In most countries, dental care is not something that the government offers to all of its citizens. It is common to have government assistance available to those who qualify such as children, those whose income falls below a certain level, and the elderly.

But aside from those few programs, an individual's dental care is either partially or fully covered by an insurance plan. Or, if the individual has no insurance coverage, the individual assumes the responsibility for paying all dental care costs as well as any costs assumed by his or her family.

Available dental care options vary widely and depend on the individual's personal situation. If employed, the employer might offer some type of dental coverage plan. Unfortunately, the cost of providing dental insurance to employees is high and many employers are finding it difficult financially to offer dental coverage as a benefit.

When employers do offer their employees dental coverage, costs typically are shared between employee and employer. Those who are self-employed or whose employers do not offer dental coverage can purchase a dental insurance plan on their own, for which there is generally an associated monthly fee. Or they can forgo the purchase of a dental plan and instead pay all costs for dental services as they are incurred.

There is no general answer to what is covered by a dental plan. What is covered by one dental plan may or may not be covered by another. And while one dental plan might cover 100% of the costs of a particular service, another might only cover 70% with the remaining 30% to be paid for by the patient.

Most dental plans will offer some level of coverage for preventative dental services such as 2 check-ups per year. Services covered at a twice-yearly dental exam typically include cleaning, examination, x-rays and a fluoride treatment.

Under the terms of most dental plans offered, any follow-up work that may be needed as a result of such examination will only partially be covered by the plan. Examples of those services include but are not limited to fillings, crowns, root canals, anesthesia and sealants.

As far as what is not covered by dental plans, most will not cover any type of service considered cosmetic. That includes such services as teeth whitening, orthodontic work, dental implants and, unless they're deemed medically necessary, crowns.

If an employer is offering dental coverage, the employee will complete the application form at the place of employment. After completing the application the employee will have coverage according to the company's enrollment policy.

If an individual is purchasing his or her own dental plan, the Internet is a good place to start the search. There it's easy to compare the costs and coverage of the various dental plans offered to individuals. Application typically can happen online, or the individual can call a special number to apply. After paying the applicable fees and upon approval, that individual can begin making appointments for dental services.