The bill from a filling appointment can be hard to swallow, but never a reason to delay this necessary dental work. In some cases (think root canals or abscesses), ignoring these issues can cause infection that may make you extremely ill.
Luckily, even if you're short on cash, there are options for affordable dentistry. From health plans, to subsidies to a little old-fashioned negotiation, you and your family can get the care – both emergency and preventative – that ensures a healthy smile on any budget. Here are five ways to lower the cost of dental work so it's more manageable.
1. Look over Your Health Insurance
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance plans are required to offer children's preventative dental care as part of the package. Although you may pay more to add dental insurance, it is possible to receive subsidies based on your income to help pay for higher premiums.
Unfortunately, insurance plans are not required to offer special coverage for adult dental care. Medicaid and Medicare can each support some of the costs by subsidizing hospital-based emergencies, but on a limited basis. Visit the Medicare website for more information and to see if you qualify for this financial assistance.
2. Visit a Dental School
Because dental students need practice, their institutions are always looking for patients who are due for basic care. Supervised by experienced dentists, dental students can offer a number of dental services at a cost that is much lower than a traditional office. You may miss out on the personal attention and the experience your usual dentist offers, but dentistry schools still provide the same services for up to half of what you'd pay at a dental office. Just make sure you choose an accredited dental school and visit a dentist-in-training for uncomplicated procedures.
3. Join a Discount Network Membership
If you can't qualify for dental insurance, or the available policy is simply too expensive, affordable dentistry may also be available through a sign-up for discount network membership. These companies broker deals for discounts with dentists, so you'll pay a small membership fee (usually $50 to $100 per year) in order to receive 10 to 60 percent off numerous dental services. It's a low-cost alternative to traditional insurance, and can reap big savings for when you need to book more advanced procedures. Always read reviews, however, as there are many discount membership networks to choose from.
4. Visit a Daily Deal Site
Dentists are always looking for ways to increase business, so they often turn to daily deal sites to help raise awareness. Using platforms like Groupon or Living Social, dentists will offer a small menu of services for steep discounts in the hopes that those who purchase these services will become lifelong patients. Keep an eye out for deals on things like cleanings, X-rays and even teeth-whitening appointments when pursuing more affordable dentistry.
5. Negotiate a Better Price
A little haggling doesn't hurt, especially when it comes to dental services. When insurance companies pay dentists after a claim, insurance often pays only a fraction of the original cost. Dentists accept the lower amount because they know insurance companies pay the full amount quickly, which reduces the practice's overhead. If you're willing to pay upfront or in larger installments, dentists are often willing to discount your services accordingly. They may even help you receive prescription-only products, such as Colgate® PreviDent® 5000 Booster Plus toothpaste, at a lower price. Ask the accountant if there are any discounts available for individuals who aren't insured, and you may be able to come to a reasonable agreement.
Dental work can take a bite out of your budget, but that doesn't mean you should ignore the idea altogether. Getting dental work when you need it and ensuring your family gets preventative care can mean saving on major work down the road. In dentistry, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so get creative and find ways to lower the cost of necessary services to keep your entire family smiling.