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Are Dental Discount Plans Worth It?

It may not be the traditional dental insurance that you get with an HMO or PPO policy, but a dental discount plan can save you a ton of money. With this kind of dental coverage, you can get the treatment and services that you need - without breaking your budget.

But what exactly is a dental discount plan?

A dental discount plan is not insurance. Instead, you get a discount card that entitles you to savings on a variety of treatments and services. Your card may give you 30% off at your cleanings, or instead of percentage discounts, you might get special rates - like $100 for a dental checkup, instead of $200. That way, you will know exactly what your dental charges are going to be before you ever make an appointment!

In addition to discounts on dental procedures, a dental discount plan provides you with access to a group of highly qualified dentists. In fact, dentists who join the plan must meet strict credentialing requirements based on education, background, license standing and other standards.

Dental Discount Plans vs Dental Insurance

Dental insurance is typically offered by an insurance company. In exchange for a monthly premium, the consumer enjoys the benefits of reduced rates, provider networks, and affordable copays. Most dental insurance plans also require an annual deductible, and in some instances, these plans also have an annual coverage limit.

Dental discount plans are typically offered by consumer groups that contract with a wide network of dentists who supply dental services at deeply reduced rates. Members of a dental discount plan pay fees rather than premiums. Typically, these fees include both a one-time enrollment fee and a monthly fee. Administrative costs are lower than with traditional dental insurance policies in part because there is no paperwork to process. Members of the network pay the pre-negotiated rates directly to network dentists, bypassing claim forms or reimbursement processing. In addition, discount plans do not restrict coverage limits. For you, that means no limitations on the number of covered services you can receive in a year.

In addition, unlike traditional insurance plans, some dental discount plans also include coverage and discounts for cosmetic dental services, such as orthodontic services. Often, dental insurance plans exclude coverage for cosmetic dentistry.

Dental insurance available on the market today is not what it used to be. Insurance plans have high premiums, 6 to 12 month waiting periods, and some do not accept patients with pre-existing conditions. However, a dental discount plan offers members low monthly fees, coverage even if they have a pre-existing condition, no waiting periods, no age limits, and, of course, valuable savings.

So, what are the drawbacks?

Under a dental discount plan, once you get your discounts, you are responsible for paying the remaining balance. So, if you need major work done, this otherwise low-cost dental plan can quickly turn expensive. However, if you are the type of person who only heads to the dentist once or twice a year for routine stuff, you will actually wind up spending less money than you would on a regular dental health plan.

Lots of people save money by "bundling" their dental and vision insurance - or, buying both policies from the same insurance company. By getting your dental and vision insurance together, you can save money on both sets of premiums. Unfortunately, that is a choice you rarely find with a dental discount plan. It is a great low-cost dental choice, but you will have to find vision coverage elsewhere.

Remember to read the fine print

Like all other types of insurance for dental services, you will have to read the fine print carefully on these plans. You will also have to make sure that a dental discount plan is right for your situation. For example, if you need a lot of serious dental work done, you might be better off opting for traditional dental coverage. But if your teeth are in decent shape - and you only need the occasional check-up - a good dental discount plan can save you money.

For this reason, it has always been a clever idea to compare all pertinent plan details to decide which of them fits your needs, your budget, or whether you are better suited for individual dental insurance or a family plan. So do your research on the plan providers before you make your final choice. Make certain that those dentists supply the type of services that you need. And, if you have a preferred dentist or specialist, check first to verify if that provider is included in the network.

Buying insurance for dental purposes is never a whole lot of fun. But, with a little bit of personal planning and some basic comparative research, there is no question you can save money - and that is something that is always fun!