10 alternatives to dental insurance

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You need medical insurance, if only to protect yourself against the cost of an accident or illness so costly that you could be financially bankrupt. But do you really need dental insurance?

On 80% of Americans had dental insurance at the end of 2018, according to the National Association of Dental Plans, and two-thirds – 172.8 million people – had private coverage. Almost 87.6 million people have been covered by a publicly funded program, such as Medicaid, Children’s Medicare Program, and Tricare.

Dental insurance is undoubtedly a blessing for millions of Americans. Yet, it may not always be worth the cost. It depends on your plan, your needs and the cost of the services available.

If the cost of your plan is too high – or if you don’t like your coverage options – here are 10 more ways to cut dental costs:

1. Self-payment

It can be cheaper to pay out of pocket than to buy a plan. Fees vary by dental office and geographic region. According to CostHelper website, you can expect to pay $ 70 to $ 200 for teeth cleaning and $ 20 to $ 250 or more for x-rays.

2. Preventive care

In many cases, the best way to save on dental care is to take good care of your teeth and gums, and to learn and apply healthy dental routines.

For example, fruit juices, carbonated drinks, and acidic foods wear down your tooth enamel. So brushing – and cutting back on these foods – can be of great help.

The American Dental Association tells you how to brush correctly and how to floss effectively.

3. Reduce to one cleaning per year

Studies have shown that for many people, visiting the dentist twice a year does not provide any noticeable benefit over having an exam a year. If you don’t have serious dental problems, you can probably get by with one cleaning a year.

But don’t skip this annual cleanup and review. Visiting the dentist every year can save you from costly and serious problems.

4. Discounts on dental plans

Discount plans charge an annual fee in exchange for discounted services offered by network providers. Before subscribing to a plan, check its list of covered procedures to see if these are the ones you’re likely to use.

5. Ask for 10% discount

Some dentists will take 10% off the cost of a visit or procedure if you pay at the time of the visit. Others offer a cash rebate.

If your dentist doesn’t offer a discount, ask if they can. Or, look for a dentist, collecting recommendations from friends, then calling those offices to find out if they offer a discount.

6. Charity clinics

Look for low cost or free dental clinics available in your community with volunteer dentists.

Find opportunities in your area through the American Dental Foundation. Another charity with volunteer dental professionals is Heart dentistry, a global non-profit organization. Or ask the dental association of your state on low-cost care.

7. Dental schools

Dental schools at many colleges and universities in the United States often offer free or discounted care. Approved programs are listed in the the ADA website.

8. Health centers approved by the federal government

Private health centers offering dental services exist in cities and counties across the country. They get some government funding and charge what you can afford. Use the clinic locator on the website of the Federal Administration for Resources and Health Services.

9. Think about dental tourism

Dental tourism – traveling to other countries for treatment, often at a fraction of the US cost – is a huge business. Some of the major countries that have a thriving dental industry for foreigners include:

  • Mexico
  • Thailand
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • Czech Republic
  • Costa Rica
  • Poland
  • Philippines
  • Hungary

Do plenty of research to make sure you’re getting safe, high-quality care. The American Dental Association has information and advisories about dentistry outside the United States

OSAP, the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention, explains how to assess infection control practices in a dental office and provides a checklist for getting safe dental care abroad. He warns:

“The decision to go to another country for dental treatment should go beyond simply comparing prices or even evaluating the expertise of dentists. Countries differ in their infection control and safety standards. The use of cool gloves, sterile instruments and potable water is not standard practice in all countries. Without these precautions, patients could become infected with diseases such as hepatitis B.

10. Try a rural dentist

Dentists’ fees in rural counties are generally lower than in urban areas. Compare the procedure you need by calling American Dental Association member dentist offices outside your metropolitan area and asking them what the fees are. Click here for locate an ADA member dentist.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation for clicking on links in our stories.


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