What Are Dental Savings Plans?

It’s easy to confuse dental savings plans (also known as dental discount plans) with dental insurance, but they’re very different. Whether insurance or a discount plan -- or some combination of the two -- is right for you will depend on how much dental work you and your family get per year and how much you’re paying out of pocket.

How do dental savings plans work?

When you belong to one, you get a discount of 10% to 60% off services from dentists who are in the plan’s network. You pay a yearly fee (typically less than $150 for a family), and there’s no deductible, meaning you don’t have to have paid a certain amount for the discount to kick in.

Another potential benefit of dental savings plans is that you can use the discount within a few days of signing up. So you can wait to buy one until you need work done.

Who might want a dental savings plan?

It may be a good option for people who don’t have access to dental insurance or who want services that aren’t covered by insurance. This might include senior citizens who don’t have dental insurance under Medicare or younger people who want discounts on something like teeth whitening, which traditional insurance typically doesn’t cover.

You also might think about a dental savings plan if you need dental work that costs more than your dental insurance will pay. (Many dental insurance plans cap their total payout at less than $2,000 a year.) For example, savings of 50% on a couple of root canals that cost $1,000 each would add up quickly.

How do I find a dental savings plan?

Some companies offer the plans as part of their employee benefits package, and they’re available through groups and associations, as well as directly from major insurance companies.

If you have a dentist you like, ask her if she takes part in one and how much you could save with it. If you’re open to new providers, call a few who are in the plan you’re thinking about to see if the savings would be worth it. Thousands of dentists take part in dental savings plans, and you can usually get a member list from the plan’s sponsor.

While many reputable companies offer dental savings plans, the industry has attracted some fraudsters. Avoid scams by asking to be mailed information before you make a payment, and say no to high-pressure salespeople. You also can check with the Better Business Bureau or your state’s insurance regulator to see if a company has had complaints made against it.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on May 20, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

News release, National Association of Dental Plans.

Health Insurance Resource Center: “What’s the difference between dental insurance and dental discount plans?”

Authority Dental: “How Dental Discount Plans Work.”

Consumer Reports: “Dental Insurance That Will Save Your Smile.”

National Association of Insurance Commissioners: “Understanding Your Dental Insurance: From Cavities to Cosmetic.”

Consumer Health Alliance: “Discount Health Care Programs: Evolution and Prospects for Continued Growth.”

National Association of Dental Plans: “10 Questions to Avoid Fraudulent Dental Plans.”

Federal Trade Commission: “Discount Plan or Health Insurance.”

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