“A survey of 25 000 people, conducted by the Australian Dental Association nationally, found 58 per cent of people had put off dental treatment in the 12 months to December 2022.” This report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation paints the dire picture facing oral health in the country, with rising costs of dental care forcing many to delay checks – resulting in more dire consequences. Something like a simple dental check can rectify minor oral health issues that could become much more costly, and risky, later on. 

Fortunately, there is a little-known payment solution to dental care that allows people to access quality oral care without paying out of pocket, or even having to sign up for dental insurance plans. A dental discount plan is a cost-effective solution that comes with many associated benefits. Here’s what you need to know!

The challenge of finding affordable dental care

If you have to honestly think about the last time you went to the dentist, you’d probably be surprised at how long ago it was! And if you’re about to start booking an appointment – which you should – you might be concerned about just how expensive dental treatment has become. The traditional payment options have been dental insurance, and paying for dental treatment out of pocket. The problem is, these don’t always meet your dental needs.

Cons of dental insurance

A dental insurance plan requires a monthly payment that provides you with a certain level of coverage for dental treatments. Here are some of the challenges associated with this plan. 

  • Cost: The price of a dental insurance plan can be quite prohibitive, particularly if you have a family or are a pensioner. 
  • Restrictions: Most dental insurance plans have limitations on the coverage that is provided, with necessary procedures like root canals not included. 
  • Annual limitations: Certain dental insurance plans will also have a limit on annual reimbursements. 
  • Network limitations: Dental insurance plans could limit which dentists you can use, so it’s important to check with your dentist. 

Cons of paying out of pocket

Paying out of pocket for dental care requires you to have some form of emergency fund available so that you can pay as and when you require dental treatments. 

  • Restrictions: While you might be able to afford basic dental procedures like cleaning and checks, more complex treatments can be very expensive. Root canals, crowns, and cavities could cost you a few thousand dollars. 

Complications: If you don’t have sufficient funds for your dental treatment then you might risk leaving it untreated which leads to further complications, possibly even systemic health problems down the line.

How one person discovered dental discount plans

For one pensioner, Dave, the cost of visiting the dentist had become far beyond his means, and the premiums of dental insurance didn’t make the treatment any more affordable. He knew he needed to replace his dentures at some point, but despite phoning around, he couldn’t find a price that suited his budget. 

When it was getting to the point of desperation, Dave was discussing his dilemma with a group of friends when one mentioned dental discount plans. Having never come across the concept, he first assumed it was some sort of scam, or at the very least, a cheaper but less effective version of dental insurance. But when he started chatting with a local dentist, he realised this very affordable option actually came with massive benefits, and made his denture replacement that much more affordable. He was able to have his dental treatment without the required insurance waiting period, easing his discomfort and stress within a few days. 

How dental discount plans save money

A dental discount plan is a membership-based programme that is able to provide you with reduced rates on dental services from participating dental providers. You pay an annual or monthly fee, which is significantly lower than dental insurance premiums, and you don’t have to worry about deductibles. This fee provides you with access to a range of dental procedures at a reduced rate. 

Because a dental discount plan is a fee-based programme, you can call participating providers to find out the estimate ahead of time if you know what procedure you’re going in for. It’s best to check with the local dentists which provider they’re with so that you can access affordable dental treatments close to home. 

What are the benefits of dental discount plans?

There are clearly significant financial benefits associated with dental discount plans, with monthly fees from as little as $9 per month or $89 to $120 annually – depending on the plan. When you compare this with the cost of dental insurance – which can be between $30 and $60 per month for one person – you can immediately see why this is a more affordable option from the start. Here’s a look at some of the other benefits. 

  • No deductibles: Depending on the dental treatment, insurance will often charge you a deductible which can make the treatment even more unattainable in terms of cost. Dental discount plans will provide you with a discount on the overall cost which means you will need to pay the difference, but this can be planned ahead. 
  • No limitations: With a dental discount plan, you don’t have to worry about being limited to a certain number of procedures or services per year. With dental insurance, you’re often limited to a certain number of teeth cleanings, and other regular treatments. 
  • No annual caps: There are no caps on the amount of money that you can use from the dental discount plan as you would experience with dental insurance. Yet you pay a fee for both plans – with discount plans at a lower rate. 
  • Fixed fee schedule: The dental practitioners will form part of a dental discount plan network with agreed-upon rates. This means that you go in knowing exactly what the costs involved are and you can budget accordingly. 

No waiting periods: If you need dental treatment, you have access to immediate benefits unlike with dental insurance where you will have to endure a waiting period and authorisation.

How do you find the right dental discount plan?

Finding the right dental discount plan is an important part of the process, and this will require you to do some research into the various providers, compare the costs and benefits of the discount plans, and check the online reviews. To get you started, here are a few places to ask about dental discount providers: 

  • Traditional dental insurance: They could provide you with a list of dental discount plans, simply because these can be taken out alongside traditional insurers. 
  • Private dentists: Check with your family dentist about dental savings plans, and whether they are part of a network. This could make things a lot easier as you wouldn’t have to switch dentists. 

Once you’ve found some options, you need to compare the dental plans by looking at key features. This gives you a greater understanding of what you’re getting out of your monthly payment. Features include: 

  • An extensive network: Your dental discount plan should have a number of local dentists and dental specialists forming part of the network. If the plan has limited coverage, then you might not be accessing the best in dental healthcare, or you’ll have to travel far for treatment. 
  • Additional benefits: Certain dental discount plans actually offer you a number of add-on benefits without any extra costs. These include aspects like extra savings on medications, points for wellness programmes, and more. 
  • Multiple choices: There is no one-size-fits-all approach in healthcare, which is why your dental discount plan should provide a variety of options. You could get a tiered plan that has extra benefits, savings, and specialists the higher the price. 
  • Initial fees: Your dental discount plan will likely require an initial admission or enrolment fee, but this shouldn’t be excessive. 
  • Comprehensive procedures: Check what dental procedures the discount plan covers. These will be treatments that are:
    • Basic such as fillings 
    • Preventative such as annual examinations and cleanings
    • Major such as crowns and bridges
    • Orthodontic such as braces 

At the end of the day, you need to assess your personal needs and budget to determine whether a dental discount plan is the right choice for you. If you’re putting off dental care because costs are prohibitive, then it’s well worth looking into this payment option so that you’re being proactive about dental care. Leaving dental issues until later will only result in more damage, and more costs. 

Get in touch with Alexandra Hills Dental to find out about quality, affordable dental care when you need it. They offer an exclusive first-time check-up and cleaning for just $190, with three payment plan options to consider. The team is dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to superior dental care services, no matter their situation.