Dentist Deals: 5 Ways to Save Money on Dental Care

Dental health involves more than whitening teeth or being proud of your smile. Allowing your teeth and gums to deteriorate can lead to other serious health problems. Poor teeth diminish your ability to get sufficient nutrition. Studies have even suggested a connection between chronic gum infections and a heart attack danger. Below are some avenues for you to save money on dental care.

College and Community Clinics

Under faculty supervision, student dentists can offer dental care such as teeth cleaning, exams, implants, root canals, cavity fillings and dentures. These are teaching facilities for students to gain practical experience in hygiene, preventative care and treating certain conditions. Dental school clinics cost on average 30 to 40 percent less than private dental practices. Depending on the clinic, wait times last longer.

Community clinics and local health departments also afford low-cost dental care. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations fund many of these clinics. Dentists also hold fairs or sessions at which they provide free hygiene and screening.

Dental Insurance

Employer-provided dental insurance plans typically cover up to 80 percent of basic services and one-half of the cost of crowns and other major procedures. Deductibles generally run $50 to $100 per year, with certain plans imposing an annual cap of $1,000 to $1,500 for benefits.

Obtaining coverage through work costs less than individual plans. Employer-sponsored plans are group plans, where the cost is spread throughout greater numbers of covered people. Further, the employers usually foot at least half of the premiums. Buying private dental insurance on your own keeps you away from the savings of group plans. You can also reduce premiums for dental insurance by opting for higher deductibles or co-payments.

DHMOs and Pools

For between $200 and $300 per year on average, you can participate in a dental health maintenance organization (DHMO). Some employers may enroll their employees in these plans. As a member of the DHMO, you receive two dental cleanings and exams per year, along with discounted or small charges for crowns, fillings, root canals and similar services. Dentists focus on preventative care for patients to head off the need for more costly treatments. With the potential savings, though, comes less choices. In a DHMO, your primary dentist must come from the DHMO’s approved provider list.

As an alternative to a DHMO, you might consider joining a dental buying club or savings program. In this approach, or pool, you pay an annual fee of $80 to $200, depending on the program. With membership, you can access a network of dentists who offer discounts. The savings generally range from 20 to 60 percent. Approximately six out of ten dentists participate in such a network.

Shopping for Care

Place your skills for finding deals into selecting dentists. You might shop around and look at dental clinics like Hayward Dental Clinic and see if you can find the right dentist for the right price. Orthodontic care in particular can run thousands of dollars and insurance normally does not cover these services. To find as affordable as possible braces and other non-covered care, consult FAIR Health. Here, you can search by zip code, specialty or type of practice to find estimates of charges for various services. The Healthcare Bluebook also lists dental rates. Armed with this information, you might discuss discounts with dentists or question whether the charges you’re quoted are in line with or deviate significantly from prevailing rates in the community.

Sound Dental Habits

Obviously, taking good care of your teeth can preserve your dental and fiscal health and safe you money on care. Spend two minutes, twice a day, on brushing with a soft-bristle manual or electric toothbrush. Floss regularly, especially before bed. Soft drinks and beverages with lemon and lime could weaken teeth and erode enamel. Instead, drink plain water. Sugar foods, drinks and candies raise the likelihood of cavities. Popcorn kernels, chewing on hard candy and nail biting contribute to chipped teeth and misalignment (and the need for braces).

A combination of good oral hygiene and finding low-cost resources for dental insurance and services can lower your dentist bills. With these tips, you can keep your mouth and the rest of your body from significant health challenges.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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