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Is a Dental Discount Card Right for You?

written by: moonshadow•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 11/19/2009

Dental discount cards can offer substantial savings on your family’s dental care, but the keys to determining if you should buy into a discount program are how often you will use the card and whether your preferred dentist participates in the discount program.

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    What you need to know about Dental Discount Programs

    Dental discount card programs are an alternative to dental insurance that are gaining popularity in the oral health industry. Unlike a dental insurance plan, a dental discount card provides just that—a discount. None of the money spent on the card will be recouped in the form of payouts from the discount program.

    So, the most important criteria to use when determining whether to buy a dental discount card is how much it will save you during the period of time that it is active. Some cards require a month to month fee and some cards are good for a year with a one-time payment.

    The first step then in finding a dental discount program that is right for you is to call or visit your preferred dentist’s office. The office should be able to tell you what dental discount programs they participate in and what the savings will be per procedure.

    Most dental discount programs costs between $50 and $100 per year per person covered. If the discount only applies to routine care, such as cleanings, or if you don’t anticipate having major dental work done in that year, the card may be a waste of your money. Determine how much money is in your budget for dental care in the time period the card is valid.

    However, if the discount program applies to major dental work including fillings, root canals, bridges and extractions, the cost of the card may be recouped in just one visit to your family dentist.

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    Why Choose a Discount Instead of Insurance?

    Anyone who has priced any form of insurance knows that the cost can be high, they usually won’t pay for “pre-existing conditions” and they have a maximum amount that they will pay in a given year.

    With a dental discount card, there are no preset limits or restrictions. Generally, the discount program won’t demand a copy of your health records or even care if you are getting something fixed that has been a problem for years. Since the cost of the program is consistent no matter who you are, a history of bad teeth, a need for a root canal or a lack of preventative care isn’t going to drive the price up.

    More importantly, how much you use the dental discount card is up to you and your oral health needs.

    One of the best times to consider purchasing a dental discount card is after your dentist has recommended extensive dental work. Since the programs are usually active immediately and don’t exclude pre-existing conditions, they can usually provide a discount for even emergency dental work, if you think to sign up.

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    Pitfalls of a dental discount plan

    The biggest downside of a dental discount plan is that it does not help you pay for the dental work. While the plan might make the cost of your dental work lower, you will still need to be able to pay the costs of the services, usually on the day they are received.

    It is also important to ask your dental care provider if the discount is available in conjunction with dental insurance. Some dentists may only allow one of the other or may require that you submit the dental bills to your insurance company if you want to take advantage of the discount. This will also usually require that you pay the cost of the service upfront and get reimbursed by your insurance company later.

    When you consider if a dental discount plan is right for you, be sure to consider these factors and you will be probably be much happier with the savings you generate. And, don’t automatically renew the plan year after year as it may not be necessary in subsequent years, especially if you don’t have the money to spend on dental care than year.

    You should also review your medical insurance plan to find out if it covers medically-necessary dental work. This can range from extractions of infected teeth to routine cleanings depending on the wording of your health insurance policy.