If you’re purchasing independent health insurance for the first time, you might be surprised to learn that dental care is not covered as one of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) essential benefits insurance must cover. If you’re looking to save money on dental care costs, you may want to consider a dental savings plan or a dental insurance plan. But what is the difference between these two coverages and who are they best for? Compare dental savings plans versus dental insurance with the following guide.
- Dental savings plans provide you with a set discount on dental care services.
- Dental insurance plans cover a portion of your dental care bills after you meet your deductible.
- Dental savings plans are significantly more affordable than insurance plans but will not pay for any percentage of your treatment. However, they may offer discounts for cosmetic and orthodontic services, which are usually not covered by insurance.
- Be sure to consider deductibles, maximum benefits and reimbursement percentages when choosing dental insurance.
Difference Between Dental Savings Plans and Dental Insurance
Though dental savings plans and dental insurance are both options that can help you manage the cost of your dental care, they operate in different ways and include different types of benefits.
- Both options make it easier to manage your dental care expenses by decreasing the amount you pay for the treatments and services you need.
- Both options will usually allow you to begin using your benefits for routine care immediately.
- Both options allow you to sign on for benefits individually or as a family.
Dental Savings Plans Features and Coverage
Dental savings plans do not operate in the same way that dental insurance does. The following are some of the key differences that set dental savings plans apart from dental insurance plans.
- Discounts on care: Dental savings plans offer you a set discount on certain dental services so long as you visit a dentist who accepts your savings plan. It does not pay for any portion of your dental care.
- Affordability: Most people purchase a dental savings plan because they don’t want to pay the full price of a dental insurance plan. Dental savings plans are more affordable than dental insurance, and you only pay one premium a year.
- No deductibles: Dental savings plans do not have deductibles, copayments or coinsurance percentages, which you may need to pay for on your dental insurance.
Dental Insurance Features and Coverage
Dental insurance plans work similarly to other types of insurance. If you have health insurance or homeowners insurance, you’re likely already familiar with the basic structure of a dental insurance plan. The following are some of the features that differentiate insurance from savings plans.
- Covers a percentage of your care costs: Unlike dental savings plans, a dental insurance plan will directly cover a portion of your dental care costs. Your coverage is usually expressed as a percentage indicating what portion of your treatment your insurance will cover. For example, you might have a dental insurance plan that covers 80% of the cost of a filling, requiring you to pay the remaining percentage.
- May include free routine care: Many dental insurance plans include no expenses for things like exams, cleanings and X-rays. If your dental insurance plan does impose a charge on preventive services, your payment percentage will usually be very low.
- Includes limitations on coverage: Most dental insurance plans include a dollar limit on the total amount that your insurance will provide toward your dental care. For example, if your plan has a $1,500 limit, it means that your dental insurance provider will not cover more than $1,500 worth of your dental bills.
|Features||Dental Savings Plan||Dental Insurance|
|Deductible||No||Yes; under most circumstances|
|No waiting period||Yes||No; preventive services often come with no waiting period|
|Available as part of health insurance plan||No||Yes|
|Saves money on dental care costs||Yes||Yes|
|Cosmetic dentistry discounts||Yes||No|
|In-network requirements or limitations||Yes; must see a dental care provider who accepts your discount plan||Sometimes; dental PPO plans do not require in-network use|
Average Cost of Dental Insurance Versus Dental Savings Plans
Most families who choose a dental savings plan over dental insurance do so because dental insurance plans can be significantly more expensive than savings plans. Take a look at what you might expect to pay annually and monthly for both options.
|Plan Type||Average Monthly Cost||Average Yearly Cost|
|Dental savings plan||$6.67 - $16.67||$79.95 - $199.95|
|Dental insurance||$29.16 - $45.83||$350 - $550|
When you’re comparing your options, remember that you should choose the option that works best for your situation. You could spend a little less money on a savings plan because you have very little need for care. At the same time, you may want to pay more to get insurance because you need more care or someone else in your family may require more care.
At times, some people may wish to change policies from year to year based on the care that’s needed. For example, you may wish to increase your benefits because you have children who will need more care. When those children grow older or move out of the house, you might wish to change back to a cheaper policy.
Is a Dental Savings Plan or Dental Insurance the Right Choice?
When choosing between a dental insurance plan and a dental discount plan, you should first consider your budget right now. Dental discount plans provide you with immediate discounts at a significantly lower rate than dental insurance. However, dental discount plans will not pay any percentage of your dental care costs, which means they may be less useful in the future if you still cannot afford to cover your dental bills.
Dental insurance plans are more expensive than discount plans, but they will pay a portion of your dental insurance bills. If you want the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that you won’t need to pay a major fraction of an emergency dental treatment bill, a dental insurance plan might be right for you.
You should also consider dental treatments you currently need. Dental insurance plans come with waiting periods that must pass before you can use your plan for nonroutine treatments. This means that if you already have a cavity, you cannot sign up for an insurance plan and go directly to the dentist in order to save money. If you already have a dental condition that needs attention, you may want to consider a savings plan, which you can use immediately.
Is it Possible To Have Both a Dental Savings Plan and Dental Insurance?
Though there is nothing stopping you from purchasing both a dental savings plan and a dental insurance plan, you cannot usually use your insurance plan and your savings plan on the same procedure. However, if you have both plan options, your dental service provider can help you coordinate services to make the most out of both your dental insurance and your savings plan. For example, you may be able to use a discount plan to reduce the cost of dental services once you’ve reached your insurance plan’s maximum benefit limit.
How To Choose a Dental Savings Plan or Dental Insurance Plan
After you know which type of coverage you want to purchase, you’ll need to learn how to find the best option for your needs. Here are a few things you should consider when shopping for a dental insurance plan and a dental savings plan.
Choosing a Dental Savings Plan
When shopping for a dental savings plan, be sure to consider the following features of each choice.
- Saving percentages: Dental discount plans provide flat-rate discounts for a range of procedures and dental care needs you might have. Be sure you know what percentage of each treatment is covered — this will help you determine which plan will provide you with the most savings.
- Covered treatments: The specific treatments included on each dental savings plan may vary by provider. It can be helpful to write down all of the treatments and services you’re interested in, which can help ensure that you find a dental savings plan that includes everything you need.
- Premium prices: Though savings plans are more affordable than dental insurance plans, you should still carefully consider price when choosing a plan. Some plans may seem to be a bargain but do not provide enough savings to justify the price.
Choosing a Dental Insurance Plan
When comparing dental insurance plans, make sure that you know and understand the following.
- Waiting periods: The majority of dental insurance plans require you to submit to a waiting period before you can use your coverage for treatments like cavities and root canals. Be sure to know exactly when your coverage begins so you don’t accidentally attempt to use your coverage too early.
- Deductibles: Your deductible is a set amount of money you have to pay toward your dental care costs before your insurance starts providing coverage. Be sure to select a plan with a deductible you’re sure you can afford.
- Plan maximums: Your dental insurance plan will come with a maximum benefit amount, which is the total amount of money your insurance provider will pay toward your dental care costs. Choose a plan with a higher maximum to get the most out of your coverage.
Dental Savings Plan Versus Dental Insurance: Which Is the Best Option?
It’s impossible to say whether a dental discount plan or an insurance plan is better than the other because each option will be more beneficial for a different population. If you’re working with a small budget and you need an affordable way to lower your care costs, a dental savings plan might be right for you. If you need the peace of mind that comes with knowing you won’t need to pay the majority of costs associated with regular dental treatments, a dental insurance plan can be the solution. Be sure to begin comparing your options early — the last thing you want is to need a painful root canal and not have a plan in place.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I save money on my dental bills?
You can save money on your dental bills by purchasing a dental discount plan, which lowers the price you’ll pay for services. You can also save on your dental bills by seeking routine care to address issues early and by maintaining great daily oral hygiene habits.
Is it cheaper to have dental insurance or pay cash?
If you need recurring care or a very expensive dental treatment, dental insurance will save you money on your care bills. Dental insurance also frequently includes free or very affordable preventive care services, which can encourage you to seek care as soon as you need it and avoid future health problems.
Dental Insurance Methodology
To determine the best dental insurance providers, we pored through all United States carriers. We winnowed the list by only including companies that have a wide coverage area and product offering. To further break down the list to the true best dental insurance providers, we gave weight to carriers that offer discounts, are available in all states and have multiple payment plan options.
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