Comparing Dental Insurance and a Dental Discount Plan

A chipped tooth, a painful cavity, they're all expensive to fix if you lack coverage. Comparing dental insurance and a dental discount plan allows you to find coverage that helps ensure your oral health while remaining affordable to your budget.

How Dental Insurance Works

Dental insurance policies generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Fee for Service
  • HMO
  • PPO

Fee for Service dental insurance is also called indemnity dental insurance. With this dental insurance coverage, you choose a dentist from a list. You pay a specific percentage for each procedure and the insurance company covers the difference. With indemnity dental insurance, you generally pay the entire bill up front and then fill out a claim form to receive reimbursement for the remaining portion. Unlike HMO or PPO dental insurance, you handle the paperwork for all claims, your dentist's office does not.

HMO insurance requires you to pay a co-payment for all of your dental care. You must choose one dentist and get referrals if a visit to a specialist is necessary. The dentist handles the paperwork, so you get to avoid that step. You simply pay your portion at the time of service and the dentist bills your insurance company for the rest. If you do see a dentist other than the dentist you've chosen, you're generally responsible for the entire bill.

PPO dental insurance plans require you to pay a portion of your dental care. Many plans cover 80 percent for preventative dental work and 50 percent for items like crowns, bridges and braces. Again, the dentist handles the paperwork, but you are required to pay your percentage before leaving the office. Often with PPO dental insurance coverage, there are deductibles you must meet before the insurance kicks in. There are also yearly or lifetime maximum benefit limits.

How a Discount Dental Plan Works

Discount dental plans are not insurance, they are similar to a membership card that provides you with big discounts to participating dentists. Your yearly enrollment fee is a fraction of what dental insurance costs. Most dental discount plans cost less than $200 a year for an entire family.

Dental discount plan companies arrange discounted rates with participating dentists. Instead of paying $60 for a teeth cleaning, you might instead pay more like $30. Most companies guarantee the discount will be at least 20 percent, with common dental treatments like cleanings and fillings discounted by 50 percent.

Consider Your Needs When Comparing Dental Insurance to Discount Dental Plans

In many situations, dental insurance comes out far more expensive than a discount dental plan. With maximum benefit limits, you'll often find that dental insurance leaves you hanging when it comes to paying for a full set or braces or a root canal. Certainly some of the fee is covered, but once that maximum is hit, you're on your own.

Discount dental plans do not have limitations. You simply get the dental care you need and pay a discounted price each and every time.

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