What Alternatives to Dental Insurance Are Out There?

Dental Insurance isn’t for everyone

Dental insurance isn’t for everyone, and fortunately, there are great alternatives out there. Perhaps the first, most important thing to note about dental insurance is that IT IS NOTHING LIKE MEDICAL INSURANCE. In a Simple Dollar article written by Meghan Nesmith, an insurance coordinator at a dental practice in Sacramento notes, “Dental insurance needs to be thought of more like an assistance plan, not a full, comprehensive plan.” This is because insurance plans cover a certain percentage of a procedure cost, have annual maximums that are the maximum amount they will pay out in any year, and can include deductibles and co-pays.

This means that if you’re someone who is going to need a lot of work done like crowns, implants, or root canals, then dental insurance might not be worth it because once you reach your annual max, you will be paying out of pocket. Likewise, if you’re someone that hardly ever needs dental work and you’re just getting annual cleanings and exams, then paying $60 a month for dental insurance may not be worth it for you because there are other options out there for affordable preventive care that are less than $720 a year. 

Alternatives to Dental Insurance

Dental Discount Programs

Dental discount programs are programs or packages offered by an individual dentist. These can be courtesies for procedures of between 5% and 20%, up to more comprehensive discounts for services, like East Madison Dental’s Totalcare that offers a list of preventive procedures for a discounted price.

Why would your dentist offer a discount program? Most dentists understand the numbers: 1/3 of Americans are not even walking in the door of a dental office, let alone getting the care they need. These programs are attractive to those that may not have dental insurance offered through their employer; may require a lot more work than what an insurance annual max will cover; or those who have healthy teeth and don’t need all of the coverage that insurance provides, but want to make sure their teeth stay healthy with preventive care.

“At our office we noticed that some of our patients without dental insurance, or whose dental insurance doesn’t pay very much for services, were skipping out on their preventive care,” noted Daniel Tise, office manager at East Madison Dental. “We would only see them when they were having pain, and at that point, a lot of treatment was needed and the cost would be very high for them.”

“We developed Totalcare to help them keep up with their cleanings and exams to be able to prevent big problems before they arise. With the plan, a family of four can save around $1,500 a year on preventive services, which can make a big difference.”

The Totalcare plan can be either pre-paid or paid monthly through CareCredit, a third party lender. All of the details on Totalcare can be found here.

Dental Savings Plans

Dental Savings Plans are relatively new. With a dental savings plan, you basically pay a membership fee in order to receive discounts on services from certain providers. Each plan has a list of dentists that are participating, and when you go to them, you pay a discounted fee.

One thing to be wary of with these plans: the services that are discounted may not be the services you would normally elect. For example, silver fillings might be discounted, but tooth-colored, or resin, fillings, are not. These plans also do not allow you to go to the provider of your choice, unless he or she happens to be participating in a dental savings plan. For more info on dental savings plans, check out this great article in The Simple Dollar.

The Bottom Line: Talk to Your Dentist

The best way to know which option for dental care is right for you, is to do your research and to speak with your dentist. Your dentist will be able to tell you what work you need done, and help you plan. Of course, no one can predict the future, but your dental history can help shed some light on what to expect.