DHMO's are similar to HMOs in that their plans connect you with a network of dentists who give you care for a low monthly premium. With DHMO plans, you are required to go see dentists who are in their network, but in return you have lower costs, and no claim forms to fill out. DHMOs are great for preventative care and basic procedures. Some downsides include that there can be wait times if you need major or restorative dental care and some DHMOs don’t cover this types of treatment. You also need to go see your primary care dentist and get a referral to a specialist in order to get some specialized care.

One of the biggest downsides of paying for your own plan is that your premiums might not be pre-tax as they would be if you were paying for a plan that your employer and your contribution towards the plan was being taken off your paycheck. But, if you own your own business, you can potentially write off those expenses as a business cost and therefore get the same savings.

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Dental insurance plans typically cost more than discount plans, but they make actual plan payments to dental providers. Dental insurance plans usually have an annual benefit maximum of $1000 up to $3000 per year that can be paid out depending on the plan. Though insured dental plans may cost more than discount plans they may be a better solution if you need more dental care or have been accustomed to using dental insurance plans before.

The next thing that you need to look at is the yearly enrollment fee that you will be charged. This fee can vary widely between insurers. For example, Humana only charges an enrollment fee when you first enroll and not in any year afterwards. Other insurers will charge you an enrollment fee every year. These fees are generally under $50 per year, so if you find an insurer that is charging you more make sure that it’s worth it to you because you’re saving on the plan elsewhere.


Carrington is a provider of discount programs for health and wellness services. It was started in 1979 and is based in Frisco, Texas. Carrington does not provide dental insurance, but rather dental plans where you can get discounts on affordable dental care by becoming a member. You have to pay monthly or annual premiums for your discount plan, but it can be as cheap as $8.95 per month or $89 per year.
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This is more affordable than dental insurance and there are over 5,400 dentists currently in the Carrington network. The Carrington plan provides a discount that’s usually over 50% on preventative and routine procedures with smaller discounts on other types of procedures. The price for treatment will vary from state to state and affect the percentage of your discount, but some examples of discounts include 51% off a routine check up, 51% off the extraction of a tooth, 50% off a dental cleaning, and just 20% off adolescent braces.

Although discount plans are also sold by private companies, they are not insurance plans. There are no copays, coinsurance, or deductible amounts. That also means that there are no pre-negotiated rates or free yearly checkups and cleanings. A participating dentist simply agrees to offer discounts (often a percentage off from the total price) for certain medical services. Then, seniors who choose discount plans will pay their dentist directly for the cost of services (after the discount).
A carrier recently told us that many seniors expect to carry over their dental coverage from their employer. Yet, that rarely happens. What does happen is that about 90% of seniors on Medicare don’t have proper dental coverage (American Dental Association). After filling out the Medicare paperwork, most seniors put dental insurance on the back burner.  (And vision and hearing, too…we’ll get to those later.) And, why not? Your teeth are not hurting yet and they feel pretty good.
AARP, Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, and Delta Dental are a few of the many insurance companies that offer dental plans to seniors. Each company may offer more than one type of dental plan and it is important to pay close attention to more than just the cost of the dental policy. Choosing the best dental plan for a senior is a balancing act between cost, affordability, and need. A good approach is to start by understanding what the senior’s dental needs are and then make a table so that as you begin to compare the different dental plans you can narrow down those plans that are good and remove those plans that are either too costly for the coverage they provide or that do not fit the senior’s dental needs.
Choosing a plan that’s right for you depends on many factors, including the ages and number of people in your family, and whether you or a family member needs orthodontic care. Some dental plans provide low copays, while others provide discounts on services. No matter which plan you select, you’ll have access to a large network of dental providers.
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