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Dentists and their long-term disability insurance needs

We recently wrote about the unique needs of physicians who file claims for long-term disability. In that post, we talked about the difficulty for doctors — who may run expensive professional practices and rely on relatively high incomes for personal and business needs — to have their ability to practice medicine suddenly interrupted by the onset of disabling medical conditions

Many of the long-term disability issues physicians face also come up for dentists faced with disability that interrupts their ability to provide dental services. Both dentists and doctors should have appropriate long-term disability insurance policies in place to provide necessary replacement income during lengthy periods of disability.

Dangers of dentistry 

Dentists, of course, go to school for many years and invest heavily in their professional preparation and practices. Yet dentistry is physically demanding and can cause injury that can interrupt the ability to practice. 

Three-quarters of dentists have musculoskeletal problems and almost as many experience arm, back, shoulder or neck pain, according to a new article in Dentist’s Money Digest. Other common conditions include stenosis, carpal tunnel, arthritis, radiculopathy, disc problems and spondylosis. 

The article lists these work requirements as potentially causing these and other disabling conditions

  • Grasping vibrating equipment
  • Bending forward
  • Holding unnatural body positions
  • Repetitive motion
  • Physical stress
  • Rotation of trunk, head and neck 

Policy details 

Generally, a dentist obtains an LTD policy either through an employer, a professional association or privately as an individual in the marketplace. 

When a dentist buys a policy, he or she should be sure to purchase one with sufficient payout levels to cover the sudden interruption of professional income from disability as well as a provision for increase in coverage should expenses or income increase over time. 

If possible, the LTD policy should not contain a no-work provision, which would allow the insurer to deny or reduce the benefit in the event that the dentist becomes disabled from practicing dentistry but can still perform other kinds of work. On the other hand, according to the article, some policies have requirements that to collect under the LTD policy, the insured dentist DOES perform some other kind of work if he or she is able. 

Claims issues 

It is a good idea for a dentist to consult with an experienced LTD lawyer as early as possible in the process, because the insurer has a financial incentive to deny the claim. Given the level of dental salaries, an ongoing payout to a dentist can be expensive for the insurance company.