Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Plans: Which One’s Best?

Taking care of your teeth is crucial for your health and confidence. Part of that is going to the dentist regularly. However, dental appointments tend to be expensive. Those looking to curb their dental bill have two options: buy dental insurance and a dental discount plan. 

But which one is better and cheaper? Learn about the difference between dental insurance vs. dental discount plans and make the best decision for you.


What Is Dental Insurance?

Dental insurance is a policy that protects you from paying for expensive dental procedures. With dental insurance, you’ll often pay to share the cost of dental care with an insurance provider. And in the end, it can save you a lot of money. Most people get dental insurance through an employer, others pay for private dental insurance. 

However, it’s important to understand that dental insurance doesn’t necessarily cover every aspect of your dental treatments. For one, your dental treatments need to reach a certain cost before insurance covers expenses, this is called a deductible. There’s also an insurance cap, which means that your dental insurance doesn’t cover anything over a certain amount. 

So, if you have a procedure that would cost several thousand dollars, your dental insurance may only cover a portion of that. The rest you’ll pay out-of-pocket. Caps and deductibles vary depending on your provider and your dental insurance plan.

What Are Dental Discount Plans?

Dental discount plans are recurring subscriptions that make you eligible for a discount at participating dental practices. When you have a dental discount plan and you visit a participating dentist, you can get a significant portion of your bill reduced.

Let’s say you need a filling and the dentist typically charges $200 for the procedure. If you have a dental discount plan and this is a participating dentist, you could potentially only pay $100 for the same procedure.

The types of procedures that are eligible for discounts and the amount of your discount both depend on the type of dental discount plan you have. 

Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Plans: Feature Comparison

Preventive Care

In the long run, preventive dental care can save you a lot of money. By having a dentist regularly check the status of your oral health means that they can catch serious issues early on. 

Dental insurance is a good option for preventive care. Most insurance providers cover 100% of oral exams and cleanings. That’s because they know that the sooner you treat an issue, the cheaper it tends to be to fix. 

On the other hand, dental discount plans provide a discount on your preventive care visits. So, your dental bill will be lower, but it won’t be completely free. 

Minor Dental Procedures

Usually, dental insurance will cover the full amount of fillings and extractions. It may also cover most crowns or root canal treatments. However, cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening aren’t usually covered by dental insurance.

Dental discount plans can significantly reduce your dental expenses for minor procedures ranging from dental extractions to teeth whitenings.  

Surgeries and Major Procedures

When it comes to major dental procedures, dental discount plans are clearly better than insurance. If you need implants, dentures, or braces, dental insurance often doesn’t cover these procedures.

And even if they do, they probably only cover a small part of them. Seeing as these major dental procedures often cost a lot of money, dental insurance would still require a big chunk of out-of-pocket payment from you.

Dental discount plans however can lower your out-of-pocket costs with these types of treatments. For example with Carefree Dental, you’ll save 15-50%* per visit in most instances on these types of treatments at participating dentists. That means even bigger savings, so you can keep more money in your pocket.

It’s important to note that dental discount plans can also help with your out-of-pocket costs on expenses that insurance doesn’t cover. So, you can use both dental insurance and dental discount plans to get the dental treatment you need. (Just note, you can’t use both of them together for a single dental treatment.)

Dental Providers

Both dental insurance and discount plans have their own list of practices that can accept them. Usually, for insurance, it’s a set number of dentists within your area. However, dental discount plans can work at any participating dental practice across the country. So, if you need some emergency dental treatment while on vacation, you’ll still get to save money.

Waiting Period

This is probably the biggest difference between dental insurance vs. dental discount plans. Most dental insurance providers have a waiting period. You need to wait a set number of months from the time you sign up until you can enjoy the benefits. They do this to avoid clients who need dental work done immediately.

Dental discount plans generally don’t have a waiting period. Once you sign up and become a member, you can immediately use your discount at participating dentists. If you need dental work quickly, but don’t want to pay everything out of pocket, a dental discount plan is the best option.

Annual Maximum Cap

As we mentioned before, dental insurance often has a cap. They’ll limit the amount they’re willing to cover for your dental treatments. For most dental insurance, this would be about $1000-$2000. 

On the other hand, dental discount plans don’t have a cap or an annual maximum. You can access discounts at any level of dental procedure. So, if you need a dental procedure that costs several thousand dollars, it’s definitely worth it.

The Cost of Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Plans

Every dental insurance and discount plan provider has their own prices, offers, and benefits. But if you’re interested in the general cost, this comparison can help you.

The annual cost of dental insurance in the United States is around $360 on average for individuals. It can go as high as $600 for families. But, it usually only covers you until the $1000-2000 annual cap.

Dental discount plans usually cost around $200-250 annually. The Carefree Dental discount plan costs only $15.95/month for individuals and $19.95/month for families. That’s $191 or $239 each year. But the savings are huge because there’s no annual maximum cap on dental discounts.

Choose the Best Deal in Dental

If you’re deciding between dental insurance and dental discount plans, you have to look at what your benefits are. And if you’re looking for the best deal in dental, look no further.

The Carefree Dental Card can unlock huge savings for you at participating dentists. Members can save 15% - 50%* per visit in most instances. And signing up is as easy as 1-2-3.

Save on your dental procedures instantly when you sign up for a Carefree Dental Card!


The Carefree Dental blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed dentist or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

The Carefree Dental Card is not insurance and Carefree Dental is not an insurance provider.

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