Roughly 76.5 million U.S. adults don’t have dental insurance, according to a 2021 CareQuest Institute for Oral Health survey. If you fall into this camp, you may be looking for ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. How much you’ll ultimately spend will depend on your unique situation, but here’s how CostHelper breaks down some average price points:
- Office visit: $50 to $350+
- Dental exam: $50 to $150+
- Teeth cleaning: $70 to $200
- Dental X-rays: $20 to $250+
- Filling a cavity: $50 to $300+
- Pulling a tooth: $75 to $450
Dental care can add up to a large annual expense if you’re uninsured. Read on for five potential ways to save money.
1. Look for a reasonable dental insurance policy.
Do some research to see if you can find a private dental insurance policy that won’t break the bank. Premiums can range widely by plan, but it isn’t uncommon to spend $20 to $60 per month, according to Forbes. Just keep in mind that you may need to meet a deductible as well. This is the amount you’ll have to pay before your provider begins kicking in their share. Some plans also require policyholders to pay a copay for each dental visit.
2. Find a dentist who offers a membership plan.
Some dentists offer plans of their own, though it isn’t technically considered insurance. For a fixed monthly payment, you could snag discounts on a variety of services. This can include regular visits, cleanings, X-rays and more. Total out-of-pocket costs are generally less expensive than traditional dental insurance.
It’s essentially a membership plan that promotes patient loyalty. If you go this route, you’ll just want to be certain that you’re happy with the provider since services will be limited to their practice.
3. Beef up your emergency fund.
If you’re currently without insurance, one option is to set aside a certain amount of money each month for your emergency fund. Building up your savings over time can provide a growing pool of cash you can draw on to cover oral health expenses. Whether it’s routine prevention, a surprise cavity or an unexpected dental emergency, the idea is to have enough on hand to easily pay the bill.
Making this work begins with your budget. When you look at your monthly income and expenses, how much can you afford to earmark for dental care? It’s a number that shouldn’t take away from your other financial obligations and goals. Every little bit helps—and you can always increase the amount in the future.
4. See what assistance is available in your area.
Check with your state or local health department to see if they offer dental assistance programs. Medicaid, for example, may provide some level of emergency dental services for adults. (Most qualifying individuals who are under 21 can receive dental services through Medicaid.) If you have kids up to age 19, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) might be another resource for low-cost pediatric dental services. These programs all vary by state, so you’ll need to clarify what’s available in your area.
Another option is checking rates at local dental schools. Dental students perform the work under the supervision of licensed dentists.
5. Keep up with prevention.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Failing to keep up with regular oral care can have a lasting effect on your wallet—and your health. Let’s say you develop a tooth infection that you ignore. Over time, it could worsen.
It underscores the importance of taking care of your dental needs. If you’re looking to save money, you might consider putting prevention at the top of the list. Paying for a cleaning every six months along with annual X-rays will likely be much cheaper than having to fix a problem that’s already in motion.
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