So your job doesn't provide dental insurance? Or maybe you're between jobs and waiting for the next insurance plan to kick in. Either way, you've decided against buying into your own insurance plan but are due for a cleaning and don't want to put a hole in your pocket.
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How to Get a Cheap Dental Cleaning
Here are ValuePenguin-researched strategies for getting your teeth feeling healthy again with personal finance in mind. After all, the average cost of a 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.
1. Join a Dental Network
Short of signing up for traditional dental insurance, you can join 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 important criteria, such as location and by operation type in the case that you require more than just an ordinary cleaning. This is a good option for young families who don't have the luxury of insurance but do 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. Oftentimes, 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. The students need to practice, after all.
You can 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 Association of State & Territorial Dental Directors' website.
There are also no-cost dental clinics across the country, and they can be found on freedentalcare.us. You can 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.
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, insider 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, and all from the comfort of your own home. Plus, you'll get plenty of practice, if you're cleaning your own teeth twice a year.
Take-home products, like products of every type, vary in quality. It's important to do your own 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 stop that cavity from turning into a root canal procedure down the road.
5. Negotiate with a Dentist Near You
Use the Health Resources & Services Administration's 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 further wiggle room within their pricing. Among the things you can ask about: whether paying up front would limit your total bill and, if not, whether you could pay your bill over time, in installments. Flashing a friendly smile may help you get your foot in the door.