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Six Ways To Lower The Cost Of Your Dental Treatment

Flickr Image At: Chad Nicholson

Recently, an American study revealed  that over thirteen percent of adults were likely to skip visiting the dentist altogether due to the cost of treatment. Although participants said that they needed health care, some had quite severe dental issues, the cost of dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, and root canals were far too expensive. Even private dental patients are struggling, with many procedures falling under the term ‘coininsurance’, which means the patient shares the cost of the service they're supposed to be covered by.

However, skipping your yearly check up now can lead to problems later, not to mention bad dental health has many links to other health issues such as headaches, nausea, bad breath, and jaw pain. Without emptying your bank account, foregoing other health insurance and chewing only on the left side of your mouth is there anything practical you can do to make sure that you get the best deal?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes! From shopping around, to making monthly payments and even negotiating the final amount. If you’re a private patient, rather than one without insurance a good private dentist should be willing to work with patients, prioritise urgent care first and only bill them for treatment carried out at the individual appointment. Dental treatment, like other health care, needs to be affordable, work properly and be accessible to everyone but don’t panic because here’s how you can lower those costs.

Shop Around

No one says that you have to stay with one dental provider your entire life and if you feel like you’re not getting the best service then leave. Why not ask friends, family or work colleagues which dentist they visit? Check out a local forum or even pop into the dentist's office and see how friendly, organised and patient orientated they are. Some dentists will have a fixed price point for all customers, but others tend to operate on a sliding scale depending on the type of insurance that you have. If you feel nervous, or worried about costs, do speak to your dentist as they may be able to suggest a payment plan or a way for you to bank treatment so when you do have the money you can pay for say two treatments in one go.

Look At Alternative Treatment

Dentists recommend treatment based on key factors; they assess the problem itself, how likely is it that the problem will go away without treatment, and ask whether the patient is in any pain. If you need a large filling; a temporary filling may be a cheaper solution that will stop bacteria getting into the hole and give you respite from a toothache. However, it’s important to remember dentists also recommend treatment based on what they believe the best solution to be. For example, if your dentist suggests a root canal is needed, then that means a tooth is dead, could become infected and may end up giving you more pain later if a temporary solution is found now.

Talk to your dentist about what treatment is urgent, what treatment is ok to leave for a while and what would be nice to have, such as scale or polish or whitening treatments in the future. A toothache, abscesses and infections must be dealt with ASAP as they can cause huge problems, in these cases, dentists will often prescribe a course of antibiotics to clear any infection before treatment commences. If you're given a prescription for antibiotics, you must find the money as without them you could find yourself in the hospital.

Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate

Even though medical providers suggest that patients query a treatment amount few of us do partly because we don’t believe we can, and partly because we don’t want to be refused treatment. Have a close look at the final amount; you should have been given an itemised invoice for treatment, fees and admin costs at the appointment. Check out what other similar dental offices are charging in your zip code for the same treatment, if it's lower ask your dentist why they’re charging more and show them where you found the alternative price. You’re also in with a better chance of obtaining a discount if you pay for any treatment with cash instead of by card, as then the office doesn't need to charge a credit or debit card supplement.

Do You Have The Right Insurance?

Many places of employment offer medical insurance, and some even offer company dental care but often treatment will be covered only up to a certain amount. American Dental insurance is split into three categories. The first is the Dental Health Maintenance Organization which includes basic check-ups and treatments, no waiting periods and are structured plans within a network of dentists. The second, the  Preferred Provider Organization consists of a select group of dentists, i.e.; a patient joins a preferred provider. Many of these are known as ‘100-80-50 plans’ i.e. you get 100 percent coverage on preventive treatment, 80 percent of basic procedures i.e. fillings and 50 percent on major treatment such as a crown, or root canal. The last, Indemnity Insurance, is a fee for service plan so it allows you to visit any dentist but it's pre-calculated and the maximum benefit is around $2000.

Depending on your needs you can choose a group plan, suitable for families, or an individual policy but individual policies are typically more expensive and rarely cover orthodontic procedures plus you may have to wait a while. Have a careful look at your insurance and decide what’s important. Is it visiting any dentist? Shorter waiting times? Or more comprehensive coverage and make the changes that suit you.

Grab A Dental Discount

Let’s be clear,  a dental discount is not the same as dental insurance and is down to a group of dentists offering discounted services depending on which zip code you live in. Typical discounts can range from around ten to sixty percent, as well as including local dentists you’re more likely to visit. To quickly search for a local, reliable and affordable dental care provider check out for a 24 hour, hassle free dentist.

Dental plans are useful for those looking for quick treatment, little to no upfront costs and no annual limits. Some providers also offer a flexible change policy so that when your dental treatment is completed, or your health care needs change you can switch plans without endless paperwork, security checks or health restrictions. Remember, a dental savings plan is not like dental insurance, you pay a monthly premium and get a substantial discount but they do not cover the treatment amount for you.

Try A Free Dental Clinic

There are numerous community health clinics, free dental care events and workshops as well free dental check-ups at offices, universities and schools. Of course, the quality, knowledge and compassion of the dentist may vary hugely from what you might expect at a private office. You may be asked to wait a long time, hours possibly, and then depending on the size of the queue you may still not be seen. Community dentists offer their services pro bono and will often perform only basic check-ups, so if advanced treatment is needed they may be able to write you a recommendation letter that could have you being treated at a discount, but this is not guaranteed.


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