Do you know the phrase, I’m so frustrated I want to pull my hair out? Well sometimes that phrase applies to dentistry. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Let’s face it, dentistry is expensive. Many people are in need of an affordable dentist.

And it doesn’t stop there.

How Patients Sometimes Feel

I’ve seen it all. When patients have an escalating amount of dental problems, the situation can be overwhelming. It’s taxing. Emotionally, physically, and financially.

The word is exhausted. That’s the state of mind. And it’s not unusual for new patients to come in and say.. Doc, I’m done. I just want all my teeth out.

Yes, that might be what they say. It may even be what they feel at that moment.

But is it what they really want?

Maybe they are just overwhelmed, at that moment. Maybe they are not thinking about what’s best for their future. Don’t be blinded.

Financial stress can play tricks on our minds. It can make us make silly decisions in the present. It can trick us into sacrificing our future. When patients feel that way, what they really should be thinking is how can I make this work best for me?

Maybe not all at once, but with a plan. After all, many people want a result that will be affordable and make them happy. There’s always a way for that.

Introduction to the Concept of an Affordable Dentist

Studies show that numerous people across the united states are in or have been in financial stress. And it’s not a minimum wage problem. It affects high earners too. One in four adults graduating college do not have enough income to cover their bills without help. That’s a significant amount of people with financial need.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to make paying for dentistry easier, and the concept of an affordable dentist.

The answer to finding an affordable dentist may surprise you. I’ll give you a hint. It depends less on the dentist and more on you. It’s all about how you can make dentistry work best for you.

The bottom line is we’ll discuss how to tackle the cost of dentistry to address your immediate needs, and how to position yourself for a better future.

Creating an Affordable Dentist in Your Future

Oral health is an investment. And for a moment I don’t want you to think in terms of a financial sense. I want you to think in terms of simple lifestyle habits.

What you eat, your habits, and your hygiene all may seem insignificant. But they all silently affect how much dentistry will cost you later.

Unfortunately, you can’t look back. But you can look forward.

Take the time to do an audit of things you can alter to live a healthier lifestyle. Your future health and your future wallet will thank you. The actions you take today in your daily lifestyle are the best investment you can make to your future health.

Tips for Maintaining Oral Health

Here’s some key points that can have a dramatic impact on how much dentistry you will require in the future:

  • How’s your hygiene? Brush twice daily for 2 minutes each time using a soft-bristle toothbrush and a toothpaste with fluoride. Get over the flossing resistance. It’s once a day for 30 seconds, but makes a huge improvement for your future.
  • Do you brush your tongue? Don’t forget it, it gets dirty too.
  • Do you nibble on things? Keep your hands out of your mouth, curb the nail-biting habit, and don’t tear things open with your teeth. You’re increasing risk of germs and the chance of fracturing your teeth.
  • How much are you drinking? Limit alcohol and increase water intake. Hydration is important for reducing the risk of tooth decay as well as thousands of other health issues.
  • Are you a smoker? If you are, you’re increasing numerous health risks and increasing your dental bills for the future. Check out this article for more information.
  • Are you keeping up with checkups? Stay current with your recommended 6 month dental visits so dental problems are caught when they are smaller (and less expensive).

Making Dentistry Affordable: Insurance and Timing

The National Association of Dental Plans reports that only 2.8% of people with PPO dental plans reach or exceeded their plans annual maximum. That means that more than 97% of people who have coverage are not using it.

That’s foolish. Here’s why.

Dental insurance benefits reset every year—they don’t roll over. So if you’re limited to a set amount of insurance benefits each year, why would you want to accumulate your dental work?

It’s wiser financially to correct issues when they arise, instead of stockpiling. That might work well for chipmunks storing nuts, but in dentistry, it maxes out your insurance. Ultimately, it costs more in the long run.

So what do you do?

If you’re recommended dental treatment try to complete it in the year it’s recommended. That’s how you maximize your benefits.

The key is to not stockpile dental issues. What you want to do is stockpile your insurance benefits so you have them available if something unexpected arises.

For more information on the ins and outs of dental insurance check out another post: the ultimate guide to dental insurance.

Pace Yourself to Create an Affordable Dentist

setting a good pace makes for an affordable dentist

But what if you have so much dental work that needs to be completed relatively urgently? You’re overwhelmed, frustrated, and feeling lost. What do you do then?

You pace yourself the best you can.

Most people expect more out of the next year than they expect out of the next decade. It doesn’t have to be that way. Just go at a pace that tackles the most critical concerns first. Then when you’re ready, do a little more. And a little more.

The key is to be committed to a plan, and just keep chipping away at it over time. You’ll be amazed at how less overwhelmed you feel once you check a few issues off your list.

Financing Options at the Dentist

Most people don’t pay cash upfront for big investments like a house or a car. Heck, people don’t even pay upfront for their cell phones anymore. It seems everything is a monthly payment nowadays.

A large amount of dental work is no different. You can either pay for it as you go, or you can apply for a financing plan and pay monthly. There are financing options available at most dental offices. So use them! Here are some options that are available to you:

  • Dental financing (most common are Care Credit and Lending Club)
  • Personal credit cards
  • Small personal loan
  • Home equity loan

As you can see, you have options and opportunities to break up that large dollar amount into lower payments.

Dental Savings Plans (eg. In-office Discount plans, Carefree Dental Card, or Cigna Dental Discount Plan)

dental savings plans like Carefree Dental, or Cigna Dental Discount Plan can make an affordable dentist

A dental savings plan is an option at some dental offices. These discount plans aren’t dental insurance. Think of them like a membership, similar to a warehouse club. By joining the membership, you get discounted prices on dental services at participating dental practices.

With dental savings plans, the patient pays an annual fee upfront to join the program. That earns them a dental discount card, which then can be used at participating dentists to reduce the fees on dental services. It’s important to understand that the dental savings plan does not provide any payment of benefits for services like dental insurance. You pay the dentist directly but at a reduced cost.

Some dental practices have established their own in-office dental discount plans. Each office has its own requirements and benefits of the program. There are also third party dental savings plans which can be used at their network of participating offices. Some of the most common are the Carefree Dental Card and Cigna Dental Discount Plan.

Uncle Sam is a Pretty Affordable Dentist

At this point in time, mostly everyone has some sort of health insurance—not dental insurance, but health insurance. Some of the benefits of your health insurance can be applied to dental treatment.

You know that HSA (health savings account) and FSA (flexible spending account) you may have seen on your health insurance application? Both of those options can be used for dental care as well as medical care.

You have to add to these accounts from your paystub, but the benefits can be wonderful. When you pay with money from your HSA or FSA, you reduce your income tax obligation, essentially getting a 15-38% discount on your dentistry depending on your tax bracket.

Check you Local Health Departments for Low-Cost and Free Dentistry Options

The Bureau of Primary Health Care, a service of the Health Resources and Services Administration (1-888-Ask-HRSA), supports federally-funded community health centers across the country that provide free or reduced-cost health services, including dental care.

There are numerous other non-profit organizations that may help coordinate care in your area.

If you are a military veteran, first and foremost, thank you for your service. Many VA hospitals have dental facilities that can provide dental services at a reduced cost. Check out this link to find a VA hospital near you.

Dental Schools

dental schools are a cheaper option for an affordable dentist

Dental schools  (American Dental Association) can be a good source of quality, reduced-cost dental treatment. Most of these teaching facilities have clinics that allow dental students to gain experience treating patients while providing care at a reduced cost. Experienced, licensed dentists closely supervise the students. Post-graduate and faculty clinics are also available at most schools.

Dental hygiene schools  (American Dental Hygienists’ Association) may also offer supervised, low-cost preventive dental care as part of the training experience for dental hygienists.

Check out Wikipedia for the most current list of dental schools. Pick the ones closest to you and see if they are accepting patients.

Clinical Trials

The National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) sometimes seeks volunteers with specific dental, oral, and craniofacial conditions to participate in research studies, also known as clinical trials. Researchers may provide study participants with limited free or low-cost dental treatment for the particular condition they are studying. To find out if there are any NIDCR clinical trials that you might fit into, go to “NIDCR Studies Seeking Patients.” For a complete list of all federally funded clinical trials, visit ClinicalTrials.gov.

State and Local Resources

Your state or local health department may know of programs in your area that offer free or reduced-cost dental care. Call your local or state health department to learn more about their financial assistance programs.

United Way

The United Way may be able to direct you to free or reduced-cost dental services in your community. Look for local United Way chapters on the United Way website.

Medicare,  Medicaid, CHIP 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers three important federally-funded programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

  • Medicare is a health insurance program for people who are 65 years and older or for people with specific disabilities. Medicare dental coverage is limited; it does not cover most routine dental care or dentures.
  • Medicaid is a state-run program that provides medical benefits, and in some cases dental benefits, to eligible individuals and families. States set their own guidelines regarding who is eligible and what services are covered. Most states provide limited emergency dental services for people age 21 or over, while some offer comprehensive services. For most individuals under the age of 21, dental services are provided under Medicaid.
  • CHIP helps children up to age 19 who are without health insurance. CHIP provides medical coverage and, in most casesdental services to children who qualify. Dental services covered under this program vary from state to state.

CMS (1-800-MEDICARE) can provide detailed information about each of these programs and refer you to state programs where applicable.

Creating the Ultimate Affordable Dentist

So there you have it, every tool I can possibly think of to help you create the most affordable dentist.

And so I will leave you with this. You are more capable than you can imagine. We all go through life with barriers and hurdles to cross. Although those challenges may be very powerful in the present, they don’t have to remain in your future.

It’s all about planning. It’s all about the long term. And, it’s all about you believing you deserve it. If you’ve read this far, I’m confident.

If you can’t find the way, you’ll make the way. I believe in you.