Ways to Save on Dental Costs

Because dental care is not always included in health insurance policies, many people find themselves without dental coverage when it counts.

The Affordable Care Act does not require adult oral health services to be covered, but it does require individual and small group market plans to cover pediatric dental services. Senior citizens frequently face big dental bills because traditional Medicare does not include dental care. Even routine cleanings and x-rays can cost a lot, especially when several family members need dental work at the same time. Fortunately, there are many innovative ways to save a significant amount on dental health procedures. Review the following sections to get ideas on how to start saving money on your dental costs today!

Consider Buying Dental Insurance or a Discount Plan

If you have dental insurance through your employer, consider yourself lucky. It can be difficult to find an affordable individual or family dental insurance policy. Some financial institutions, such as USAA, offer a dental insurance benefit program. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers both dental insurance plans and dental discount plans to senior citizens.

Dental discount plans can be a good alternative to dental insurance. You can find these plans for every age group and they are much easier to join than traditional dental insurance programs. To obtain a dental discount plan, simply apply and pay the annual fee. Use the dentists on the plan’s network and show your card at the time of service. These dentists agree to offer a discount to cardholders, which can greatly reduce the amount of money you must pay out of pocket. Make sure you call first to make sure the network dentists are accepting new patients before you pay for the membership.

After joining a dental discount plan, call around to find the best price for the services you need. Dental work pricing can vary greatly between dentists, enough to make a serious impact on your health spending budget.

Invest in Preventive Care

Taking good care of your teeth is a vital task, and it is particularly important for those who lack dental insurance. Brushing and flossing twice daily and eating healthy foods can keep you from needing major dental work. Try to save money for a professional dental cleaning at least once a year, although every six months is better. These regular checkups can help uncover minor problems before they turn into major issues. Adults tend to experience more problems with their teeth as they age, so the older you are, the more important it is to have regular dental checkups.

As explained below, many dentists will discount their fees if they know you are a cash-paying customer. This applies to routine cleanings and checkups as well as more complicated dental work. Note that good dental hygiene provides benefits that extend beyond your mouth. Inflammation from tooth infections can spread throughout the bloodstream, causing heart problems including strokes and blood vessel damage. Brushing, flossing, switching out your toothbrush regularly, and cutting back on sugary drinks can help lower the number of bacteria in your mouth and improve your overall health.

Visit a Dental School

Allowing dental students access to your teeth can help you save hundreds of dollars on dental care each year. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) offers a list of accredited dental and dental-related education programs in the United States and Canada that offer free or deeply discounted services performed under the close watch of instructors. Some states only have a few programs, while others have dozens of accredited dental schools.

You may search CODA for locations by state, or by the program type. CODA provides links to many dental specialty programs in addition to general dentistry and dental hygiene. These include endodontics, oral surgery, maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics and pediatric dentistry. Note that procedures received at a dental school can take much longer than services issued at a regular dentist’s office. This is because students are expected to take their time and may have to re-clean certain teeth after the instructor’s inspection of their work. If you have the time, this can be a great way to get a thorough cleaning for very little money.

Use Flexible Spending Account Dollars

Many employers offer flexible spending accounts (FSAs) that allow you to pay for medical expenses with pretax dollars. You can set aside up to $2,500 in an FSA to use throughout the year on doctor and dentist visits, procedures and medications. FSA dollars are available for use when you need them, which means that you can often have dental work done right away instead of having to save up or ask for a payment plan.

Ask for Discounts, Payment Plans or Financing

Many dentists offer discounts for paying in cash, so it never hurts to ask for one. Promise to pay in full at the time the service is rendered and follow through. By paying with cash, you save your dentist the hassle involved with insurance billing. If you know you cannot pay in full at the time of the service, do not be afraid to ask for a payment plan or financing. Although many dentists will not accept payment plans, some will—particularly if you have been a patient for several years. Many dentists also offer financing plans that have little or no interest and spread your payments over 12 to 20 months.

Plan and Budget for Dental Work

If you need a root canal, crown or other expensive dental work, ask your dentist to time the procedures so that you can maximize your FSA funds or any dental coverage benefits you may have. Since FSA accounts usually renew every January, it can make sense to schedule procedures then. If you do not have an FSA or dental insurance, you can still ask your dentist to allow some time for you to save up money between procedures, or between one procedure’s steps. Ask for your treatment plan in writing so that you can know which costs to expect when. Dentists are usually happy to help you by recommending temporary fixes that will get you through until you can have the main work done.

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