By Lisa Zamosky
Taking care of our teeth and gums is an important part of our overall health. It’s also an area that’s often overlooked. According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, 35% of all American adults had not visited a dentist within the last 12 months.
The primary reason people delay dental visits? According to a 2012 Consumer Reports survey, the cost of care tops the list.
People with dental insurance were more likely than those without coverage to regularly visit the dentist. But roughly 130 million Americans don’t have dental insurance. Among those that do, the average annual benefit is only about $1,000 to $1,500, not enough to cover any serious procedures.
Here are 6 tips for saving money on dental care:
1. Discuss alternatives: By simply letting your dentist know that cost is an issue he or she may be able to suggest alternative treatments that are less expensive but just as effective.
2. Negotiate: As with any type of medical care, you should never assume the asking price for a particular service is the final amount your health care provider will accept. First check to find the average cost of the procedure you need in your area. You can do that by entering your zip code and the dental procedure at Fairhealthconsumer.org. Ask your dentist to accept the rate you find on the site or, alternatively, negotiate for an even lower price. Paying cash often gives you a better shot at a discount.
3. Join a discount plan: Dental discount plans are not insurance. Instead, they offer rates reduced by as much as 10% to 60% on a range of dental procedures provided by participating dentists. To search for a plan, you can enter your zip code at DentalPlans.com.
4. Go to school: Good dental treatment at lower cost is available at schools of dentistry, where students are trained under the supervision of a licensed professional. For a list of schools, check out the American Dental Association’s website.
5. Catch a break: You can search for low-cost dental care at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. In addition, community health centers sometimes offer dental care on a sliding fee scale. Check your local health department for locations near you.
6. Go pro-bono: There are dental clinics throughout the country that offer free care. To find a clinic near you, search FreeDentalWork.org. In addition, Dentistry From The Heart has hundreds of events each year, during which free dental care is made available to communities across the country.
Your turn: Have you found ways of cutting down on pricey dental costs? Share your experience in the comments section below.