What’s the Difference Between Dental Insurance and Dental Discount Programs?

Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Plans

American Dental Association (ADA) research and human nature tell us that people don’t go to the dentist because of the expense, and because they think they don’t need it. Stands to reason, then, that if you don’t have dental insurance and dental discount plans you’re a lot less likely to take care of your teeth. If you’re considering buying a policy or plan, you may wonder which is better. What’s the difference between dental insurance and dental discount plans?

Both dental insurance and dental discount plans reduce dental costs over all, but costs and benefits may vary.

Dental Insurance

Dental insurance policies generally pay all or a portion of qualified expenses up to a specified amount. Preventive care is a major focus of insurance, which often covers all or almost all of these costs. Some plans require you to pay a percentage of the total fees, while other policies give you a set price you’ll pay, depending on the procedure.

Dental insurance typically requires:

  • Deductibles
  • Co-pays
  • Waiting periods
  • Annual benefit maximum

There are three typical kinds of dental insurance:

  • HMOs – You must use a provider network and the insurance company usually won’t pay for work by an out-of-network provider. Also, rather than an annual benefit maximum HMOs generally have a set co-pay. HMOs are more common with employer-provided insurance.
  • PPOs – These kinds of plans usually pay for part of the cost incurred with an out-of-network provider, but the benefits are better if you go in-network. With a PPO you typically have deductibles and an annual benefit maximum.
  • Dental Indemnity Plans – With an indemnity plan there is no network and you can go to any provider. The provider pays a set amount considered “usual and customary,” rather than limiting what the provider can charge. This means that if you go to a more expensive dentist you’ll pay more. These kinds of plans usually have a deductible and annual benefit maximum.

Dental Discount Plans

Unlike dental insurance, dental discount plans don’t pay your dental expenses, but do provide discounts from participating dentists. You don’t have deductibles to pay, or worry about annual maximums and waiting periods. With a discount plan you pay a substantial amount of the costs, especially if you have to have extensive dental work done.

When considering your options, do your homework. Check into dental insurance and dental discount plans and compare policies before you make a final decision.

Learn more about dental insurance here, where you can also use our quote tool to get and compare insurance quotes.


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