Dental Discount Plans: A Complete Guide

What Are Dental Discount Plans? Costs, Coverage, Pros and Cons

When was the last time you skipped going to the dentist because of cost? For many people, insurance doesn’t cover every important dental bill.

Dental discount plans can be a good alternative for individuals without insurance or those struggling to meet costs. But what exactly is covered and how much of a discount can you expect? We’re discussing everything you need to know about discount dental plans.

 

Key Takeaways

  • A dental savings plan requires you to pay discounted fees directly to the dentist.

  • You can only visit a dentist who is registered with your vendor’s network.

  • There are no copayments, deductibles, or annual maximum, and your account is activated within 24 hours.

  • Dental discount plans apply to all forms of dental care, including preventive services, restorative, cosmetic procedures, and specialist care.

  • Some dentists will allow you to use both insurance and discount plans.

 

What Is a Dental Discount Plan?

A dental savings plan allows a patient to pay a reduced fee directly to the dentist or orthodontist, and it can save you anywhere from 10% to 60%

To use a discount plan, you have to visit a dentist within the specified network of your chosen vendor. For example, if you buy a dental savings plan from Cigna, you will pay a discounted fee when visiting an in-network provider, and the dentists have agreed to all reduced fees within a network.

A dental discount plan is ideal if you don’t have dental insurance, have good oral health, or need more dental work than your insurance covers.

Learn more about different types of dental insurance here.

Summary

Dental savings plans don’t require co-payments, deductibles, or maximums. They allow you to pay discounted rates directly to a registered dentist.

 

How Do Dental Discount Plans Work?

With a dental discount plan, you pay an annual fee upfront instead of monthly premiums or installments, like traditional dental insurance.

Dental plan vendors like Cigna or Humana negotiate discount plans with dentists who apply the reduced rates to registered patients. 

When registering for a plan, you pay an annual membership fee, and access is granted within 24 hours. There’s no waiting period—once you’ve paid the fee, you can go to a dentist the very next day.

Reduced fees are applied when you visit a dentist registered in your vendor’s network and show a membership ID. You pay the reduced fee directly to the dentist.

Plans, discount rates, and the number of dentists within a network vary according to location. To get the best discounted dental services, make sure the network you’re buying into has a good number of dentists in your area.

Summary

Dental discount plans are paid annually upfront and there are no monthly payments. Your membership plan is activated before the end of the following day, allowing you to get discounted rates from dentists within your providers’ network.

 

What Do Dental Discount Plans Cover?

The procedures that a dental discount plan can be applied to include:

 

What Dental Discount Plans Cover

 

  • Preventative care
  • Restorative care
  • Specialist care
  • Cosmetic dentistry

 

Preventative Care

Dental discount plans cover all preventive care, including x-rays, routine checkups, and sealants. Patients using dental discount plans typically save more than 50% of the original cost for regular checkups. For instance, patients in Florida enrolled in Cigna’s membership save 72%.

 

Restorative Care

A patient will typically save between 40% and 60% on restorative dental care with a dental savings plan. These services include fillings, bridges, crowns, and implants.

 

Specialist Care

Dental savings plans also apply to specialist dental services provided by orthodontists, endodontists, and prosthodontists. For example, Cigna offers 13% off for an endosteal implant, and Aetna offers 25% off for the same service in Florida. For even more specialized services, members of the plan can call participating dentists directly to get discounted rates.

 

Cosmetic Dentistry

All forms of cosmetic dental care, including braces and cosmetic surgeries, are discounted by savings plans. Cigna offers 23% off for external bleaching per tooth, while Aetna provides 82% off. Again, these discounts vary per location.

Summary

Dental savings plans are available for various forms of dental care—preventive, restorative dental services, root canals, and specialist care. For very specialized dental plans, you may have to contact the dentist directly.

 

Dental Discount vs. Dental Insurance: Which Is Better?

The better option is determined by your budget and frequency of visits to the dentist’s office. When comparing dental discounts and types of dental insurance, consider the cost, dentists available, dental work provided, waiting periods, and limits.

 

Cost and Payment

A dental insurance plan costs anywhere from $450 to $700 annually, with monthly premiums ranging from $20 to $50 for individuals and $50 to $150 for families, which can be out of range for many. In fact, in 2021, 28 million Americans skipped going to the dentist because of dental costs [1].  

On top of this, there are copayments, deductibles, and waiting periods to consider. Maximum dental insurance benefits are about $2000, which means that once you use up the allowed $2000, your insurance won’t pick up costs until the following year.

On the other hand, dental savings plans cost $120 to $150 per year for individuals and $150 to $200 for families. 

Dental savings plans do not have any waiting periods, and there are no copayments and deductibles. Your membership is activated within 24 hours of making the first payment for most networks. There are also no maximum limits, and you have access to every service as long as you maintain membership.

Additionally, some dental savings plans allow you to bundle other discount plans. For instance, Aetna enables you to save money on Prescription, Vision, and Hearing plans. By bundling the discount dental plans with the vision plans, you save between 10% to 40% per service.

 

Dentist Network

Like most types of dental insurance plans, you can use a discount plan with a dentist registered in the vendor’s network. 

For example, Aetna has 120,000 dentists in its insurance plan network and more than 250,000 dentists in its dental savings plan. Cigna has about 97,200 dentists in its insurance plan and more than 110,000 dentists in the savings network.

 

Dental Services

Most dental insurance plans typically cover 100% of preventative dental care. Most insurance plans charge no copayments or deductibles for basic services like routine checkups and require no waiting period. However, traditional insurance plans will generally not cover your preventative dental care more than two times a year.

Many types of dental insurance plans cover only a part of restorative and cosmetic dental procedures, which is on top of the annual maximum and deductibles. In Cigna’s insurance plans, major services are not included for the lowest pricing tier. 

For the higher dental insurance plan levels, where restorative care is covered, deductibles range from $50 to $150. Most dental insurance plans include orthodontic and specialist care at only the highest price tiers, while some don’t include them at all. 

Preventive care has the highest discount rates with savings plans. For instance, Aetna discounts routine checkups by 60% and Cigna by 79% in Florida. Rates do vary by location. Restorative, cosmetic treatments, and specialist dental services are also included. 

 

Annual Limits and Deductibles

Dental savings plans don’t have an annual maximum or deductibles. You only pay the discounted rates at the doctor’s office.

Most types of dental insurance plans include deductibles, especially for expensive procedures like oral surgeries and restorative work. There are total annual limits for every plan. For example, Cigna’s annual maximum limit ranges from $1000 to $1500, whereas Humana offers unlimited dental services, but that’s for the highest price tier.

 

Waiting Period

Most dental insurance plans don’t have waiting periods for basic services. Once you sign up, you’re eligible for a fully covered routine checkup. When it comes to restorative and cosmetic dental care, insurance coverage typically has a waiting period ranging from 6 to 12 months before you can access your dental coverage.

There are no waiting periods with dental discount plans regardless of the service you require.  Once you pay, and your account is activated, you can go the very next day for a discounted oral service.

Summary

Dental discount plans may increase out-of-pocket costs. However, there are no copayments, deductibles, waiting periods, or limits.

 

Are Discount Dental Plans Worth It?

These are the pros and cons of dental savings plans.

 

Discount Dental Plan Pros

What We Like

  • There are no copayments, deductibles, or waiting times.
  • Your account is activated within 24 hours.
  • All forms of dental care are covered.
  • Some dental work is discounted up to 80%.
  • Membership fees are a lot cheaper than dental insurance plans.
  • There are no limits to the number of basic and major services you can access.
  • Can be used with dental insurance plans.

Discount Dental Plan Cons

What We Don't Like

  • May not have enough dentists in your local area.
  • Some discounts are only 10%.

 

FAQ

We answer some commonly asked questions about dental savings plans.

 

Where Can You Use a Dental Savings Plan?

Can You Use Dental Insurance and a Dental Discount Plan?

Are Dental Discount Plans Tax Deductible?

Can You Negotiate Prices With a Dentist?

 

Conclusion

Dental savings plans are ideal for two categories of people. The first group requires few and far between dental treatments and doesn’t want to pay costly monthly premiums. People in the second category need major dental work for their oral health but cannot afford the very high monthly premiums covering major and specialist care.

Dental savings plans are great for saving costs on dental care and getting treatment without a long waiting period. However, out-of-pocket costs might be increased depending on the service you require.

 

References:

  1. "Major National Survey Reveals Impending Spike in Oral Health Needs." CareQuest, Institute for Oral Health, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/04/08/2206983/0/en/Major-National-Survey-Reveals-Impending-Spike-in-Oral-Health-Needs.html
  2. "Topic No. 502 Medical and Dental Expenses." Internal Revenue Service, https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc502

 


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