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6 Ways To Lower Your Dental Costs

Do you avoid going to the dentist because you’re worried about dental costs? If so, you’re not alone.

One recent survey found that 22.9% of adults didn’t plan to see a dentist in the next year, with 40% of them saying it was because of their cost concerns. Unfortunately, avoiding the dentist isn’t the best way to save money on dental care. It actually may make your dental bills higher.

Here are six effective ways to keep your dental costs down.

1. Keep your oral hygiene in check

Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth doesn’t just keep your breath smelling fresh. A good, consistent oral hygiene routine can also help you prevent dental problems like cavities and gum disease.

For starters, it's recommended to brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Proper brushing takes about two minutes, so don’t rush it. Make sure you brush the inside, outside and chewing surface of each tooth.

Many people don't floss their teeth daily even though it's a vital part of your oral health. Flossing helps you clean between your teeth and under your gum line, so don't skip it. If you have trouble using regular floss, your dentist may recommend using an interdental cleaner.

2. Protect your teeth from costly damage

Fixing chipped, broken or cracked teeth can be expensive to fix. Fortunately, these costly injuries can often be prevented with some simple precautions:

  • Avoid chewing on hard objects that could damage your teeth: Ice, hard candy, and popcorn kernels are just a few examples.
  • Wear a well-fitting mouthguard if you play contact sports like hockey or football.

3. Don’t skip regular dental checkups

Dentists generally recommend two checkups each year. But it can be tempting to skip these routine appointments, especially when you’re trying to keep dental costs down. The American Dental association says that the average dental exam costs $44.10, and adults pay another $82.08 for a dental cleaning.

But these costs are well worth it: Your dentist may notice dental issues that you can't see or feel and treat them early on - whether it's finding a small cavity that hasn't become a nuisance quite yet, or spotting the early stages of gum disease.

When dental problems are treated early, they tend to be easier — and less expensive — to fix.

4. Talk to your dentist about costs and payment options

Talk to your dentist if you’re concerned about the costs of your dental treatment. Your dentist might have suggestions that could help lower your dental bill.

For example, you can ask about completing a dental procedure in phases if you need extensive treatment. In some cases, it may be possible to break the treatment down into a few stages, which might lower your upfront cost and allow you more time to budget for the rest of the treatment.

If your dentist recommends a treatment that is out of your price range, ask if there are any alternatives. Your dentist may be able to present multiple treatment options. Choosing a more affordable treatment option may help you budget for dental care.

5. Explore alternative options

Prices can vary significantly from one dentist to another, even in the same area. You may be able to save money if you shop around, so get estimates from several dentists in your area.

If you're financially strained, you can also look into a dental school clinic. The procedure fees are generally less expensive because dental students, rather than dentists, provide supervised dental treatments to patients.

6. Consider buying dental insurance

Whether you need a long-term dental plan or a temporary dental insurance option, dental insurance provides coverage for a variety of dental treatments to help you keep your out-of-pocket costs down while keeping your teeth healthy.

Dental insurance typically covers:

  • Preventive treatments such as routine checkups and cleanings
  • Basic procedures such as fillings, extractions, and root canals
  • Major procedures such as crowns or bridges

Though about 66.67% of Americans get dental insurance as a benefit through their jobs, you can still get an affordable dental insurance plan if you're unemployed, in between jobs or your employer doesn't offer it.

But before you start shopping around for a dental plan, it’s important to understand your options.

Dental preferred provider organizations (PPOs)

Dental preferred provider organizations (PPOs) are the most common type of dental insurance, representing 82% of dental policies. These plans provide a network of dentists who are contracted to provide reduced-cost services to eligible patients.

Dental PPO plans will generally cover the full cost of preventive care, but you may need to pay coinsurance for other types of services. For example, some plans may cover 80% of the cost of fillings, leaving you responsible for the other 20%. If you reach your plan’s annual maximum benefit, you’ll need to pay for the full cost of any additional treatments.

If you sign up for a PPO, you have the freedom to see dentists that aren’t in the network. But their fees may be higher than the fees you'd see at in-network dentists.

Dental health maintenance organizations (DMOs)

Dental health maintenance organizations (DMOs) only make up 8% of all dental policies, so they’re not as common as PPOs. This type of plan provides a network of dentists for you to choose from.

Dentists are pre-paid monthly for each patient assigned to them. So when you visit your dentist, he or she will provide the plan's contracted services at no cost or at a reduced cost, making it easier for you to budget for routine dental care. Since your primary dentist has been prepaid for your care, you won’t usually get any coverage if you decide to get treatment somewhere else. However, some DMOs offer reduced coverage for out-of-network dentists.

Dental indemnity plans

Dental indemnity plans, also known as traditional dental insurance, aren’t as common as they used to be because they tend to be more expensive than DMOs and PPOs. Still, they may be a good option for some people.

With indemnity plans, you'll generally pay upfront for dental services and then submit a claim to your insurance company. If the service is covered, the plan will reimburse a percentage of the cost of your treatment.

But unlike DMOs and PPOs, these plans don’t provide a network of dentists. This means you’re free to get treatment from any licensed dentist, which can be a major selling point for some people.

Don’t be tempted to do nothing

Avoiding the dentist and not buying dental insurance may be the most affordable option for you in the short term, but doing nothing may end up costing you a lot more in the long run.

For example, cavities may not hurt when they're small, so you may feel like you don’t need to go to the dentist. But untreated cavities only get bigger over time, causing symptoms like tooth sensitivity, toothaches, and other problems as they grow.

If you leave a cavity untreated, your dentist might recommend a crown to fix the issue. But a single porcelain crown costs an average of $1,026 - much more than the cost of the filling to treat the cavity when it was smaller.

Compare dental insurance plans

If you’re looking for affordable long-term or short-term dental insurance options, you don't have to go too far: You can compare plans through our site. Just enter your date of birth, gender and location to find and compare dental plans online.

If you find a plan that fits your needs and budget, you can apply online - which won't take big bite out of your time or wallet.

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Healthinsurance.com LLC is a commercial site designed for the solicitation of insurance from selected health insurance carriers. It is not an insurer, an insurance agency, or a medical provider. You may obtain a complete list of available Medicare plans by contacting 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week or consult www.medicare.gov.