Updated: 2/5/2020 With all of the talk about health care and dental, the terms dental insurance and dental plans get thrown around quite a bit. But if you’re honest with…

Woman in Office Comparing Dental Plans and Dental Insurance

Dental Insurance and Dental Plans: What’s the Difference?

Updated: 2/5/2020

With all of the talk about health care and dental, the terms dental insurance and dental plans get thrown around quite a bit. But if you’re honest with yourself, do you really know the difference? It’s important to understand that these two terms are quite different from one another. They both help make dental care more affordable, that’s for sure, but they are not the same.

Here you can get the information you need about dental insurance and dental discount plans to help you make an informed decision about your dental care coverage.

Dental Insurance

This is the more well-known of the two, but we’ll explain it nonetheless.

  • With insurance plans, you will pay a premium, which provides benefits for dental procedures that are covered by the plan.
  • These plans usually include a co-pay or a deductible the insured must pay before the plan pays for covered procedures. There may be additional out-of-pocket costs the insured owes to the provider for services not covered by the insurance plan.
  • Dental insurance plans may include a waiting period for some procedures.
  • Some insurance plans may provide some benefits and coverage for services performed by an out-of-network provider, but the insured will get less savings that way.
  • Insurance plans generally have an annual maximum they pay for covered procedures. Once the annual maximum is reached, the insured is responsible for the cost of services and treatment.
  • The insured usually has large networks of dentists to choose from.

Dental Discount Plan

Maybe not as well-known, dental discount plans can save customers a lot of money on their dental care. However, it’s important to understand that a dental discount plan is not insurance. Here’s how they differ:

  • For discount plans, the consumer pays a lower membership fee that allows them access to dental care at a prenegotiated, reduced rate.
  • Members pay the discounted fee in full at the time of service for the costs of the services received.
  • Members can use most discount plans immediately.
  • Members must use a provider that’s part of the discount plan network to receive the prenegotiated discount.
  • There are no limits on how often a member can use or receive discounts for procedures that are included in the plan.
  • Discount plan networks vary in size and may be limited in some areas.

Which One Should You Choose?

Dental insurance and dental plans are both plausible options. And regardless of which one you choose, either plan will get you and your family to the dentist to better the condition of your teeth. The most common reason for people not going to the dentist is that they don’t have any coverage plan to help them pay for it. The decision between dental insurance and discount plans is ultimately going to come down to what you and your family want and need. As you are deciding, don’t let your dental health go by the wayside. It’s important to maintain good oral health even if you are living without dental insurance for the time being.

Sometimes with insurance, you can have more options when it comes to choosing a dentist and, at times, higher savings and protection. Additionally, your savings could grow, but you usually have to wait a few years for that to happen.

A discount dental plan is inexpensive and simple to use. Although they are not insurance, they still offer access to services at a reduced rate. Discount plans are good for those with an immediate need or those who want a dental plan at low regular costs.

If you do find that a discount dental plan would be the best option to meet you and your family’s needs, consider the advantages of a Careington dental discount plan–started in 1979–from 1dental.com:

  • It’s one of the nation’s largest discount plan networks.
  • Private practice dentists are included.
  • You will find substantial savings of at least 15-60 percent.
  • A vision plan is included at no extra charge.
  • You will pay a discounted price directly to the dentist office without having to haggle or jump through hoops.
  • You can see the full fee schedule on our website and how much each procedure will cost before you even see the dentist, which can be a huge help to you since you won’t be blindsided by the cost when you go in for your appointment.
  • Also, there are many cosmetic procedures like tooth implants that are also included.

Natasha is 1Dental’s managing editor and copywriter, focusing content on dental and health news, advice and tips straight from the experts. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and has since been a book editor and now copywriter and managing editor on dental and health. You can find her on Twitter and all of 1Dental’s social networks.

  1. I purchased the 500 dental plan with the hopes of saving money using the fee scale. Unfortunately, I just had a molar root canal quoted for 1080.00 including the x-rays, etc. My previous dentist was charging 1050.00 including the x-rays. I ended up paying more through the plan including the annual membership fees. Highly disapointed. Will not be purchasing again next year.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. Would you mind giving us a call at 855-772-4512 or sending us an email at member@careington.com explaining what you just told me, with the dentist’s location you visited? We would be happy to go over that bill with you to see what the discrepancy might be. We also want to make sure the dentist was charging you correctly.


  3. I have used the 500 dental discount, and i was very pleased with the savings that i received. The savings have made it possible for me to get all of the dental work that my daughter and I will need.


  4. I cracked the corner off a back tooth. Went to my dentist, he took 2 xrays and told me I needed to have my teeth cleaned in my next visit and then would have to have crown on the cracked tooth, at a following visit. At the time I had no insurance and no dental plan. A friend told me about a similar plan and after going on the internet, I found Aetna Dental Access. I took this plan after having had the initial visit knowing what had to be done. Within a day before the next visit to have my teeth cleaned, I had received a receipt for payment and was able to use my plan to pay for the whole procedure with a savings of close to $500. Thank you Aetna Dental Plan.

  5. I used my Careington500 plan. My first visit was to Greenburg Dental Clinic to have my bottom teeth removed and to be fitted for a bottom denture. Instead I was referred to another Greenburg clinic after paying 29$
    I had the teeth removed and the Dentist says the dentures would cost me anywhere from 1200$ to 1400$. He dosen”t do cheap dentures. I am 87 years old and that is just to expensive. Now I have to find a dentist that will honor the Plans 600$(+) for bottom dentures. So what do I do call all of the dentist on the list until I find one that will do the dentures for the rice listed in the plan? The dentures were one of the reasons I signed up for the plan. I am already disappointed with this plan.

    • I am very sorry you have been having trouble using your plan. If your dentist is not willing to do one of the bottom dentures listed on our fee schedule, you can still receive a 20% discount on the kind he prefers to use. However, most dentists will honor the fee schedule. If you need further help you can always speak with one of our customer care representatives over the phone by calling 1-800-372-7615.

  6. I have just been informed by my dentist that he is retiring due to health issues. I am wondering if you will advise me as to which is the best plan for me. I am 85 yrs. old, wear a partial, but at this time do not need dental service that I’m aware of, however I have always had my teeth checked several times a year. I have received brochures of information from you just recently and I do not find the 1Dental plan listed in the brochures but a Plan A and Plan B is. Which of the 3 plans would be best for me and what is their monthly premium?
    I shall look forward to your response.
    Thank you kindly, JuDea A. Klaas

    • I’m sorry to hear that. We would be happy to help. We have three plans that we sell: the Careington Care 500 Dental Plan, the Aetna Dental Access Plan and the Careington Point of Service Dental Plan. Each plan costs the same ($26.95 for the first month and then $6.95 each month thereafter).Typically, our Careington Care 500 Plan has the strongest savings and it is our most popular plan. You can find out more about our plans at https://www.1dental.com/ or give us a call at 800-372-7615. One of our representatives would be happy to walk you through what would be your best option.

  7. I have already been to the dentist and using my Careington Care 500 plane. I was told that I need two crowns and one bridge. The cost of the crowns are $845 each, approx. $240 more than the fee schedule provided by1Dental. There is a cavity below the bridge which needs repaired and naturally the bridge needs to be replaced. The cost of the bridge is over $2,600 which also seems excessive. Can you please advise me why Alpha Dental is charging me more than the fee schedula

    • Thank you for writing us to let us know. We typically need a procedure code in order to look at exact prices. Customarily, a bridge actually consists of three procedures. There is the Pontic, which is the actual plate that will be placed in the gap where the tooth is missing, then you will have a crown placed on both sides of the Pontic plate. On the 500 series and POS plans, you will find the ADA codes for bridge work on the full dental fee schedule listed under Prosthodontics (fixed) from ADA code 6240-6752. If you are getting the work done by a general dentist then you can look and see exactly how much Alpha Dental should be charging for those procedures (based off their specific codes). Please note that Careington does not assist with any 3rd party lab fees that may incur with this type of work. Please clarify with this dentist if there is a lab fee as this will vary from office to office depending on what company they use to create prosthodontic pieces; that may account for the additional $240 for your crown, but we cannot be sure if we do not have the exact crown you are getting.

      If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact our Customer Care department at 855-329-6305.

  8. I am a skeptic about low cost dental plans in general. But I reasoned that for that low a cost even if it did nothing I would not be out a lot of money. Imagine my surprise when 3 days after opening with Dental1 I saved $1300 on a $3005 dental service. It cut my cost in half. I am well pleased to have this coverage as well as Care Credit to cover any major issues. I had compared the procedure cost between my old dentist and new and they were equitable so they savings were real.

    • That’s great! We love hearing stories like this from our customers. We’re so glad you have been happy with the plan and it has helped you so much. Thank you for sharing!

  9. I took my daughter to Aspen Dental for a checkup. They gave me a estimated bill for filling, cleaning and 4 wisdom teeth surgicaly removed. Total $4500 give or take a few. Suggested I get a CaringtonCare plan to help. I bought the CaringronCare 500 family plan my bill went down to $2500 give or take saving $2000 in a matter of 1hr. My daughter has her wisdom teeth removed and soon everything else will be done. Thank you Aspen Dental Butler, Pa and 1Dental

  10. I have the Careington 500. Like some others, I had a small Dental Insurance before, and went to a Dentist to get a partial, and the cost to me after Insurance was $ 2100.I still needed 3 teeth to be filled.I called Aspen, and was told everything I need done would cost $2100.Had the partial done, and took out CareCredit, and was given a $2000 line.I told Aspen I would get the fillings & cleaning done after I payed down on CareCredit.After I had four teeth pulled & partial installed Aspen said it did not take as much trouble to pull my teeth, so they gave me enough credit to take care of my cleaning.
    Cost of almost $400 for filling, but with my new Careington ony cost me $47.
    Thanks to Dental 1 and Aspen I had everything done for $1700

  11. My wife and i just signed up with1dental.com for a discount plan and have already started using our dentist of choice under the plan. We were not aware of the availability of dental insurance plans under the same provider. How do I determine whether an insurance plan is available to us with the same dentist and what the annual cost would be? In other words, I need specifics at this point, assuming availability exists. Thank you. Ken Lupino

    • Our plans at 1Dental.com are dental discount plans. If you are interested in a plan your dental office offers then they would be the best people to talk to about gaining more information. To receive Careington savings you would have go to dentist on our network as there are no claims or reimbursements filed by dentists to Careington. The dentist is simply in agreement to provide Careington members the reduced fee for service.

      We have many members who carry both insurance and a discount plan. You will not be able to use both at the same time, though. What many people do is use the discount plan after their insurance has paid its maximum. That way, since they are paying out-of-pocket, they pay discount prices. But, this is a conversation you would need to have with your dental provider as they are the ones that determine if this is possible.

  12. My wife and I were surprised a plan like this was available. I started using Aspen Dental because I had a quote of $6000 for some required dental work from my private practice dentist..I told him I was going to get some quotes..The dentist would not let me return for further work. Saved about 50% going to Aspen Dental..Zero interest % with the Carefree payment plan..Found out later that as I quoted more dental work with Aspen that rates are not fixed even when the work is provided by Aspen..Leading me to Carrington 500..Pay as you go for discounted rates is what we prefer in our health plan and now our dental plan..Save thousands od dollars..Was a bit upset that knowone ever told us about the options..In part it was our own fault as we saved about $5000/year by switching to a pay as you go health plan. The Carrington 500 suits our needs perfectly..Had a cleaning the other day and it cost something like $28.some of the quotes are more competitive with Aspen’s pricing, but overall things are looking good.. Lenny King

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