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It's getting close to the end of the year, and along with holiday shopping and other things on your to-do list, you may want to take a look at your dental insurance benefits. Although you may not realize it, most dental insurance plans reset their coverage on December 31, which means that you may end this year with thousands of dollars in dental benefits unclaimed. This article will help you figure out what type of dental plan you have and how to make sure these benefits don't go to waste.

When Do My Dental Insurance Benefits Expire?

According to the National Association of Dental Plans, the most common date for dental insurance plans to expire is near the end of the year, usually December 31 or January 1. To find out when your dental benefits end, it's always a good idea to check with your insurance provider.

Types of Dental Plan Benefits

There are several ways you might have access to dental benefits. If you are not covered by your employer, you can enroll in dental benefits through the Affordable Care Act open marketplace. The last day to enroll this year is December 15, although you may be eligible to enroll at a later date if you have experienced a qualifying life event such as marriage or the birth of a child. Another option is to receive dental benefits through a plan offered by your employer. These plans may also include the opportunity to have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

What is a Flexible Spending Account?

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is an employer-offered health insurance account that allows you to choose how much money to put into the account for dental or health benefits at the beginning of the enrollment period. Then, money is taken out of your paycheck each pay period before tax is collected. FSAs can help you save money by reducing your taxable income. Additionally, they are easy to use-- you pay for your health benefits at the time of service by swiping a card that is similar to a debit card. Money in an FSA can be used to pay for dental procedures like cleanings, dental supplies, and x-rays.

Does my FSA money expire?

Generally, if you do not use all the money in an FSA by the end of the year, it will expire. However, sometimes you can get a small extension of a few months to use it, or carry some over to the next year. The best thing is to ask your employer.

How can I be smart about using my dental benefits?

Plan out your dental expenses early in the year so you will not have excess money in an FSA. Scheduling appointments early will help you get treatment before your coverage expires. Preventative care is usually fully covered by your dental plan, so make sure to schedule a cleaning and check-up to get your money's worth.

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