Does dental insurance cover screening methods for detecting oral cancer?

Oral cancer examination is a routine part of comprehensive new patient exam or a returning patient exam and is covered as part of the exam. So, in my opinion, yes, dental insurance covers screening methods for detecting oral cancer. 

With cancer of the head and neck being the sixth most common cancer in the US, I can see why everyone should want to be screened, since early detection of any cancer directly relates to the outcome of the treatment.

When it comes to any insurance, the only way to know for sure is to ask your insurance company. Every Group has their own list of benefits. Just because your insurance company covers cover someone else for the screening is no guarantee they will cover for you. Just like car or home insurance, the more you are willing to pay, the better your coverage.

Only you can decide what is best for you if you find you have no coverage. Talk to your healthcare professionals about your specific risk factors. It may be in your best interest to have the screening even if you have to pay for it, even for peace of mind.

One thing to think about is getting your medical insurance to cover this medical test. Potential oral cancer tissue is best found by a dentist or dental hygienist but this is a medical, not dental, condition. You can call your medical insurance coordinator and see what coverage you may have.

Some insurance companies do cover oral cancer screenings. It is a rare occurrence but some plans do so. Regardless of whether your plan covers it, they may have a contracted rate that represents a savings from the standard fee at a contracted dental office. In any case oral cancer screenings are a critical component of your oral health and should be undertaken on a regular basis.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Depending on the type of screening method being used to try and catch oral cancer, it may be covered by your dental insurance and what percent of costs/charges will be paid for by the plan might be determined by you (covered does not mean paid for in toto). For example, at a routine dental check-up (you know, the one in which the hygienist brushes, flosses, and polishes your teeth way more thoroughly than you ever could, and then reminds you to floss daily), typically also includes a visual screen. The visual screen is a thorough look inside your mouth to identify spots, sores, or lesions that may indicate oral cancer. Since this type of screening is part of a routine dental exam, your dental insurance will cover this if it covers routine visits to your dentist.

Other methods for screening include fluorescent staining of the mouth and another staining method called toluidine blue. These methods may or may not be covered by your dental benefits plan. To find out which screening methods are covered, call the benefits office at work, or the number on the back of your dental benefits plan card. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.