If you don’t have dental insurance, but you still want to make sure to get an annual cleaning, there are ways to get affordable (even cheap) dental care without denting your bank account.
Keeping your teeth healthy and clean can be expensive. The average cost of teeth cleaning can be upwards of $100 (a cavity filling without insurance could be double that), and it's recommended to get two cleanings per year. Luckily there are a few ways to preserve your personal finances and your teeth at the same time.
1. Join a dental network
If you can’t afford traditional dental insurance, consider joining a dental network to gain savings on a visit-by-visit basis. DentalPlans and CareFreeDental are two options to bookmark online. Within these networks and plans, you pay a membership for the benefit of receiving discounted rates from participating dental providers.
You can search for providers based on essential criteria, such as location and operation type if you require more than just an ordinary cleaning. A dental network may be a good option for young families who don't have the luxury of insurance but plan to make the most of their membership.
2. Look for one-time discounts
If you're simply looking for a short-term solution (i.e., getting a cleaning), browse the web for discounts, such as Groupon's. Frequently, dental offices offer price reductions for first-time patients (or patients looking to make a multi-appointment commitment). You can zero in on dentist offices in your area and go from there.
3. Go to a dental school
There are about 65 accredited dental schools in the U.S., and 335 more for aspiring dental hygienists. It should come as no surprise that most of them offer free (or near-free) basic services, such as cleanings, to walk-ins in search of lower costs. Dental students need to practice, after all.
You may be able to easily find a program near you online by searching for local schools or get the contact information for your state dental director by visiting the website for the ASTDD.
There are also no-cost dental clinics across the country, and the American Dental Association provides a list of options. You can also go a step further by participating in a clinical trial to get free dental services. Visit ClinicalTrials.gov for information on how and when you can participate.
4. Do-it-yourself dental cleaning
Buy your own at-home dental cleaning kit. It will still cost some money — and you may not be comfortable sticking a tarter scraper, for example, inside of your mouth — but if you're willing to put in some time, you can train yourself or a friend to help you maintain your teeth, all from the comfort of your own home.
Take-home products, like products of every type, vary in quality. It's important to do your research (or consult with a dental field friend, if you have one) about the best possible purchase. Furthermore, preventative measures (i.e., brushing after meals) can also stop that cavity from turning into a root canal procedure down the road.
5. Negotiate with a dentist near you
Use the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration mapping tool to find a low-cost dentist near you. Once you've zeroed in on an office that's close enough to you, see if there's additional wiggle room within their pricing. Among the things you can ask about: whether paying upfront would limit your total bill and, if not, whether you could pay your bill in installments.