PALM DESERT, Calif. -

While the nation gets ready for a system of mandatory health care, many still view dental care as an option, a costly one. 

"It is not optional, our oral health is key to our overall health," said Dr. Rene' Dell'Acqua, a general and cosmetic dentist in Palm Desert.

127 million Americans (40 percent of the population) don't have dental benefits of any kind according to the National Association of Dental Plans, which represents the dental benefits industry.  

And, some dentists say monthly costs coupled with low maximum annual benefits make dental insurance unnecessary, even a waste of money.

"When people come in and get a treatment plan for what they need and they realize what their dental insurance doesn't cover, more often than not I have dental patients say to me, 'Why do I even have dental insurance?'" Dell'Acqua said. 

Many of Dell'Acqua's patients don't have insurance, and she recommends creating a personal savings plan over paying a third party insurance company. 

"What I tell my patients is it's really better if you put some money aside every month, instead of putting it toward an insurance premium," she said.

Dell'Acqua says to use the money saved on one annual exam, with X-rays, and two cleanings per year.  She advises people to call local dental offices to compare prices that fit their budget.  

"If things are caught early they are not expensive," Dell'Acqua said.

Most dental PPO plan benefits max out at $1000 to $1500 per year, which dentists find low but insurance companies say are just right.  We received the following statement from the National Association of Dental Plans:

"Dental insurance does have limits on what the carrier will pay, but 95% to 98% of consumers with dental insurance in any single year never hit those limits. Even when you hit the limits, when you have dental insurance, you only pay the discounted price, not full price, for the procedures you have that are in excess of the limit."

Whether you're covered or not, dentists agree the most important thing you can do to keep costs low is take preventative measures at home, brushing your teeth twice or three times a day if you can and flossing.

"And that sounds so simple, everyone talks about those things but those are truly the two things you can do," Dell'Acqua said.