If you thought skipping your six-monthly dental check-ups was a good way to save, think again. Having minor dental issues picked up and attended to in time prevents them from becoming major (and expensive) issues. As for leaving major problems untreated, the pain and suffering alone should be enough to put you off trying that. But what should you do if you want to save dollars on dentistry?
From daily habits that protect your teeth to cheap or free dental services, we look at the ways you can keep your smile sparkling and your wallet as healthy as your teeth.
In this guide...
First, Take Responsibility for Your Teeth
The cheapest dental care you can get is that which you do yourself. Acquire these habits is you don’t already have them, and avoid these errors if you want to prevent dental emergencies:
1. Brush and Floss
Yes, yes. We know we should brush twice a day and floss at least once, but a lot of people don’t. Flossing seems to be the most unpopular part of daily dental hygiene with many people choosing to skip this important step. Don’t let this be you.
2. Cut Down on Sugary Foods
Here’s another one you already know about. If you do eat sugary foods, brush your teeth soon after eating them. All that sugar feeds the bacteria that causes plaque, tartar and tooth decay.
3. Teeth Are NOT Tools
Use your teeth for what they were meant for: eating. Ripping open packaging with teeth, for example, can break them.
4. Beware of Crunchy and Chewy Foods
Hard crackling, ice, and chewy toffees pull out fillings, crack crowns and chip or crack teeth. Be mindful of what you eat and how you eat it.
5. Keep Your Teeth White
Stained teeth look horrible. Coffee, red wine and cigarettes are major culprits. Of course, telling some of us to quit coffee is a waste of time, so try these tricks for keeping your teeth white at home.
6. Never Skip a Checkup
A minor filling is way better than a root canal or an extraction. Regular checkups may pick up minor issues, but you don’t want to wait for them to get worse.
Consider the Pros and Cons of Insurance
7. Check Out Regular Insurance Plans
If there’s extensive dental treatment on the horizon or you often find yourself struggling to find the money for dental treatment, insurance may just be the best bet. Compare what you would pay per year on average with and without insurance to determine whether it will help you to save or not.
8. Look Out for Discount Dental Plans
These plans don’t cover your dental expenses, but they do get you a discount at participating dentists. Compare your fees with your projected savings to see whether your subscription will help you to save money.
9. Check Out Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and Veterans’ Benefits Options
Veterans’ benefits will certainly take care of dental problems arising from the time they were in service, but you may also be able to get insurance at a reduced cost. If you’re eligible for Medicare, you should also find out if there is an Advantage Plan available in your area. Kids are usually covered by Medicaid if you qualify, but CHIP also offers low cost insurance for kids from qualifying families. Find out what’s available in your state.
10. Use Tax-Free Dollars with an HSA
A Health Savings Account (HSA) lets you save up dollars for medical expenses before they’re taxed. To get one, you will need a high-deductible health plan. Estimate your dental and medical costs, and put the money away every month to save on tax.
See If You Can Negotiate with Your Regular Dentist
Being frank with your dentist about just how much those charges re going to hurt you could secure you a better deal. Although much of the cost of dentistry goes into materials rather than your dentist’s time, he or she might be able to soften fees a little.
11. Offer to Pay Upfront
If you don’t have insurance, you may have to pay small installments upfront before you can have your dental work done. Some dentists will be willing to give you a discount for this because their admin staff doesn’t have to go through the process of processing insurance claims.
12. Find Out If There’s Anything You Can Do to Get a Better Rate
There’s no harm in asking, and your dentist may have off-peak times or cash payment discounts available. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
Find Cheap or Free Dentists
13. American Dental Association Dental Schools
Before you balk at the idea of letting a student loose on your teeth, remember that experienced dentists do oversee what students are doing. Prices will be very low indeed. Chances are you’re just covering the cost of materials.
14. Participate in Clinical Trials
The National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research conduct studies to investigate new treatment methods. These will already have passed in animal trials, so it’s not as risky as it may sound. Visit their recruitment page to see whether you can sign up.
15. Get Free or Discounted Care for Low Income Households
If your income is already low, dental care can be a big worry, but there are several ways to get cheap or free help.
- HRSA health centers in your area will provide free or discounted care.
- You can contact your state or local health department to find out about cheap or free clinics in your area.
- If you are elderly or disabled, the Dental Lifeline Network may be able to help you with free care.
- Living in the back of beyond? The Remote Area Medical program could be helpful.
- If you’re a member of a recognized native American tribe, check out the Indian Health Service for free dental care.
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