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Dental Discount Plans Versus Traditional Dental Plans

Dental work is, without a doubt, expensive.

Routine preventative check-ups that include an exam and cleaning can cost over $100. Throw in a few x-rays and fillings if cavities are discovered, and patients can easily walk out of the dentist's office owing a couple hundred dollars.

If you are not one of the lucky people who have dental insurance included as part of a comprehensive healthcare package through your employer, you may want to consider purchasing one on your own. Dental plans, unlike individual healthcare plans, are very affordable and the annual premiums are more stable than those of their healthcare policy counterparts. A decent dental insurance plan can cost anywhere from $7 a month to $30 a month, depending on the kind of coverage individuals which to include in the plan.

When shopping around for dental insurance on your own, it is important to know that there are two kinds of plans: dental discount plans and traditional dental plans. Let's discuss both in detail to help you determine which plan is best for your needs.

Dental Discount Plans

It is important to note, right from the start of this discussion, that dental discount plans aren't actually dental insurance, per se. While dental insurance offers deductibles, co-pays or even set reimbursement for dental procedures, a dental discount plan does exactly what it sounds like it does - provides dental services as a discounted rate.

Dental discount plans allow patients to visit participating dental providers on the list, who have agreed to provide dental services at a discounted rate. These plans usually come with a monthly or annual charge to participate.

These kinds of plans eliminate costly billing procedures, paperwork, annual limits on coverage and deductibles or co-pays. There is no waiting period before being approved for coverage and no exclusions due to age or pre-existing dental conditions.

However, there are some downsides to this kind of plan. Patients who use them must visit a participating provider in order to take full advantage of their benefits. They also may find themselves paying more out-of-pocket for dental services than they would with a traditional dental insurance plan.

Traditional Dental Plans

Traditional dental plans include Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) or fee-for-service options.

Under a PPO, patients visit dentists who have agreed to accept payment at contracted rates from the insurer. PPOs generally include a deductible which must be met prior to services being covered. Once the deductible is met, services are covered at 80, 90 or 100 percent of the total cost.

A DHMO is very similar to its healthcare counterpart in that it requires patients to choose a "primary care dentist" and agree to use only that dental professional. If a procedure is required which that professional does not provide, the patient needs a referral from their dental insurance plan to seek help elsewhere. DHMOs do not have annual deductibles. Patients are expected to pay a co-pay at the time service is rendered.

Fee-for-service plans are the most popular and offer the most selection when it comes to receiving care. Like PPO plans, they generally contain an annual deductible be met before covering the cost of dental services. The percentage of each service covered depends on the type of service. Some dental procedures, such as crowns and bridges, may be covered at a lesser percentage than routine dental care.

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