.

With a solid understanding of these terms and concepts, small businesses can appropriately parse through the offerings of various dental insurance providers to identify the right plan for their employees.

What types of dental insurance plans are available to small businesses?

Traditional dental insurance plans generally prompt employees to choose one of four options: Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans, Indemnity Plans, or Discount Plans.

  • PPO plans typically don’t cover out-of-network dentists, barring an emergency. In-network dentists have the lowest out-of-pocket costs for employees with a PPO. Employees are required to pay a copayment for procedures, and they must meet their deductible before the insurer begins covering services. Additionally, employees with a PPO have an annual maximum.
  • HMO plans are quite limited in that employees with an HMO can only choose one dentist or facility to serve their needs. Out-of-network procedures are not covered under an HMO. However, there are no deductibles or annual maximums — employees pay a copayment for certain procedures, and some products or procedures may have zero out-of-pocket costs.
  • Indemnity plans or fee-for-service plans give employees the option to choose from a large variety of dentists. However, they must pay a copayment for procedures, and often must pay an additional fee as dentists do not receive reimbursement under indemnity plans.
  • Discount plans have no limitation on the network — employees can choose any dentist. There is also no deductible or annual maximum under a discount plan. However, the reduced fee-for-service is a completely out-of-pocket cost for employees.

None of these options are ideal for small businesses.

Plan Type Small Business Limitations

Limited plan designs

Long Waiting Periods

Required Copayment and Deductible


Limited to a single dentist or facility

Limited dental coverage


Extremely costly

Discount Plans No Employer-Sponsored Benefit

No Waiting Period

Customizable Annual Maximum, Deductible, and Co-Payment

Employer-Sponsored Benefit


Standard small-business dental insurance plans require minimums, and small businesses often don’t qualify for insurance at all under these restrictions.

Additionally, these plans often come with confusing rule restrictions for coverage. Some businesses may only offer their employees PPOs, while others will restrict their employees to HMOs, and so on. Employees generally cannot make decisions about exactly what they want insurance to cover.

When employees don’t use every dollar of their annual maximum, both employees and employers lose out on a valuable benefit.

Using Bento for dental benefits eliminates the confusing and restrictive elements of dental insurance for small businesses.

You don’t have to worry about meeting a minimum — Bento doesn’t have one. And you can choose or build a plan that fits your budget, with flexible options like Dollar Plan, Service Plan, and Custom Plan to fit the needs of your organization. Bento can recreate the same benefits you had in a previous plan but with our improved model.

The Dollar Plan has a defined annual maximum benefit and allows members to pay for any dental procedure or service up to their annual maximum.

The Service Plan allows employees to select whichever services they want to have covered at 100% to give employees relief from out-of-pocket costs on the services they use most.

The Custom Plan can be configured to meet each employee’s or small business’s specific needs.

Protect your money and your employees’ money by eliminating confusion around in and out-of-network providers, reimbursement, and confusing plan options.


How does the Affordable Care Act affect dental insurance for small businesses?

Most plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) do not include dental insurance. As a result, small business owners generally need to purchase additional standalone plans to cover dental for their employees.

And this expense is significant. On average, small businesses pay about 18% more than larger businesses for the same health coverage.

Small businesses that employ less than 25 full-time workers for average wages of less than $50,000 that pay at least 50% of premiums also qualify for a small business tax credit. This helps small businesses pay for employees’ dental premiums.

What is the impact of providing dental insurance as a small business?

Offering dental insurance pays dividends for both employers and employees.

For one, offering dental insurance can help small businesses retain and attract top talent: MetLife’s Employee Benefit Trends Study 2022 shows 72% of small business employees say dental insurance is a must-have.

Additionally, offering dental insurance is one way to ensure employees stay healthy and maintain standard levels of productivity. Unexpected dental issues not only cause employees to miss work for emergency dental procedures, but they also cause employees to suffer undue stress and distractions.

Given that oral diseases account for most common chronic conditions in the country, ensuring employees can affordably receive preventative oral treatment should be a top priority.

Dental insurance covers more than just restorative treatment — it also covers periodic treatments, such as routine cleanings, that can protect against chronic oral disease.

Switch to dental benefits with Bento

In today’s competitive talent market, providing comprehensive dental benefits in addition to other health and workplace benefits is a necessity.

Bento is transforming the oral care benefits landscape by offering flexible, modern dental benefit options that provide significant cost advantages for small businesses and better dental benefits for employees with their innovative platform.

The future of dental benefits is here. And your small business can be a part of the digital transformation of dental with Bento.

Build a better plan for less, control your dental expenditure, and enroll easily with Bento. Give employees a flexible, cost-effective dental benefits plan that meets their needs.

Discover the future of small business dental benefits at Bento.