The Difference between Discount Dental Plans and Dental Insurance

Discount dental plans are alternatives for those who do not have traditional dental insurance. They offer several unique advantages, one being low cost, that make them an attractive option even when traditional insurance is available. It is a good idea to consider both options, your dental needs and your ability to pay in order to decide which option is best for you.


Discount dental plans have a lower up-front cost than dental insurance. With insurance, the covered individual will pay a monthly premium. Depending on how many people are on the plan, their risk factors and their ages, the monthly premium (in early 2011) can be between $10 and $100. With discount plans, the average cost is between $50 and $100 per year. This can present huge up-front savings.


You will have access to dental care regardless of whether you are insured. However, if you have a dental plan of any type, you may receive discounts on your services. With a discount plan, you will have to go to a doctor who participates in the plan. You will carry the large majority of the cost of your procedures. The discount plan can provide savings of 10 percent or more, but it is rare for the plan to cover more than half of your cost. With insurance, you will likely have only a co-payment. This small fee, between $10 and $30 on most in-network plans, will cover the entire cost since the insurance company picks up the rest of the bill. Overall, you will pay less for coverage with dental insurance.

Who Benefits from Discount Plans

The best candidates for discount insurance plans fall into one of two categories. First, it is possible an individual does not have access to a group dental insurance plan through an employer or union. In this case, premiums can be extremely high, and this may make dental insurance difficult to afford. A discount dental plan would be a great option. It is also possible an individual has very low needs from dental care. Young adults who no longer need orthodontia and require only annual checkups are great candidates for a discount dental plan. They may find it is cheaper to pay for the service fee out of pocket one time than to pay the premiums for dental insurance.

Where to Find Discount Dental Plans

There are a number of discount plans on the market varying in price and coverage. You can start with simple Internet research, ask your employer or talk to a union representative. Purchasing a plan online is possible, but it comes with the same risks of any online purchase. Always research the company, read customer reviews and call around to various dentists to be sure they accept the plan. If you have a dentist you know and trust, consider asking the dentist directly if he or she knows of discount plans you may buy into. This type of referral will often open the doors to the best coverage options.

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