Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The Difference Between Dental Insurance and Dental Discount PlansWhile both dental insurance and dental discount plans are intended to help you save money on your dental bills, there are distinct differences between the two.

Dental insurance works the same way as health insurance, only it relates to your oral health. Dental discount plans work more like a pre-negotiated reduced rate for various services.

To obtain insurance quotes on dental plans enter your zip code into the free rate tool above!

Routine oral hygiene can prevent many unwanted trips to the dentist, but you need regularly scheduled visits as well for cleanings, basic exams, and occasional X-rays. There are also times when you may need additional dental care, such as cavity filling, root canals, partials, orthodontics, or tooth extraction or other oral surgery.

No matter what your reason is for visiting the dentist, the bills can become expensive without some sort of dental insurance or dental discount plan.

Dental Insurance

Dental insurance can be purchased through a group plan if your employer or association offers it; and it can also be purchased privately. Compared to health insurance, dental insurance is usually less expensive and very oftentimes it is worth the premium to carry dental coverage. Not every dental insurance plan is the same, so you need to review your benefits package to determine if it may be a good fit for you.

A routine cleaning and exam can easily cost $100 and it is recommended to have that done every six months to a year. If your teeth are in excellent shape, you take good care of your oral hygiene, and you only visit the dentist for routine checkups, then you may feel that dental insurance is not necessary. However, it is also recommended to get X-rays at least every two years if you are a low risk patient; and X-rays can easily cost a minimum of $300. High risk patients may need X-rays every six months.

The cost of dental insurance will vary by plan, as will the benefits, but you can get basic dental insurance for as little as $20 per month. If your oral health history is flawless, then you may be able to take a risk and not get dental insurance. You will have to pay for all of your dental visits out of pocket, including exams, cleanings, and X-rays.

If you do end up having any problem, such as a cavity, an abscessed tooth, tooth ache, or other problem, you will have to finance those expenses yourself as well. If you have a history of oral health problems, then dental insurance can save you money on the majority of your dental bills.

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Dental Discount Plans

Unlike dental insurance, a dental discount plan is not an insurance plan at all. Rather, it is a network of dentists who agree to participate in a certain dental discount plan, providing services at a reduced rate in exchange for referred patients. You become a member of the dental discount plan, find a dentist in that network who has agreed to the negotiated discounted rates, and you will simply pay less for the services he or she provides. Dental discount plans are available for as little as $10 per month and can save you as much as 60% off of the standard rates.

An example of how a dental discount plan works is if you join a specific plan with a specific network of dentists and then select a dentist from that network. With the most basic plan, you will most likely have to pay for routine exams and cleanings out of pocket, but X-rays are probably covered as a benefit for a negotiated rate.

In this example, a full mouth X-ray and bitewing X-rays are $200. Your plan has a discounted rate of $80, so you only pay $80 and you save $110. Depending on the plan you have and the frequency with which you need to visit the dentist, you could save a substantial amount of money with a dental discount plan.

Choosing Between Dental Insurance and Dental Discount Plans

Once you decide you would like some type of financial assistance for your oral health, choosing between dental insurance and dental discount plans is your next step. If you have dental insurance through your group insurance plan then you should do a benefit and cost analysis based on your oral health history and your predicted oral health future. If you can afford the premiums then dental insurance is valuable to have.

If you do not have group dental insurance, then you can look into private dental insurance. Some dental insurance plans are very expensive (more than $100 per month in premiums) and you may need to consider an alternative method for obtaining dental financial assistance. Dental discount plans may not provide you with as many benefits as dental insurance, and you may be more restricted in your network of dentists, but you can receive dental care for a reduced rate.

Tooth decay, gum disease, and cancer can all be prevented, or at least diagnosed and treated early, with regular visits to the dentist. Whether you decide to purchase a dental discount plan or buy dental insurance, it will help you get the oral care you need to stay healthy.

Get dental insurance quotes now, at no charge, by simply entering your zip code!