Dental care is, to many, one of the necessary evils in life. Even if going to the dentist doesn’t bother you, the price of dental work can be more than you can reasonably afford if you are getting more than the basics done. And dental insurance is not always easily accessible for everyone, either.
But dental care to help you have a healthy mouth is one of those six of one, half a dozen of the other scenarios. If you put off dental work to save money and don’t get regular cleanings and check-ups, you may end up putting in the same amount of money or more to fix serious problems that can’t be ignored.
Don’t give up hope though. You can still save your teeth without losing an arm and a leg along the way! Here are 9 easy ways that you can save money on the dental work you need.
9 Ways to Save Money at the Dentist
- Prevention is key. Cleaning costs can add up over time, but it will take a lot of cleanings to add up to the expense of one root canal or a tooth extraction that could have been avoided with preventative measures. Experts recommend at least every six months for regular cleanings, but each person’s teeth are different, so yours may require more frequent visits.
- Keep up at home maintenance. Brushing and flossing at home are the best things you can do to save money at the dentist. With the regular preventative care that includes the right toothpaste, a healthy diet, and daily flossing, your dental visits will be cheaper because you will be preventing cavities.
Your diet is important to keep your teeth healthy, too. Drink lots of water and milk. Green tea and black tea keep the bacteria from growing in your mouth, so a glass a day is an alternative to coffee and other beverages.
Eat lean proteins that contain vitamin B. Fill your plate up with leafy greens like kale and spinach and crunchy fruits like apples and carrots, too.
Cheese and dairy are also excellent foods that help keep your teeth in shape because they are full of protein. Fruits like oranges and strawberries are rich in vitamin C, which helps. Skimp on the gum, though, unless it is sugar-free.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for discounted rates. Many providers offer cash rates at a discount from what they charge to insurance companies. If you pay cash upfront, you could receive anywhere from a 20% to a 50% discount, depending on the dentist’s office. Many dentists offer family discounts if they treat everyone in your household, as well.
- Check out the local dental school. Some dental schools, like beauty schools, offer free or inexpensive cleanings to the public so that its students can perform supervised hands-on practice. Their supervisors are licensed dentists, so you would be getting high-quality work. The downside of this is that your dental care may take longer because the student is learning and is expected to go slowly and thoroughly.
- Consider financing plans. Dental offices that provide regular high-priced care such as root canals or orthodontics may have their own finance plans. These are often low-interest or no-interest since they don’t have the extra overhead of going through a separate company. However, missed payments may cause a rise in your interest rate.
- Look at dental insurance plans. There are many dental plans out there offered commercially that can be purchased side-by-side with your health insurance or as a standalone plan. Even those who are on Medicare can obtain dental coverage outside of their policy. With just a little bit of research, you can learn about Medicare insurance and how you may qualify for dental policies.
- Utilize those flexible spending dollars. Some employers, especially larger companies, offer flexible spending accounts. This is where you fund an account with pretax dollars and that money accrues until you need it to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- Ask your dentist for a treatment plan in writing. With a treatment plan, you can see the costs that you will need to prepare for over the next year. Then you can discuss options with your dentist or orthodontist to see if there are any other ways to save money. A treatment plan also helps you prepare your FSA for the next year so you don’t overfund it and lose money, or underfund it and have to scramble for the extra cash.
- Carefully time your elective procedures based on your insurance or FSA. Most dental plans have a time stipulation in place so that you can’t purchase a policy just because you know you need a root canal the next month, then cancel it right after your dental work is completed.
Dental policies and FSAs also have maximum payouts. For dental plans, it is usually $1,000, and for FSAs it is $2,500 for the year. Many expensive dental procedures will cost more than these max limits.
For procedures that require multiple steps, see if you can space them out over several months. Time the procedure to occur at the end of the year, then have the next step of it completed after your benefits reset at the beginning of the year.
Don’t Let the Cost Keep You From Your Dental Care
You only have to brush and floss the teeth you want to keep, and preventative dental care and maintenance will help you keep those teeth as long as possible.
As we age, our teeth are part of our body that naturally deteriorate and it is easy to forget about them until there is a problem. But by that time, that once inexpensive and easy cavity may now be a pricey, painful, and difficult root canal or extraction, or worse.
Keep these 9 ways to save money on dental care in mind as you plan your health budget, and remember that the cheapest way to take care of your teeth is often simply to keep them regularly maintained!