The scoop on dental discount plans
A discount dental plan may be worth considering if you don’t have dental insurance. These discount plans aren’t dental insurance. They are a type of membership, similar to a warehouse club, but rather than getting bargains on food or clothing, you get discounted prices on dental services.
How do dental discount plans work?
With discount plans, members pay an annual fee up front instead of monthly installments or premiums like traditional dental insurance. You are given a dental discount card, which you present at each dentist visit to get the lower prices on services.
These plans don't reimburse the dentists as regular insurance does. Instead, you pay the dentist directly. But remember, you must use a dentist in your plan’s network in order to get any discounts. Otherwise you’ll pay full price.
Savings with dental discount cards
What sort of discounts can you expect with a dental card? Of course it will depend on where you live and which plan you choose, but there are two ways to save:
Since the services are provided by a network of dentists who have agreed to charge less, you could get 10–60% discounts on services.1 However, all services may not be available with these plans, so be sure to compare the list of services against any other plans you’re considering.
- Monthly fees
How do the monthly fees stack up, on average?
For typical dental insurance, the cost would be $144 to $600 per year, per person.2 For a dental discount plan, the cost would be approximately $75 to $100.3 Again, the fees may be less, but the services may also be fewer.
Dental discount plans vs. insurance
With insurance, cleanings and exams are typically covered at 100%. For any other dental work, you’ll pay a percentage of the service out of pocket, often 20–50%.4 All services count toward your annual limit.
An advantage to a discount plan is that there is no limit to the amount of care you can get during the year. You will pay out of pocket for every discounted service, but you can use as many services as you like each year.
For people with few dental problems and a relatively healthy mouth, a dental discount plan may save money over traditional insurance. But if you have ongoing dental issues, or a medical condition that affects your teeth or gums, you may end up saving more with insurance. (As long as you stay under your plan’s annual limit.)