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.
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!
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