Think you know dental membership plans? Think Again

By Megan Lohman October 17, 2023 3 min read

One of the easiest ways to grow revenues is to offer your uninsured patients a dental membership plan. In general, uninsured patients want to visit the dentist but fear the unknown cost of taking care of their teeth. In simple terms, plans take away that fear by offering greater price transparency.  

But I’m getting ahead of myself because not all plans are created equal. Think you know membership plans? Think again!

There are membership plans, discount plans, and savings plans. Some plans are focused on the provider and some on the consumer. Here’s some insight into the different options. 

Discount Plans: Some discount plans are sold directly to the patient via a website, and others are sold through the practice to the patient. Either way, discount plan companies act as quasi-insurance as they tell the providers what discounts to give, they collect the enrollment fees and then transfer the net fees to the practice. With these plans, the practice loses the ability to price their plans themselves. The name says it all – patients pay an annual enrollment fee to access discounts a la carte. These plans do little to alleviate patient stress about the cost of a visit to the dentist, and the choices they must confront. These plans also do little for hygiene recall, treatment acceptance or patient retention. Patients who did not visit the dentist in Year 1 may (rationally) decide not to re-enroll in Year 2 and pay the enrollment fee a second time. Or they may re-enroll months later rather than on the renewal date, meaning lost revenue for the practice. In reality, patients using a discount plan often churn, may be unprofitable and are price (not quality) shoppers.

Savings Plans: This term is interchangeable with discount plans. Providers agree to accept less money for the same care and have no control over this discounted rate. 

Dental Membership Plans: Membership plans bundle preventive care (typically two exams, two cleanings, x-rays, fluoride, and an emergency visit) for one price. Providers have 100% control over their plan pricing and what plans to offer. Business 101 is understanding your buyer, what they value and pricing accordingly. Some practices have a high % of uninsured veterans, others have many retirees, and still others may have a large number of patients <13. Each practice custom creates their own plans to offer the most compelling deal for their uninsured population…we’ve seen denture plans, veteran plans, kid plans that offer better pricing for visits between 12pm-3pm…practices are getting creative! 

Providers maintain 100% control over their fees; they can choose to charge a 1-time enrollment fee or not, or a monthly and/or an annual payment option. With offerings, like Plan Forward’s, providers have their own merchant account where they charge the patients directly and receive the gross deposits. This makes end of day (or month) reconciliation a piece of cake and keeps the finances between the patient and the practice. Members pay your practice directly and on time; there is no intermediary. And the plan is 100% white-labeled to the practice. 

But I left the best for last – the biggest advantage of having a dental membership plan is that plans change patient behavior. An uninsured patient who once visited every 18 months now visits twice a year. An uninsured patient who resisted x-rays and fluoride now accepts them on time. Members are loyal, visit regularly and they trust their provider’s guidance. What does this mean for the practice? It means hygiene stops being a loss leader and is now profitable, treatment acceptance is 50-75% higher (because patients accept x-rays and fluoride since they’re included) and the practice retains their patients. There are many case studies from the different membership plan companies, as well as detailed ROI calculations, that reinforce the notion that membership plans work for the patient and for the practice.

Sound like a slam-dunk for your business? A recurring, high margin revenue stream from membership fees, driven by high hygiene recall… and to boot, double the treatment accepted. Dental membership plans are not new. The software platforms that manage these plans are. 

Distilled to a single value prop: membership plans turn your uninsured patients into your most valuable patients. 

So, if you’re asking yourself about business impact, then the answer is obvious.  Curious how it would look for your practice? You can find us at  Reach out and schedule a time to chat and we’d be glad to connect.

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