Physicians Mutual Insurance Company®

Dental Insurance vs. Dental Discount Plans

Unlike dental discount plans, dental insurance pays cash benefits for covered services. Dental discount plans offer you reduced prices.

When deciding which option works best for your needs, consider key things such as cost, savings, services and the freedom of choosing any dentist.

Individual dental insurance

Individual dental insurance is real insurance. That means you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company that, in turn, pays cash benefits for covered services.

Dental discount plan

Dental discount plans do not pay any dental expenses. Rather, you enroll in a program that offers you reduced prices on services when visiting an in-network dentist.

How we care for our teeth can directly affect the health of our whole body. In fact, a dentist can be the first medical professional to detect warning signs of serious health problems in patients — like heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Yet, more companies are dropping dental insurance for retirees, so many older Americans don’t have coverage for proper dental care. In fact, around two in three Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. — nearly 37 million people — have no dental coverage.1

Luckily, you have two options to save money on dental bills with either dental insurance or a dental discount plan. But how do you know which to go with? Consider these key questions when choosing the option that’s right for you.

Cost vs. savings

  • How much does each cost?
  • Which will save me more money, the dental discounts or amount of cash benefits I can receive with dental insurance?
  • Will the discount plan lower the price of my bill enough so I can afford to pay the balance?


  • What services are included in the discount plan?
  • What services are covered under the dental insurance?
  • Which option covers the services I need and will use the most?

Choosing my dentist

For dental insurance:

  • Does the insurance allow me to see any dentist I want?
  • Does the insurance offer me discounts if I choose a dentist in their network, but still pay benefits no matter which dentist I choose?

For dental discount programs:

  • Which dentists are included in the network? (Discount plans require you to see certain dentists in order to receive lower prices; your dentist may not be included.)

Because the two are so different, it’s important to gather all the information to make the right decision. That way, there are no surprises when you go to the dentist. Remember these key differences: Dental insurance pays cash benefits, while a dental discount plan offers you reduced prices.