Best Disability Insurance For Dental Hygienists And Dental Assistants | Here’s What You Need To Know

Updated: May 13, 2020 at 12:10 pm

why dental hygienists need disability insuranceDental hygienists or dental assistants probably don’t think of the importance of disability insurance. At least not right away.

If you are a dental hygienist or assistant, you are busy! You spend your day providing important preventative care. Moreover, you particularly enjoy how you help your patients maintain and improve their smile!  You rely on your technical skills as well as your physical ability to get the job done.

What if you could no longer do your job? Have you ever thought what would happen if you became sick, ill, injured, and disabled? How would you pay the bills if you could not work? A disability affects the lifestyle you worked so hard for and your future plans.

In this article, we discuss disability insurance and the best disability insurance for dental hygienists and dental assistants.

Navigation And Summaryto summarize article on disability insurance for dental hygienists and dental assistants

Here’s what we will talk about. Feel free to jump around as needed. I know time is precious, so here’s a summary of our article for your needs.

If you want to understand a particular topic in more detail, feel free to jump to that section or contact us.

Let’s start by describing why you need disability insurance.

Why You Need Disability Insurance?

It’s simple, really.

Disability insurance helps pay your bills if you can’t work due to an illness or injury. Anything illness or injury-related that prevents you from doing your job as a dental hygienist or assistant is a disability. If you will struggle to pay the bills (your mortgage, groceries, healthcare, etc.) upon a disability, you probably need disability insurance.

Here’s the real reason you need disability insurance. I’ll present this in a different way. Your patients are certainly very important, right? However, there is also a group of people who are more important. Who can be more important than my patients, you think. They pay the bills.

True. They do, but they don’t love you as your family loves you. By far, if you have a family, your spouse and children rely on you more than you think. They love you more than anything. You wouldn’t want anything to happen to you that affects them, right?

There are tough questions that need answering. Would you and your family be able to continue your standard of living without your income? If not, what changes would need to be made? Would your spouse have to work or work more? Would you need to sell your home to make ends meet? Who could be flexible with the children? Would you have the money to hire someone to take care of the kids? The tough questions can go on and on.

Disability is a destroyer of dreams. Your future and family dreams could be destroyed. They don’t have to, though. With disability insurance, you have peace of mind knowing that you have a plan – and income – in place should the unexpected happen.

Yes, But A Disability Won’t Happen To Me

You think it won’t. However, the probability of having a long-term disability is anywhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 workers. Contrast this to unexpected death, say from a motor vehicle accident, which is 1 in 114. Even dying from cancer has better odds: 1 in 7.

But, John, I’m not going to get hurt or be in a wheelchair, you say. Wow! I respond. If you know that, then you should not be a dental hygienist or a dental assistant. You need to play the lottery!

Jokes aside. In all seriousness, when we think of disability, we think of someone bound in a wheelchair, right? Not true and far from it. According to the Council For Disability Awareness, 90% of disabilities are from illnesses (like cancer) than from accidents. That means an illness or condition, such as cancer or a heart condition, has a higher probability of disabling you than a skiing accident.

Moreover, some dental hygienists and dental assistants develop lower arm, shoulder, and back problems. Depending on the severity, these situations can be long-term disabling conditions.

Ok, John, but I have workers’ compensation. I don’t need to worry about money. That’s great, I say. Did you know that 5% of disabling conditions are work-related, leaving the other 95% not covered by workers’ compensation? That makes sense, since 90% of disabilities are from illnesses.

While worker’s compensation can cover some medical bills and provide some money if you experience an injury at work, it may not totally cover your loss of income.

Again, what is your income plan if you can’t work?

The Types Of Disability Insurance Available

There are really 3 types of disability insurance available for dental hygienists and dental assistants. We will discuss alternative insurances later in the article.

The 3 disability insurances include:

  • short-term disability insurance
  • long-term disability insurance
  • accident-only disability insurance

Many people ask us about the difference between short-term disability insurance and long-term disability insurance. Here’s the difference.

Short-term is really designed for a disability of a short time period. Let’s say you break your hand. Well, it’ll be hard to work as a hygienist with a broken hand, right? So, that is a disability – you can’t do your job as a hygienist. How long does a broken hand heal? Two to 3 weeks? Once you’ve met the waiting period, you’ll be eligible for benefits and receive some disability benefits.

Long-term becomes the life-saver on those disabilities that last longer than 3 months. Cancer… a catastrophic injury…ALS…Diabetes…you name it.  Most families can get by financially when one member has a short-term disability. Sure, it might be tough, but families can get by. It’s a long-term disability that can financially ruin families.

Both insurances generally use the own-occupation definition of disability. (More on that in a minute.)

Finally, there is accident-only disability insurance. Think of this as a “last resort” disability insurance. It will only pay a benefit if you are disabled due to an accident. The better carriers offer coverage for both on and off-the-job injuries. Usually, there are no health questions. Most accident-only disability insurance is affordable. The reason is that most disabilities are not caused by accidents.

In this article, we focus on long-term disability insurance. However, you can contact us for any questions about short-term disability or accident-only disability insurance.

What About Short-Term Disability Insurance For Dental Hygienists?

We receive many inquiries from dental hygienists and dental assistants wanting short-term disability insurance coverage.

Honestly, you don’t need it. That might shock you. However, those who say you do, you should question their intention. We feel that short-term disability insurance isn’t worth the money.

What? Why do you think that, you ask?

Here’s Why

to show short term disability insurance rates for dental hygienists and dental assistantsFor one, short-term disability insurance tends to cost a lot more. I mean a lot. Just look at this real quote for a dental hygienist. This quote is based on a $60,000 salary. Are you ready to spend $200 to $400 per month on short-term disability insurance? There’s a reason it costs so much. There are a lot more short-term claims. Spending a few hundred a month on short-term disability insurance is common. I am talking about individual coverage. Policies through your employer likely cost a lot less. Those can make more sense, but not individual coverage.

Second, short-term disability insurance covers disabilities of a short-term, maybe a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Then, you are done.

However, there’s another favorable option that covers dental hygienists. Do you know what that is?

If you said, emergency savings, you are right.

Saving a few months of expenses proves advantageous. Do you see why? You won’t spend needlessly on short-term disability insurance. You already have the money for your short-term needs. It’s more important to have long-term disability insurance as those long-term disability situations place more financial pressure on families.

What about pregnancy? We described in our article that you could spend more on premiums than receive as a benefit. Yet, these other agents won’t discuss that or these alternatives. They’ll confirm you need it because you think you need it.

If you want some insurance for childbirth, pregnancy, or maternity leave, we discuss affordable options as well. We have helped many hygienists obtain pregnancy or maternity leave insurance.

If you can obtain short-term disability insurance through your employer, then it could make financial sense. However, having an emergency fund for these short-term situations is the right solution.

Disability Insurance Underwriting For Dental Hygienists And Dental Assistants

Underwriting for dental hygienists and dental assistants consists of 4 areas:

  • your age
  • income
  • health conditions
  • your occupation

Your age and income are straightforward. The older you are, the more expensive the policy will be. The higher your income, the higher the benefit, and the higher the premium. Don’t worry about the actual premium. I’ll discuss that more when we talk about premiums below, and how we are different than other agencies.

In case you were not aware, your income is your W-2 gross salary if you are an employee. So, if your W-2 salary is $60,000, that is the number used for underwriting. Carriers like to look at the last 2 years or 3 years and average out. So, having the last 2 or 3 years of salary on hand is handy for the application process.

Let’s talk about health conditions and your occupation next.

Why Health Conditions Matter In Underwriting

To get right to the point, usually, carriers exclude pre-existing health conditions from coverage. For example, if you broke your right wrist 5 years ago, your policy excludes coverage on that right wrist. If you had complications of pregnancy, then the carrier excludes any complications of future pregnancies. That’s just how disability insurance works. Remember, the carrier is underwriting your potential disability. So, it will (generally) exclude any health complications or injuries you’ve had in the past.

If you have more serious health conditions, the carrier could place a rating on your policy. A rating is an extra premium the carrier charges for an increased disability risk. Moreover, the carrier may limit options such as limited waiting periods or reduced benefit periods.

Having an exclusion or a rating is not a reason to ignore a disability insurance policy. There are nearly endless ways for a disability to occur.

Your Occupation Matters

to show how happy dental hygienists and dental assistants are when they have disability insuranceSo, all the disability insurance carriers classify occupations. In general, the carriers classify from 1 or A to a 5 or 6. An occupation with a class 6 has the lowest disability risk due to occupation and class 1 has the highest. All things being equal, you’ll pay a higher premium if you are a class 1.

Disability insurance carriers usually classify dental hygienists and dental assistants as a 2 or a 3. In some cases, a higher classification may be available.

So, what does this have to do with dental hygienists?

Well, you do have the potential for a higher on-the-job disability compared to, say, an office manager. Carriers underwrite this by assigning your occupation a classification number.

While there is general alignment among the disability insurance carriers, some carriers elevate your classification higher. All things being equal, carriers with a higher occupation classification save you money with lower monthly premiums.

The Makings of A Solid Disability Insurance Policy For Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants

Our goal when designing disability insurance plans for dental hygienists and dental assistants is the combination of value and premium. In our opinion, there are certain “non-negotiable” provisions with disability insurance. The first is the own-occupation definition. Luckily, many carriers make this definition of disability available for the dental hygienist and assistant occupation.

The own-occupation definition means that the carriers pay a disability benefit if you can’t perform your own occupation as a hygienist or assistant. It pays even if your disability doesn’t prevent you from working in another job, say as a security guard.

Another “non-negotiable” feature is partial disability benefits. You’ll want this. All this means is that the carriers pay you a partial benefit if you can work, but just not full-time. Many carriers offer this, but they have a stringent definition. We work with carriers that offer an easier definition for hygienists and assistants

Of course, you’ll want to insure the most income you can. If you are an employee, most carriers will insure 60% of your salary. For example, if you have a gross monthly salary of $5,000, you can cover up to $3,000 (60%).

The Coordination Of Group Coverage

Hopefully, we have made a great case showing that dental hygienists and dental assistants need disability insurance. Do you already have some through work? While that is good, most likely it is not enough.


Generally speaking, you pay for your group (i.e., work) disability insurance through pre-tax deductions from your paycheck. While that seems good, as it lowers your income for income tax purposes, it is not good if you need to take a benefit. The benefit ends up being taxable income. What does this mean? By every April 15th each year, you need to report your disability benefit and pay taxes on it, which can put additional strain on your finances. This makes, in effect, your net-disability pay being about 30-40% of your gross salary. Can you and your family live off that?

The good news is that incrementally, you may not need much more. How much you need depends on your income. Most importantly, you will have peace of mind. In the case of your disability, you will receive a benefit that helps maintain your standard of living, cover costs such as your mortgage, utilities, and groceries, and keep your family dreams and future alive.

Disability Insurance Policy Basics For Dental to summarize disability insurance basics for dental hygienists and dental assistantsHygienists And Dental Assistants

There are several definitions and provisions you’ll need to understand about disability insurance to make an informed decision.

There is an elimination period, or waiting period, which is like a deductible. It is the length of time that elapses before disability benefits begin. For example, if you select a 90 day elimination period and are disabled, you’ll be eligible for disability benefits on the 91st day. However, typically with carriers, you won’t get paid until day 120 or so. This means you need to have adequate savings to carry you and your family until benefits begin.

For long-term disability insurance, you can go as low as 30 days for a waiting period.

Disability benefits can be paid for as long as 5 years and with some carriers to age 67. The average disability lasts around 30 months. Therefore, a 5-year benefit plan should be OK.

The benefits of an individual policy are income tax-free. Note that benefits from group disability insurance plans (i.e. through your employer, if offered) are typically taxable.

Optional Disability Insurance Riders

You can add optional riders at an additional cost to your policy to best fit your needs and budget. Some popular rider options dental hygienists and dental assistants include:

Return of Premium Rider: If you never make a claim, the carrier returns the premiums you paid + interest. Note: this can be an expensive rider as it is based on age.

Guaranteed Insurability Option Rider: Allows you to obtain the coverage you need now with the option to purchase additional coverage in the future without evidence of good health. You generally can purchase additional coverage every 2 years up to age 55. (You do not need to wait 2 years if you had a life change, defined as a marriage the death of a spouse, divorce or birth or adoption of a child; Instead within 3 months of a life change, you may purchase additional coverage.)

Retroactive Injury Benefit Rider: Pays benefits from the date of disability due to injury if disability occurs within 30 days of the injury and continues through the elimination period.

Activities of Daily Living Rider: This rider pays an additional benefit if you can’t perform two or more of the activities of daily living. Additionally, it will pay if you are cognitively impaired.

An Important Rider

There’s an important rider we feel many agents omit from their quote. It’s called the residual disability rider or a variant of such.

Residual Disability Rider: This rider will pay a benefit if you return to work in your occupation, and you experience an income loss of 20% or more compared to your pre-disability income. Usually, the amount of disability income you receive is a percentage of your total monthly disability benefit. For example, let’s say you return to work and experience a 40% income loss. If your monthly disability benefit is $4,000, you will receive $1,600 ($4,000 X 40%).

Why would you need this rider? Most disability insurance policies allow partial disability benefits upon total disability first. This means if you are only partially disabled (i.e. you can still work but not full-time), you will not receive any benefits until you have met the carrier’s requirements for total disability first. But, you are partially disabled, not totally disabled. Ugh!

Typically, this rider circumvents the total disability requirement and allow you to receive benefits immediately (after you satisfy the elimination period).

Here is a very easy example. You lose feeling in your wrists and fingers. The doctor says you need to rest and limits your work to 2 days per week. Because of the rider, the carrier pays you for 3 days missed. Without this rider – or a plan that has a partial benefit without a total disability requirement first – you would not receive any disability benefits because you are still working.

The Best Disability Insurance For Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants

You are probably wondering who we like to work with. First, we work with many disability insurance carriers. So, we are sure we can find one that meets your needs and budget.

However, there is one carrier that stands out to us. That carrier is Illinois Mutual. An A- rated carrier, Illinois Mutual operates in the middle-income market. More specifically, it offers a niche product designed for professions like dental hygienists and dental assistants. They offer a variety of options that customize to your specific situation. Moreover, the premiums are generally very competitive. They even offer simplified underwriting (i.e., no medical exam) in many cases. And, they offer a class upgrade for dental hygienists and dental assistants, to a class 5, which can save money.

Illinois Mutual also covers partial disability on their base plan. In order to qualify for their partial disability, you first must satisfy the elimination period with a disability. Many carriers do not offer a beneficial partial disability benefit.

If you live in a state where Illinois Mutual is not available, we have plenty of other affordable options.

What About The Disability Insurance Plan From The ADHA?

The American Dental Hygienist Association (ADHA) offers a disability insurance plan to its members. Is it any good? Well, as we always say, some coverage is better than none. However, we feel other carriers offer better coverage. Why? Let’s discuss more.

The Hartford underwrites the ADHA plan. The Hartford underwrites a majority of association disability insurance plans. These plans are usually “plain vanilla” with no chance to customize to your specific situation.

It’s inexpensive, so that is good. But, peel the onion layers back, and you will see why.

First, it coordinates with social security disability. This means after (generally speaking) 6 months of total disability, the carrier forces you to apply for social security disability. If you receive any benefit from social security, The Hartford reduces your benefit accordingly.

Second, their partial disability benefit pays after total disability first. As we mentioned earlier, that stinks. What if you develop Multiple Sclerosis? That is a long-term partial disability situation. It could be years before you are actually totally disabled and receive a disability benefit. (I speak from experience as my Dad has the condition. He worked partially for years suffering from disease until finally totally disabled.) You might have a serious income loss without an appropriate partial disability benefit provision.

Finally, it has a 2 year own occupation only followed by any occupation.

It does have a pre-existing clause, which is favorable. However, you still have to go through underwriting. Keep in mind, if you are disabled because a lower-arm issue, for example, the carrier likely won’t approve your disability long-term. This is because of the any occupation definition.

Alternative Insurances

Remember we discussed short-term disability insurance and the expense? These alternative insurances help. If disability insurance is out-of-reach or you are uninsurable, there are other types of insurance that act like disability insurance (but not). They are affordable, too. Here they are:

hospital indemnity insurance – the ones we like pay a lump sum benefit for hospital admission or outpatient surgery. What can you do with $6,000 in the short-term? I bet a lot.

critical illness insurance – will pay a lump sum benefit if you are diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or some other covered condition. These plans are more robust and can be a viable option for truck drivers.

accident insurance – we touched on accident insurance earlier. There are a couple of different types, all affordable. When you think about the occupational risk of mechanics, an accident insurance policy is an affordable way to protect yourself.

Premium Cost Of Disability Insuranceto show that disability insurance for dental hygienists and dental assistants is affordable

Of course, how much you spend is important. The good news is disability insurance is easily customizable to your needs and budget. Depending on your health and riders, the premiums could run anywhere from $1.00/day to $3.00/day, or more. Do you think that it is expensive? I bet you buy coffee almost everyday or your lunch. What is more important? Insuring your income or buying a cup of coffee? There are many ways to afford disability insurance.

Here’s another way to look at it:

Disability insurance will generally cost 2 cents for every $1 you make. Think about that.

We at My Family Life Insurance try to keep our client’s premiums below $100 per month. Nearly all of the time, we accomplish that. You can easily customize a comprehensive policy for less than $100. Honestly, I think we might be the only agency that aims for that. The reason is we know you have other things to spend and save (like your retirement).

However, there are some characteristics outside one’s control. Remember, that disability insurance is based on 4 factors:

  • your age
  • occupation
  • health
  • income insured

You can’t change your age, and you can’t necessarily change your occupation. You can change your health…to a point. If you have type 2 diabetes, for instance, nearly all carriers will increase your premiums to compensate for the increased disability risk. Remember, we discuss that most disabilities are from disease and illness rather than accidents.

Nevertheless, we can structure a plan that protects you and your family, while meeting your needs and budget. We’ve helped many clients this way, and I am sure we can help you, too.

Now You Know Dental Hygienists And Dental Assistants Can Obtain Disability Insurance

We hope now you have a solid idea why dental hygienists and dental assistants need disability insurance. Confused? Don’t feel that way. We’re here to help educate you and protect your income and future. Don’t know where to start?

Use this disability insurance needs analysis worksheet. Follow the instructions; it is rather easy to fill out (we at My Family Life Insurance try to make understanding insurance easy). Next, feel free to reach out to us for our assistance or a quote. Or, use the form below. We only work for you, your family, and your best interests only. We have helped many dental hygienists and dental assistants secure the right disability insurance for their specific situation, giving them and their families peace of mind.

Learn More

Interested in learning more about the information in this article? Fill out the form below and we will email you additional customer literature, explaining these options in more detail. We are here to help and work only in your best interest.

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I am a CFP® Professional and have an MBA. I founded My Family Life Insurance to provide honest, trustworthy advice and economical insurance solutions to individuals, families, and business owners. Contact me if you have any questions. There is no risk! If I can't help you, you've learned a little more, and we'll part as friends. Seriously! Can your current agent say this?

2 thoughts on “Best Disability Insurance For Dental Hygienists And Dental Assistants | Here’s What You Need To Know”

  1. Hi . I live in California and I am a dental hygienist . I’m curious about your long term true own occupation policy . I have one / but it’s own occupation for only 2 years . Just curious what my cost would be through you guys and see what kind of coverage you offer

    1. Hi Christine,

      Yes, we have a plan that offers a “true” own occupation definition through the benefit period, for California residents. I will email you directly with more information.


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