The drills and picks aren’t always the scariest part of going to the dentist. Sometimes the bill that comes afterwards can be even more terrifying. If money is holding you back from getting the dental care you need, don’t worry. We’ve got five tips on how to maintain a happy mouth without breaking the bank.
1. Don't ignore a problem
Toothache keeping you up at night? Feel a suspicious hole where a filling might have fallen out? Can't eat ice cream because of that way-too-sensitive tooth? It's time to make an appointment. You may begrudge the money today, but it could cost a lot more in the future if the damage gets worse. The $93 it would cost to treat a small cavity can easily balloon into over $1,000 for a root canal. It hurts just thinking about it!
2. Go to a dental school clinic
You can make significant cuts in your bill if you visit a dental school instead of a private practice — get rates as low as a third of what you'd pay elsewhere. Look up the accredited dental schools in your area with this handy list from the ADA. To check if a particular school offers dental services to the public, look on its website for a section titled "Patients" or "Clinic."
3. Consider a discount plan
An alternative to insurance, a discount plan can be a great way to save money on your dental expenses. You can check fees ahead of time, helping you budget for your visit. In particular, you may see significant savings on non-routine treatments like fillings, root canals and extractions. Another advantage is that discount plans can offer reduced prices on a range of cosmetic procedures that many insurance plans don't cover.
4. Step up your brushing game
The best way to save money is to avoid decay and disease altogether. Follow these tips to make sure you're brushing correctly, and don't forget to floss! Want to see how you're faring in the battle against bacteria? Use plaque-disclosing tablets to check. (You'll save if you buy them in bulk online.)
5. Use pretax dollars
If you've got a health savings account (HSA), health care flexible spending account (FSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA), it's a good idea to rely on this money for dental expenses. Not only will you lower your tax liability, you'll also be able to cover a broad range of preventive and restorative treatments, including cleanings, x-rays and extractions. The savings can really add up if you have a particularly pricy procedure coming up — think implants, braces and wisdom tooth removal. There's one major exception though. If you've been thinking of brightening your smile, you'll have to fund it another way. The IRS explicitly excludes teeth whitening.