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7 Ways To Save Money On Dental Care & Bills.

Go more often. There, that’s my advice to you. Now go to the dentist! OK, I am only partially kidding — but going more often can certainly save you a ton of money in dental expenses because your dentist can usually catch problem spots before they become even bigger issues! That was my dentists’ biggest piece of advice to me yesterday after getting a cleaning, because it had been a while since I had gone. Turns out that I have 3 pretty major problems that need to be taken care of ASAP, for two reasons:

1. The teeth in question could be permanently ruined any day now.
2. I grind my teeth at night, which is wearing down both the enamel and a few fillings I have.
3. My insurance runs out at the end of the month.

As an aside – Yes, #3 is the truth. Because of a situation here on the home front that I will get into in another post sometime soon, I am losing my health, dental and eye insurance as of the beginning of October. And because I am self-employed AND have a serious pre-existing condition, I cannot qualify for private health insurance. I also make too much money to go on any state plans for lower-income folks. So as of another week or so, I will be added to the ranks of the 40+ million people in the United States who don’t have insurance. It’s not that I am not willing to pay for it or I want a handout; but rather our system is so broken that I cannot get insured again without getting a “real job” which I am unwilling to do. I hope we can get real reform in this country done in the next couple of months so that people like me, who are un-insurable under the current system, will have a chance to buy reasonably priced coverage for themselves. But I digress…

So, back to trying to save some money on dental bills. After spending some time talking to my dentist about my current home/insurance scenario, I came right home and wrote up what I could remember from our conversation – and maybe some of the tips below can help you next time you get a shock at the dental office.

Dental Xray

Tip #1, as I mentioned above, is to go to the dentist more often. If you have insurance that pays for regular checkups/cleanings/x-rays, you are paying the dental premium anyway so you might as well take advantage of it.

Tip #2 is to always do the more expensive/necessary procedures first. This might sound counter-intuitive, but expensive problems only become more expensive the longer you wait. I am getting a crown on one of my teeth tomorrow because that is the on the top of the list of things that can get much worse if I wait longer, which will only cost me more somewhere down the line.

Tip #3 is to ask for a change in diagnosis. See if your dentist can call a procedure something else in order to get it covered by insurance. Those who think the system is broken and absurd probably will try to help you out the best as they can.

Tip #4 is to ask for a discount. If you don’t have insurance and are paying 100% out of pocket, as your dentist if they can offer you a discount of at least down to the rate that the insurance company has agreed to pay them. More often than not they will do it.

Tip #5 is to ask for a payment plan. Sure, it won’t save you any money on the actual procedures, but it sure beats putting the entire thing on a credit card and paying interest on your dental work! I have done this before on big medical expenses, so I imagine most dentists will let you at least pay over 2 or 3 months.

Tip #6 is to look for a second opinion. I trust our dentist, so I won’t be looking. But if you don’t, or think he may be coming up with procedures you don’t really need, ask another dentist what they think. You will have to pay for the visit out of pocket, but a 1 time visit that confirms your suspicion costs a lot less than having an unnecessary procedure.

Tip #7 is again – go to the dentist at least twice a year. This is the single most important thing you can do for your dental health, as the sooner they catch any problems the cheaper they will be to fix.

So, this is what I have learned yesterday at my cleaning…until I go in tomorrow for my crown and a few other little things. I am sure it will be a good time! Do you have any words of advice for saving money on dental care? If so, I am sure we would all love to hear them!

Photo from Shutterstock

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Comments (9)

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  1. Miranda says:

    We pay out of pocket (10% cash discount at my dentist) because we take good care of our teeth, and private dental insurance is more expensive than paying out of pocket, by the time we pay premiums, plus our portion of the procedures. It’s annoying.

    Also, good luck with your situation. I bet it’s terribly frustrating to not be able to get the care you need at an affordable price. I agree that we need reform. And we need a public OPTION since the insurance companies are unwilling to make good profits instead of obscene profits.

  2. Craig says:

    Find a dentist you like and trust and stick to them. If you take care of yourself and your teeth you really don’t need to go more than max twice a year unless something drastic comes up which will keep costs down.

  3. Jesse says:

    The biggest problem is probably going often. I havent been in years! These tips also work if you are uninsured. Great info

  4. David says:

    I would particularly agree with the part about getting a second opinion. It seems like dentists have recently gotten into the game of “over-diagnosing” so to speak. Telling you that you need $1000 worth of work done when only a fraction of that is truly necessary.

    Unless you’ve known your dentist for years, I would get a second opinion before having any major work done.

  5. AA says:

    Don’t go to a dentist that does all the work themself. Go to an office that has in house specialists or will refer you to a specialist when needed.

    While most dentists can perform basic procedures (like root canals, etc), if they are not as familiar with a particular procedure, they may miss something and you’ll need to go back for more and more work.

    Definitely get second opinions! Ask friends and co-workers about their dentist. If you’re in a small town, try a dentist is the next town over.

    Create an emergency fund just for dental visits. Most insurers put a cap on the amount they will pay for the year and one procedure can pretty much wipe you out.

  6. Debbie M says:

    You forgot about the cheap obvious ones.

    Brush!

    Floss!

    Eat less sugar! (And brush or at least rinse your mouth out after you do eat sugar.)

    I try to remind myself that I never know when my insurance is about to disappear. It’s easy to tell yourself that you have insurance and can do things any time, but getting in the habit of keeping up with check-ups leaves you in better shape if you do find yourself going without for a while.

    Best of luck with your procedures.

  7. I disagree that going to the dentist very often is cost effective — especially if you don’t have dental insurance. I haven’t had dental insurance in almost 5 years and have been going about once per year for a cleaning and checkup. I think this is a good compromise between paying too much and missing something big.

    The other problem I run into is that my dentist typically wants to do an X-ray set once a year, at a cost of about $200. I usually ask them if they can wait until my next visit.

  8. David says:

    Getting a regular cleaning, for most people, is the best way to reduce bigger expenses down the line. No one should be going more than once or twice a year, as you mentioned.

  9. Susan says:

    An alternative would be to get a dental plan and save money at the dentist that way.

    Use coupon code: PLAN10 at DentalPlans.com for 10% off any plan.

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