The saying goes that the only thing worse than going to the dentist is not going to the dentist. Regular dental care can keep small problems from blowing up into large, painful and expensive dental procedures. But for people with no dental insurance, planning for dental visits can be a strain on the wallet. More than 130 million people in the United States are not insured for dental care -- almost one-third of the population. If you're one of those uninsured folks, here are some tips for saving money at the dentist.
1. Use good dental hygiene.
You probably already know that you should be brushing twice a day and flossing. But only a little over half of people floss on a daily basis, despite knowing that it is important to oral health. So you'll be ahead of the game if you actually make a commitment to floss. It only takes a couple of extra minutes to accomplish. Talk to your dental hygienist or look for videos that can show you the proper way to floss and follow that correct technique. For added care, use a fluoride rinse after you floss and brush.
When you keep up good daily dental hygiene, you could save hundreds on procedures like installing a crown to strengthen a weak or broken tooth. The average cost of a crown for a patient with no insurance was $1,093.
2. Don't skip regular cleanings.
Your teeth will stay healthiest if they are clean and free from plaque. That means paying for cleanings and basic care in order to avoid the types of procedures like fillings and crowns that happen when you haven't had dental care in years. The resulting bill can be in the thousands. You'll spend between $50 and $300 for an exam, depending on where you live. Double that for your annual costs, as you should see a dental professional twice a year.
Save more money by looking into a dental hygiene school for one of your annual visits. You can get your teeth cleaned by a practicing hygienist at a lower cost, though it may also take longer than if you were being treated by a more experienced practitioner.
3. Take advantage of preventative dental care options.
Anything you can do to protect your teeth is worth looking into. Some of these preventative dentistry procedures include:
- Fluoride applications, such as fluoride varnish, that help strengthen enamel and reduce decay that has already started
- Sealants, or plastic coatings that protect the teeth
- Mouth guards for those who grind their teeth, especially at night
Some orthodontic treatments can properly align your teeth and protect enamel from wear that can lead to cavities and sensitivity. Your dentist may recommend other preventative or early intervention services to save you more money.