05/11/2012 12:32 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2012

New Dental Website Can Save You Money!

I needed a dentist this week. For a thorough cleaning. (The latest research indicates that dental plaque can cause numerous heart problems, so this is a must). Like more than 45 percent of all Americans, I don't have dental insurance. My expensive Medicare supplement plan does not cover dental care... and the Veteran's Administration, where I get all of my medications, doesn't service veterans unless they have a rated disability. (My injuries in the Korean War were so far in the past that there were no medical records.) And you know what Beverly Hills dentists charge... outrageous, methinks. But my niece told me at dinner about a website which she uses for her and the kids. So I went to and found a discount dentist! In Beverly Hills, imagine! (There were 53 dentists within my area; I am not naming the dentist I chose for professional ethics reasons, but -- located at Wilshire Blvd. and LaCienega -- he was professional and excellent.)

Yes, dental care has become increasingly expensive in this country, and even with insurance many people are stuck paying large fees on top of that. Insurance companies are cutting back on what they pay, and my experience is that whatever the dentist quotes always ends up being much is the first dental site which allows you to compare dentists by price and reputation. Using this membership, patients can cut their dental bills in half through per-negotiated prices with over 25,000 dentists nationally.

I did a little research to find out how people normally pick a dentist, and it is seems to always be by reference from a friend or family. Although it seems that many more people these days, especially younger ones, are searching the web for dental help. This website incorporates the best social networks like Facebook, Google, Yelp and Twitter so that dental recommendations can be exchanged on one platform. According to the website, Brighter gets patients the best possible price on dental care through a partnership with an organization called Careington International, the leading provider of discount dental plans, which has negotiated up to 60 percent discounts on nearly every procedure with over 25,000 dentists at 87,000 locations nationwide. They say they serve over eight million members... and I can understand why. Through this partnership, Brighter provides its members with the leverage of a large and powerful base of consumers to get the lowest prices on dental care. A dental discount plan membership operates similar to a buying club like Costco. A network of dental care providers have contracted to provide quality dental care at reduced prices. These plans are not insurance, so you pay the discounted fee directly to the dentist for work done. When I asked the dentist why he joined, he explained that processing insurance claims is costly for every dental practice. Since the patient pays directly, it cuts out the insurance middle man and all that paperwork.

As a single man, I paid $79 for a year's membership. If I had a family, they would all be entitled to the discounts for that price. Yes, cosmetic services are included, but usually at lower discount rates of around 20 percent and there are no annual limits. The same applies to specialists, so things like root canals can be done. The plan does not make recommendations or referrals to particular dentists... you just enter your zip code and the list of nearby participating dentists shows up on your screen. The website provides typical normal prices for various procedures, and then indicates the Brighter discount price. While a regular adult cleaning costs some $90, the discount price is 53 percent less, $42. I paid an additional discount sum ($25) for X-rays, and made an appointment to have a cavity filled. (Normal price, $172, discount price $74, a savings of 57 percent). Once you've picked your dentist and priced your procedure, you simply call to make an appointment

I am not sanguine that this dental plan is suitable for everyone. If you are affluent, or have a trusted dentist of long standing, just don't change anything. But if you don't have dental insurance, or have maxxed out your benefits, you might want to explore this interesting alternative.

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