It’s time to grin and bear it: you may need to purchase your own dental discount plan. With employers cutting back on their benefit packages, one of the first extras to go is often the dental plan. Whether you are forced to find your own dental plan due to a stingy corporation or searching for options because you’re self-employed, there are reasonably priced dental plans you can purchase directly from insurance companies and other providers.
Most easy-to-purchase plans are actually just discounted dental service plans and not conventional insurance. That said, these discount plans can often save hundreds of dollars (or more!) if you have major unforeseen dental expenses. They also have other advantages: few limits or maximums, no waiting period, no submitting bills for claims, etc. A dental discount plan means that a dentist has a special agreement with the company to accept significantly lower service fees from you.
I have highlighted some dental discount programs) that offer basic coverage for single people, though many of the companies also sell family plans at a higher membership rate. Also, remember that not all companies will provide dental plans in your area.
Aetna Dental Access
Aetna, known for their full array of insurance products, offers a nationwide dental discount program.
Due to the nature of the program, they claim that over 66,000 dental practice locations can be used with the plan. The discounts on most services range from 30% to 50%. For an annual cost of only $99 (that’s what I was quoted for my state), you’d probably have to have two annual cleaning visits and one additional service in order to make the plan worthwhile. For example, they quote a cost of an adult cleaning at $75 without the plan and $42 with the plan – not an amazing savings on its own. But add a filling ($121 down to $62) or a crown ($867 down to $523) and the discount proves its worth.
With far fewer dentists but an ostensibly better value, there’s the Patriot Plan. For practically the same annual price as the Aetna plan ($100), routine six-month checkups and in-depth checkups are (supposedly) free! The savings on those visits alone can almost recoup the cost of the dental plan in the first place. The discounts on other services are also in the 50% range, so while this is not a regular insurance plan either, it comes closer. The drawback is the smaller network of participating dentists – only one in the whole metro area of Milwaukee, for example. The Patriot Plan can be purchased through DentalPlans.com.
Uni-Care 100 Dental Plan
With one of the least expensive membership fees (under $80), the Uni-Care 100 Dental Plan seems like a decent deal. Its teeth cleaning and check-up discounts are quite dramatic (over 50%), and given the lower initial investment, it may be a good plan for people who have healthy teeth and don’t expect to have major work done. Exact numbers of participating dentists were not available, but I found three in my area (compared to only one) with the Patriot Plan. Uni-Care also offers a more advanced plan, the 200, with better coverage but a significantly increased rate.
Other companies offering these kinds of dental discount plans include Dentemax, Dent-All Plan, Inc., and Dental Health Alliance. Be sure to compare the costs and benefits of the available plans before deciding.
Even though these dental discount plans are not “insurance” as we typically know it, they do provide some peace of mind. If you need a root canal, several fillings, a crown, dentures, or any other advanced services, you’re guaranteed to save hundreds of dollars. And if not, you’ll probably break close to even with an in-depth cleaning and a subsequent check-up. See, you do have reason to smile.