There are two kinds of dental emergencies – the ones that happen unexpectedly to healthy teeth, and the ones where you’ve been putting off treatment that suddenly (ouch!) can no longer be ignored.
In either case, you may be scrambling for the funds that you need – right now – to address your dental issue. And since emergencies tend to happen at the worst possible time, you may realize that you can’t quickly access the few thousand dollars that it’s going to take to fix that tooth.
Some dental emergencies won’t wait for you finances to improve. Teeth that have been knocked loose or out have the best chance of surviving if you see a dentist ASAP. Living with the pain from a dental infection or decay quickly becomes impossible after a certain point. And some dental conditions can be fatal if left untreated. Thankfully, life-threating dental conditions are rare, but serious systematic infections linked to dental diseases are responsible for dozens of deaths each year. You may be especially at risk of experiencing dental-related health repercussions if you have chronic health issues or a compromised immune system.
Finding a Way to Pay
If you have dental insurance, you’re probably in luck. Basic restorative services such as fillings are covered at 80% of the cost on many dental insurance plans, with coverage for 50% of the cost of more complex procedures such as crowns and bridges. Assuming you haven’t hit your plan’s annual spending limit, you should be able to get the care you need.
No insurance? Don’t despair – there are plenty of options that can help you deal with your dental emergency.
A dental savings plan entitles you to discounted dental services from a nationwide network of providers. Dental savings plans activate quickly – often within 72 hours of purchase. For some dental emergencies, such as a chipped tooth, a few days of waiting isn’t problematical. But if a tooth has been knocked out or you have an infection/abscess, don’t wait. Your regular dentist may treat you and be willing to bill you, or you may be able to get basic treatment such as an antibiotic prescription and return in a few days with your active dental savings plan to get the necessary treatment to address the problem.
If you are in pain or show signs of having an infection in your mouth, and you have no immediate access to dental treatment, you can head to an emergency room or urgent care clinic. This is not at all a great option. It will be expensive, and you are unlikely to get treatment for dental issues there, but the infection and pain will be addressed.
Your Dental Emergency Plan
After getting emergency care you really do need to follow up with a dentist, though, or the problem will almost certainly reoccur. If you are in a tough spot financially right now, ask the urgent care or emergency room health care providers for a referral to a no-cost or low-cost community dental clinic. Otherwise, the time to get your dental care costs under control is now. Explore the discounts offered by dental savings plans. Ask your bank, credit union, employer or friends/family about the possibility of a short term personal loan. See if your dentist offers payment plans or other financial arrangements that can make payments more manageable.
Many of us have to necessary postpone dental care due to financial constraints. But by putting off preventive and basic restorative care, we are setting ourselves up for bigger expenses down the road. That filling that would have cost a couple of hundred to get fixed becomes a root canal that needs thousands of dollars’ worth of treatment. Thankfully, there are solutions that can make getting dental care far more affordable than you think. Do a little research now – before an emergency situation is breathing down your neck – and find the solution that best fits your needs.
Ideally, you’ll figure out how to manage dental expenses before an emergency happens – get yourself a little peace of mind now rather than adding more stress to a difficult situation. But if you are taken by surprise by an expensive dental emergency, remember that a dental savings plan is just a quick phone call away.