Smiles aren't cheap -- people find that out quickly when they don't have dental insurance. According to a 2011 survey funded by Brighter.com, 50 percent of Americans are without dental insurance, and 77 percent of those delay their regular dental care. However, no dental insurance is not a good excuse to skip seeing your dentist, which may result in costly damage to your teeth and health in the long run.
Coupons and Promotions
Look for coupons or watch for promotions from local dentists offering a free initial visit and screening to new customers. This visit generally includes a full set of x-rays and an evaluation. The dentist will provide you details about the dental care that is most urgent and which items can wait. Discuss low-cost treatment options with your dentist and work together to come up with a treatment plan you can afford. Sign up to receive emails from online deal sites like www.groupon.com, www.eversave.com or www.socialiving.com, as they sometimes offer promotions on dental services.
Colleges and universities offering dental programs generally offer affordable dental services to the community. While the services may be limited and the work is performed by students, you can still expect high-quality care that is supervised by professionals. Look for dental hygiene programs for affordable cleaning and full-scale dental schools offering a wider range of services -- possibly even major services like braces or implants.
Community Dental Services
Contact community resource agencies, your state's dental association or your health department to inquire about the availability of affordable dental services -- just because you haven't heard of them doesn't mean there aren't options in your area. These organizations can direct you to providers in your area that offer free dental services to children or offer dental care on a sliding-scale fee basis to the general public.
Call local dentists and ask them how much they charge for certain services, such as an exam, cleaning or the fee schedule for fillings. Dentists vary in how much they charge for services, and you can save money by comparing prices. Inquire if there is a discount for self-pay accounts, or a discount for paying for services up front. Also ask dentists if they offer a flexible payment plan or financing. If you have to finance your dental services, choose the dentist that offers the most affordable repayment terms.
Dental Discount Program
Join a dental discount program; you can find one at www.dentalplans.com. These plans are cost-saving alternatives to dental insurance. For the cost of a membership, members can use participating dentists and pay discounted rates for most services. There are many programs available to choose from; select one that has providers in your area or the one your preferred dentist participates in. While the plan may not reduce your dental expenses the way insurance does, these discount plans are easier to get than dental insurance and cost considerably less.
- The Richmond Institute: Survey Report-The Richmond Institute for Continuing Dental Education
- Brighter.com: 2011 Survey of Dental Care Affordability & Accessibility-Highlights from the National Representative Survey
- Coalition of Community Health Clinics: Dental Resources
- Money Crashers: How to Get Affordable Dental Care Without Insurance
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: Finding Low-Cost Dental Care
- True Choice Benefits: Arizona Health Guide-Resources for the Uninsured
- Smile Florida: Project Dentists Care-2012 Access to Care Resource Guide
- Forbes: Dental Discount Plans Beat Insurance
Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.