Provo dentist offers alternative to dental insurance

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Corbin Matthews, owner of Cougar Dental, performs a dental procedure at Academy Square, located on 100 East in Provo on Nov. 1. (Anna Morgan)

Provo dental office Cougar Dental offers a more cost-effective alternative to traditional dental insurance for college students and families seeking dental care.

This alternative allows individuals to purchase a year-long membership rather than paying monthly insurance costs.

Because dental care is not included in the BYU student health plan, students enrolled in the health plan can find themselves in a bind when it comes to dental care.

Enrollment in the plan has also been increasing over the past two years at a rate of about 2% per year. With an increasing enrollment rate of students on the BYU health plan, more students are in search of alternative dental options.

According to Brad LeBaron, BYU’s Student Health Services director, health insurance plans generally do not cover dental services. Those wishing to obtain dental insurance must purchase a separate dental policy on the open market. LeBaron also explained that the Student Health Center does not have dentists on staff. 

“The size of our clinic building is insufficient to accommodate the addition of a dental center,” LeBaron said. 

Brighton Kriser, an economics major from Provo, has been enrolled in the student health plan for about three years. He said he was aware the plan didn’t include dental coverage when he signed up but wishes that it would.

“If the plan included dental coverage, I would go to the dentist more regularly,” Kriser said. “I went to the dentist for the first time in six years about two months ago.” 

Kriser said he was grateful he didn’t have any cavities.

Corbin Matthews a dentist with Cougar Dental has been practicing for over twenty years and works regularly with both college students and families. His experience with people of all backgrounds caused him to recognize the financial need some patients have in dental care.

Because patients without dental insurance may be in need of financial assistance, Cougar Dental decided to offer a membership called the annual membership option.

According to Matthews, most dental offices are offering in-house plans for patients.

“There is a big shift of people not being able to afford dental care,” Matthews said. “In-house dental plans are a great way to still get cleanings done on an affordable dental plan.”

He said this is because insurance companies haven’t adjusted what they will pay when helping to cover patients’ expenses.

Thirty years ago, insurance companies would cover up to $1,200 in dental coverage, according to Matthews. However, that price still hasn’t changed even though inflation has increased the cost of dental care, Matthews said.

Cougar Dental’s annual membership option is $126 for students and the money goes towards the cost of exams and X-rays. Additionally, the annual membership option includes a 25% discount off any dental surgical procedure a patient is in need of, such as wisdom teeth removal.

About 50% of Matthew’s patients are students. Of those who come in to receive care, about 60-65% have dental insurance. However, the annual membership option is usually the more cost-effective choice, according to Cougar Dental office manager Jazmine Ramirez.

Through helping patients and exploring financial options for dental coverage, Matthews said he has felt fulfillment in his career.

“We love dentistry. We love what we do and taking care of the student population,” Matthews said.

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