You’d like to buy dental insurance, but you’re not sure what the difference is between conventional dental insurance and the new discount dental plans.

We’re here to explain the distinction and offer examples of the difference in benefits.

We Know: How Dental Insurance Works

"Which should I choose?" you ask.

It’s possible to choose one, or to use both at the same time.

We give you the facts; you make the choice.

Traditional Dental Insurance

Most of us are familiar with conventional dental insurance, offered by companies like Delta Dental and the TriCare Dental Program. Often, these plans are made available through your employer, group membership or in association with a HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), such as Blue Cross or Kaiser Permanente. A conventional dental insurance plan provides money to help pay your dentist bill. This is a set amount for procedures that are covered by the plan, and you are responsible to pay the balance of the fee if the amount allotted by the insurance company does not cover the fee.

Dental insurance plans usually require regular monthly premium payments (by you or your employer), and can include deductibles and limits on how much the insurer will pay a year. You may have unlimited choice of dentists, or be required to choose from a list of dentists who accept the coverage.

New Discount Dental Plans

There are a host of discount dental plans now available, including AmeriPlan USA, and CIGNA Dental Network (our staff has used both). They are available online, and sometimes through HMOs such as Blue Cross. These plans pay nothing for your dental services, but they can save you as much as 30-50% on the cost of a procedure. You pay a low monthly or annual fee that often covers everyone in your household. In exchange for that fee, you are entitled to buy most dental procedures at a wholesale, or discount rate. The savings are often substantial.

Discount dental plans do not require deductibles, co-pays or annual spending limits because the dental plan pays nothing for your costs; it simply allows you to buy at the discount rate. These plans typically offer a list of participating dentists.

Put it all together and see what you’ve got!

It is possible to use both plans simultaneously.

For example, if your dentist charges $700 for a root canal, you may be able to get that procedure for a little as $350 by using a discount plan. Then, you may use your traditional insurance payment toward the procedure (say $150) to reduce your overall cost to $200. That's a savings of $500 (62%!). See the table below for this and other examples.

Here's how much you might save using a Dental Discount Plan and Dental Insurance Plan together:

Dentist Charge
Dental Discount
Insurance Payment
You pay:Total
Periodic Oral

25%, leaving $30

$13$17$23 (57%)
Crown (resin)

40%, leaving $90

$68$22$128 (86%)
Root Canal
$70050%, leaving $350$150$200$500 (62%)

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