We’ve all been there – you feel a strong pain in the back of your mouth, and when you press on your cheek or the affected tooth, the pain worsens. You take some anti-inflammatory medication and hope the pain will subside, but it only escalates. This can usually mean just one thing – a trip to the dentist is in order.
Although some people avoid the dentist because they don’t like the sound or the feeling of the drills, other people stay away from the dental office because they can’t afford the cost. Not everyone has access to dental insurance, and sometimes dental work can run into thousands of dollars, making it cost-prohibitive for many Americans.
One potential solution that has helped many people save on dental costs is to register for a dental savings plan. Read on for the scoop on how these programs can save you a lot of money.
Dental Plans Vs. Dental Insurance
Before investigating how dental plans can help you, it’s important to differentiate these programs from traditional dental insurance plans. It’s possible to find private dental insurance that isn’t related to your employment, but you’ll typically find that these plans have long waiting periods before you can use the services. Therefore, if you need a root canal and sign up for a private dental insurance plan, you might expect coverage for that root canal about a year later. Most people are unable to wait that long, particularly when tooth pain strikes.
In addition, dental insurers usually place somewhat low maximum coverage amounts on their policies, meaning that they may deny any services once you reach the threshold, such as $1,200. Keeping in mind the high cost of some dental procedures, it can be easy to hit $1,200 rather quickly.
In contrast, a dental savings plan requires you to pay a membership fee each year to remain part of the program, and those fees usually range from about $100 to $200 in annual charges for your family.
Members of the plan will be able to see participating dentists at discounted rates. So instead of paying, say, $1,000 for a crown and a filling, you might pay $500 instead, depending on the dentist and the service. You won’t face waiting periods, monthly premiums or annual maximum fees under the plan. In short, you pay an annual membership fee and you then get discounted dental work -- it's as simple as that.
Finding the Right Dental Savings Plan
- Ask your current dentist if they are part of any dental savings plan networks.
- Evaluate which services each dental plan will cover.
- Make sure that basic preventive services are included in the plan, so you can be sure you won’t face future dental issues.
- Research plans online.
If you start shopping for dental savings plans, you should keep a few important tips in mind. First and foremost, if you really prefer not to part ways with your current dentist, ask them whether they are part of any dental savings plan networks. That recommendation could lead you to the plan that allows you to stay with your existing provider while giving you a new way to save on services.
If you aren’t able to stay with your dentist, you may want to ask friends for recommendations of dentists they like and see if any of those practitioners allow discounts for dental savings plan members.
If so, it could be a good idea to switch to one of them so you can sign up for the appropriate dental savings plan.
Your next step is to evaluate which services each dental plan will cover. For instance, you may be able to get a 50 percent discount on a filling, but you might have to pay full price for a crown, depending on the plan. So as with all contracts that you’re thinking of signing, read all of the fine print before signing on the dotted line.
You’ll also want to make sure that basic preventive services are included in the plan so you can be sure you won’t face future dental issues. Most dental savings plans don’t have deductibles or copays, but if the ones you evaluate do have them, be sure to compare costs to ensure that you’re looking at the best prices possible. Plus, if you or someone in your family is in need of braces (or will be soon), make sure orthodontic care is included in the savings program.
Your own medical insurer may have dental savings plans available, but if not, you can easily find them online with a quick search of the internet. Just make sure the plans you are considering have good reviews and show everything in writing.