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Delta Dental is the largest dental plan system in the United States. The Delta Dental Plans Association is composed of 39 independent Delta Dental member companies operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These member companies provide coverage to 68 million people, enrolled in over 120,000 groups. While many of the Delta Dental member companies and Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA) are non-profit organizations, a few of the member companies have for-profit segments.
Delta Dental member companies serve more than one third of the estimated 166 million Americans with dental insurance.
Delta Dental's roots go back to 1954 with the formation of dental service corporations in California, Oregon and Washington, which were created by dentists who recognized the need to increase access to oral health care. Led by Washington Dental Service (WDS), Delta Dental began by providing dental benefit programs for organized labor unions. WDS underwent a rebranding campaign in 2013 and now goes by the name Delta Dental of Washington.
Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA) was created in 1966 to bring together these local state service organizations and coordinate dental benefit programs for customers with employees in multiple states. A year later, the first multi-state program was sold by WDS to the International Association of Machinists. WDS ceded the administration for enrollees in other states to other Delta Dental member companies and contracted with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association for administration in those states without a Delta Dental affiliate organization.
Coverage was provided this way until the late 1980s when Delta Dental of California won the bid for the Office of the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (OCHAMPUS) program. Delta Dental member companies agreed to share its provider data so the administration of this very large account could be centralized, with Delta Dental of California sharing the administrative income and risk. The OCHAMPUS program led to the creation of the National Provider File (NPF), which was made available for commercial accounts in 1990 via Delta USA – providing Delta Dental coverage to organizations with employees and subscribers located in multiple states.
If individuals have dental insurance through their employer, the Delta Dental member company in the state of their headquarters usually will handle coverage. Individual Delta Dental insurance is available in several states either through that state's member company or the state or federal health care exchange. Other individual dental insurance options are available through specialty groups such as AARP and military retiree, federal employee and veterans' groups.