Dental Insurance Vs. Dental Discount

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Paying for dental expenses can be a daunting task. Opting for dental insurance or a dental discount plan helps keep costs down. Selecting the right coverage depends on the needs of the individual. Thanks to the Internet it is now easier than ever to compare plans and rates across service providers.

Dental Insurance

According to, 54 percent of working adults are covered by dental insurance. Most people are covered by plans offered through their employer although standalone insurance offerings are becoming common. Annual dental insurance rates range in price from $250 for a basic policy up to $400 for deluxe policies, as of 2010. Insurance plans typically provide insurers with bi-annual cleanings and exams that are not a part of the annual coverage limit. Under a dental insurance plan the insured has access to a list of in-network providers, using a provider out of network results in higher co-pays and deductibles.

Discount Dental Plans

Discount dental plans are very popular mostly because of the cost. A discount plan can be purchased for as low as $80 per year, as of 2010. Like dental insurance, dental plans have a network of participating dentists that clients may use. These providers agree to accept a discounted fee from plan members. For example a dentist may reduce a $85 cleaning down to $35 for plan members. Discount plans cover a wide range of treatments. There are no waiting periods or health exams required for coverage under a discount plan.

Insurance vs. Discount

If you do not have significant dental issues, a discount plan may be a wise alternative to insurance. Discount plans are affordable, whereas the average dental insurance coverage can cost about $300, a good discount plan costs about $100, as of 2010. Even with dental insurance there is often a co-pay and deductibles that do not apply to discount plans. Dental insurance also carries an annual cap that is usually around $2,000 or less. The member then has to pay out of pocket for expenses over the cap. Discount plans do not carry a cap and can be used for multiple services throughout the coverage period.

Other Considerations

Many insured individuals opt for a discount plan in addition to dental insurance to keep costs down. Major dental work, such as root canals and crowns, is costly. Dental insurance plans have maximum amounts that they will pay for restorative dental work so having a discount plan to help cover out-of-pocket costs is helpful. Some dental discount plans include vision, hearing and prescription discounts as well. There are a few discount plans that cover cosmetic dentistry. Regular dental insurance does not cover cosmetic dentistry.


There are many discount plans available and it is important to review each plan carefully for the one that fits your needs. offers a list of discount plans available by state. AARP, United Healthcare and Aetna now all offer standalone dental insurance plans that individuals can purchase. Your dentist can also recommend a discount plan or insurance company that would be best for your individual needs. One benefit of discount plans is that they can be replaced annually if the promise of discounts does not materialize.