(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Dental insurers are trying to get attention for an easily understood indicator of provider network quality: The number of providers in their networks.

Dental insurers have no simple, generally accepted, lawsuit-resistant way to explain that THEIR network managers proactively identified and chased away the dentist who used paper clips in permanent dental implants.

Dental insurers can easily promote the number of dentists in their networks.

Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa (NYSE:PFG), recently reported that it has increased the number of dentists and specialists in its network to 80,000, from about 69,000.

The company notes that it offers enrollees a Web-based cost estimator that can indicate how much a given procedure should cost in the enrollee’s ZIP code.

Another carrier, Assurant Employee Benefits, Kansas City, Mo., a unit of Assurant Inc., New York (NYSE:AIZ), is promoting a program that can help employers increase the appeal of the network by expanding the network to include more of the employees’ favorite dentists.

The program is open to employers with at least 100 employees. An employer that signs up can have the Assurant dentist recruiting team spend 90 days wooing the out-of-network dentists that the employees seem to like most.

Assurant Employee Benefits says it already has a total of about 75,000 dentists in its network.