Dental Price Clubs vs. Dental Insurance

Going to the dentist is no fun, and neither is figuring out who pays what.
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Keeping those pearly whites in shape takes money, no matter how you look at it. Whether you rely on dental insurance or a dental price club to find and use a dentist’s services, you’re going to end up paying something for anything other than the most basic services. With dental clubs, you pay an annual membership fee to get discounted services. Knowing the differences between insurance and price clubs helps you figure out the best way to go, especially if you plan on spending lots of time with your dentist in the coming year.

How it Works

Dental insurance provides varying levels of coverage based on the types of services you need from your dentist. For instance, most basic services, such as annual X-rays and cleaning, are covered under many plans. But those annoying cavity fillings, root canals and teeth extractions require a co-payment to cover what the insurance company doesn’t. Dental price clubs do not cover any dental costs. Instead, they point you to a list of dentists who agree to offer services at discounted prices.


The cost of dental insurance depends on the carrier. If you’re lucky, you pay low premiums or, better yet, get free dental insurance from your employer. But if you must buy dental insurance on your own, expect to pay about $400 for an annual premium for an individual plan or about $1,200 for a family, according to CNN Money. Once you use up your maximum annual benefit, you pretty much get to pay the rest of the dental bills with your own cash until the new year rolls over. Dental price clubs work by charging a membership fee that ranges from $75 to $150 annually. This gives you access to a list of dentists who offer discounted prices to club members. Although you get discounted services, you still foot the entire bill for any services the dentist provides.


Both dental price clubs and insurance plans give you access to a network of participating dentists, so you choose who you go to. You also know what you’re paying upfront for various procedures with price clubs, since the discounted rates are stated on the club’s website. When it comes to dental insurance, the provider negotiates an acceptable price for the procedure, so the dentist can’t charge more based on a whim. If this makes you feel better, you get the most benefit from dental insurance when you need expensive procedures, according to Bankrate.


If you buy your own dental insurance policy, don’t rush to the dentist. Instead, plan to wait anywhere from three to 18 months before you get coverage on big-ticket items like root canals or fillings. Once coverage kicks in, benefits are typically limited to $750 to $1,200 annually. One of the disadvantages of relying on price clubs for services is that the posted rates do not take into account the fluctuating price of the metal used in cavity fillings or lab fees, which means you may end up paying more than you expected.

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