If you’ve been to the dentist lately, you know it isn’t cheap. Making matters worse, many employers don’t offer dental insurance to help defray the cost. Those that do rarely offer comprehensive policies. Dental policies are more likely to cover only a small portion of a treatment leaving you to pay the difference. Many peoples’ answer to this expense is to put off going to the dentist until something is really wrong. This is a bad idea. Problems with your teeth and gums are not only expensive, they can cause other health problems, as well. We now know that bacteria in the mouth can travel and cause inflammation in other parts of the body, resulting in other illnesses. Also, the longer you leave dental problems alone, the costlier they become to fix, if they can be fixed at all. What begins as a tiny cavity ends in an expensive root canal or the total loss of the tooth. Here are some ways you can ensure good oral health and save some money on dental care.
Get regular checkups: Visit the dentist at least once per year. Twice a year is even better. Yes, checkups are pricey but they are nowhere near as expensive as repair work. A checkup can detect a problem while it is still small and (relatively) inexpensive to treat.
Brush and floss daily: Your mother was right on this one. You should brush at least twice daily and floss at least once. And this doesn’t mean a quick swipe with a brush. Brush thoroughly, hitting all areas of your teeth and gums.
Limit soda/sugary drinks: Sodas, coffee drinks, flavored teas, punches, and even fruit juices are loaded with sugar that stays on your teeth long after you’ve finished the drink. Even diet sodas with their artificial sweeteners are trouble. Limit your intake of these items.
Limit sweets and sugared gum: Like sweetened drinks, sweet foods linger on your teeth causing decay.
Stop smoking: Smoking causes tooth discoloration, mouth cancers, and gum disease, not to mention bad breath.
What if you want to take better care of your teeth, but you just can’t afford to visit the dentist? Here are some ways to lower the cost of your dental care.
Go to a dental school: If you live near a dental school, see if you can arrange for treatment there. Many dental schools accept patients from the community so the students can observe and practice procedures. The cost is generally low and may even be free. Students are supervised by licensed dentists, so don’t worry about being subjected to inexperienced hands.
Look into low cost/state subsidized options: Contact your local health department to see if they know of dentists/programs that offer reduced price dental care. Different locations have different offerings and eligibility requirements so a phone call can’t hurt.
Negotiate a payment and/or treatment plan: Ask your dentist to prioritize any work that needs to be done and have the most essential procedures first. The other procedures can wait. If you can’t afford everything that needs to be done, ask your dentist if he can work out a payment plan for you. Many dentists are willing to put you on a plan if you can’t afford to pay right away.
Get a second opinion Sadly, stories abound of dentists who tell patients they need all kinds of unnecessary work done to get the money. Even legitimate and caring dentists can make mistakes. If you are told you need expensive procedures, get a second opinion to make certain you need the work done. You may find you don’t need the work, or that a different dentist has a different (cheaper) treatment idea.
Discuss options: Sometimes there is more than one way to treat a dental problem. Ask your dentist for all of the options and discuss their costs and pros and cons. You may be able to save some money by opting for a different treatment option than the first one suggested.
Shop around: Prices for dental services can vary widely. When a friend had to get a root canal, her regular dentist referred her to a surgeon that wanted to charge $1,400. My friend shopped around and found a dentist in a nearby smaller town that did the procedure for $750, almost fifty percent less. Look around and see if another provider will charge less.
Dental problems are expensive and can really bust a budget. You can avoid or minimize this budgetary pain by taking good care of your teeth and getting problems addressed before they become major. If you have to have expensive work done, look into potential cost saving measures. You’re only going to get one set of teeth so you should take care of them.