Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dental Expenses Bite

Taking the Bite Out of Dental Expenses

by Frances Rahaim, Ph.D.
aka "The Money Doctor"

Dental insurance is most often deducted from your paycheck, but have you ever wondered what you get for that money?

Fear of a large expense is what causes people to feel the need to purchase dental insurance. However, the scheduled benefits that come with dental plans are often confusing, and have “warm and fuzzies” that make it appealing, such as free cleanings twice yearly.

So, if you’re not likely to use the insurance often, you may be paying for something you don’t need.

An increasingly popular option these days is the “dental discount plan.” This is not insurance, but offers large discounts on dental care, in some cases 50 to 80 percent, and is being accepted by an increasing number of dental offices.

But how do you know which alternative is better for you? It’s actually pretty simple. Go back and add up the total annual premiums for your dental insurance and compare it to what it actually saved you in years past. Remember that it only pays for a portion of fillings, crowns and other work in most cases, and not the whole cost.

Consider the level of dental work you or your family is likely to need, and how much the insurance will pay compared to the cost, and now you have the data you need regarding dental insurance.

Now compare that to a dental discount plan.

It may seem strange that a dentist would accept less for their services by taking part in a discount plan, but the system is really quite clever. Much like Hotwire or other discount travel plans are able to offer rooms or tickets for less, these dentists receive benefits for participating in the program, like reduced costs for dental supplies. Many plans also offer advertising for the dentist, and publish their information on web sites and pamphlets. But, most importantly, it helps the dentist gain new clients, which helps keep their schedules full.

Discount plans often cost less than $100 annually, and many have additional benefits, like vision and prescription discounts. You’ll want to do some checking before you decide to switch, and you may even ask your dentist if you could use both the insurance and the discount plan, although they may not allow it.

Check first to see if your dentist is on the plan you are considering, and if that isn’t the case, ask if they would consider the plan. If not, you may want to consider changing dentists if you feel the savings are worthwhile.

Once you decide to enroll in a plan, remember to discontinue your automatic payroll deductions should you choose to eliminate your dental insurance.

I have used and recommended dental discount plans for years, and have personally saved thousands of dollars. I recently went to the dentist and had work done that would have ordinarily cost $500, but with my discount plan, will cost just over $200. That means the plan paid for itself three times over in just one use.  You can search the web for a dental discount plan that suits you, ask your dentist, or check out the plan I personally use under the Links page at

For more information about managing medical and dental debt more effectively, visit

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