Are Dental Plans Worth the Cost?

by Reader Contributors

Are Dental Plans Worth the Cost photo

Don’t have dental insurance? You might be considering a dental plan. Our frugal readers weigh in on whether a dental plan saved them money or not.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I’ve been looking into buying dental insurance for my family, but the expense is far beyond our budget. On the Internet, I found several companies that have dental plans. They are not offering dental insurance, but through these plans, you receive discounted prices from the dentists that are in the plan.

Does anyone know if these plans are worth purchasing? Or, is it possible to get discounted rates from a dentist even if you are not in a plan? Thank you for any advice.

Cash Discount Instead of Dental Plan

My dentist gives a 10% discount for cash patients (non-insured). I think it’s a better idea to save the money you may have spent on a dental plan, find a dentist with low rates or who offers a discount, and use the money you have in your savings to pay him or her. Most dentists are happy to work out payment arrangements with you if something major happens. You can end up spending more on the plan plus your co-payments than by paying cash as needed.

To get a general idea, just sit down and figure out the cost of paying for two cleanings per year for everyone against the cost of paying for the plan plus the visits. I work for a doctor, and insurance is getting so bad that he would love to give everyone cash discounts just so he didn’t have to deal with insurance companies anymore. It can’t hurt to ask.

Dentist First, Then Plan

As a billing officer of a large dental practice, I can tell you that it may not be in your best interest to buy one of these plans without further local research. Some of these discount plans expect the dentist to take a financial hit in order to deliver your “discount.” The dentists receive little or no compensation for this, and therefore, they have little incentive to accept patients with the plan.

If you can find a dentist who does accept it in your area first, then it may be worthwhile. I would call the dentists directly. Do not go on information that the “plan” gives you or you may end up driving to another state for your dental care.
ESJ, Burlington VT

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Dental Plan Worked Great

You can definitely save with this kind of “non-insurance” dental plan.

When I was looking for orthodontic care for my son, I came across one of these discount plans. I looked into it and found the dentist was newly out of school and just opening his practice in my area. I assume it was worth it to him to discount his prices in order to jumpstart his business. I was very happy with the care my son received from him.
Katie in Nevada

Dental Plan Not the Best Option

I spoke with my dentist about the same thing because my company is considering closing and I wanted to have adequate coverage. He said that there was no private-funded dental plan he could honestly recommend. He felt that the coverage was generally lousy, and that negotiating with your existing dentist would often result in the same discounts offered under the plan.

Instead, he just recommended putting a specific amount like $50 to $100 per month aside in a saving account you use just for that purpose. By doing this, you have saved the cost of the actual premiums, have available an amount to cover expenses if anything does occur, and if nothing happens, you’re so much more ahead.

He also gave me a tip to further cut costs. You can get a lot of work done for a much-reduced rate at dental schools. Just like beauty schools that need your hair to practice on, dental schools need your teeth. All work is supervised by a trained dentist and/or orthodontist. It may take more time to complete, but you’ll spend less than half.

Self-Insure Instead of Plan

In many cases, privately buying dental insurance is no bargain. My husband is a dentist, and most of our patients who have looked into buying this type of insurance have found that, in addition to paying premiums, they also have to pay a portion of their dental fees. They also have a limited selection of dentists they may visit.

If you have already been a regular dental patient somewhere, you can have your dentist figure out how much you have paid yearly for dental work. See if you can save a regular amount monthly to cover that cost, bank it in a separate savings account, and self-insure. Another thing to consider is that, while we all need some form of medical insurance, your exposure for dental costs is not nearly as high as medical costs.

It Never Hurts to Ask

Because I am disabled, I don’t have dental insurance. I can’t afford private plans. When I go to the dentist (or any professional), I simply ask for a discount, explaining my situation. As a result, my dentist reduced the cost of a night splint to prevent tooth grinding from $300 to $100. The third time I needed a new one, he made it free!

Remember, it never hurts to ask for a discount. The worst that can happen is that the answer is no. More often, if you ask, you will get a discount or at least an easy payment plan without interest.

Saved Big With Dental Plan

My family didn’t have dental insurance either, but then I had a problem and had to have some wisdom teeth out. With my dentist’s referral to a local oral surgeon, it was going to cost us over $600. I had to have the teeth out, but this was going to be a huge hit. I started researching discount plans on

After a lot of research and calling the dentists that were “approved,” we purchased a family plan for $159 for a year (actually they had a special for 15 months) for all of us. Initially, I had to have an exam and consultation with the new dentist that cost $60 (the discounted rate), but for the teeth to be extracted, it only cost me $188. The cost of the plan, the exam, and the extractions cost less than it would have initially. But I also have coverage for my entire family for the next 15 months. It still costs a lot to go to the dentist, but it does save.

Do your research on the plan you like and call the dentists in your area that are on that plan. The hardest part is that only certain dentists are approved.

Pleased with Dental Plan

My husband and I recently purchased a plan on the Internet. It was one of the best things we ever did! It’s a family plan through Delta Dental. At the time the cost was $150 a year, with a $15 start up fee.

My husband had gone to Western Dental (big mistake) and they wanted $1700 to fix one tooth! I then went online and purchased the Delta Dental plan. We were referred to a dentist only 25 miles from our home. The cost to fix that tooth was $85! In fact, my husband needed some more work done and the total cost for all the work including cleaning was only $700. That is compared to $1700 that Western Dental wanted for the one tooth. Needless to say, we are very pleased.

Reviewed August 2021

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