5 Ways to Cut Your Dental Care Costs
A reason to smile: You can get affordable dental care without insurance
You bite down the wrong way on, say, an unpopped kernel of popcorn and crunch — you break a tooth. It will have to be fixed, but what if you don't have dental insurance?
This is a situation many people face. About 114 million Americans have no dental insurance, according to the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP). This means many may not be getting the dental and oral health care that's key to overall health. People who don’t get regular dental checkups are more likely to develop heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes, the NADP says.
Lack of dental health insurance shouldn't prevent anyone from maintaining a healthy smile. Here are five ways to make caring for your teeth and mouth affordable.
Related: 9 Habits That Can Wreck Your Teeth
1. Dental savings plans. Members pay an annual fee of between $80 and $200 to access a nationwide network of dentists, according to Consumer Reports. Participating dentists offer discounts of up to 50 percent for people in these plans, which are listed here.
2. Dental health maintenance organizations. DHMOs are an affordable option for both individuals and families, says Delta Dental, because there are no deductibles or maximums. Instead, you pay a fixed price per person per year for twice-yearly exams and cleanings. You must choose a primary dentist, and if you visit a dentist outside the network, you may be responsible for your entire bill. About 20 percent of dentists nationwide participate in these plans, according to Consumer Reports.
3. University dental schools. If you’re willing to let dental students practice on your mouth (with supervision, of course), head to a nearby dental school, suggests the American Dental Association (ADA). The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Massachusetts, for example, offers discounts of 25 to 50 percent off the typical cost of basic procedures. Just know the level of discount depends on the school. Be warned, too, that a visit to a dental school may take longer than one to a regular dentist.
4. Community health centers. Not all offer dental care, but this option is worth looking into. If there's one near you, you'll find it here.
5. Veterans’ benefits. If you're a veteran with a disability due to your service, you’re entitled to free dental coverage from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans who don't have a disability can buy dental insurance at a lower rate through the VA.
Brush, floss, save
The better care you take of your teeth, the less likely it is you'll need to shell out for dental care. The ADA recommends brushing for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush, and flossing once a day.
And do drink the water: If your home is on a public system that adds fluoride to the water, fill your drinking glass straight from the tap. Nearly 70 percent of Americans have free access to water with fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay, according to Delta Dental. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, as it has reduced tooth decay in the United States by up to 50 percent.