Have you ever asked your friend how much their dentist charged for a certain type of a treatment? Whether you’re trying to search online or find someone local who is cheap, there are several things that can impact the overall cost of your dental bill.
1. Your Geographic Location
Cost of living impacts everything from your mortgage to your dental cleanings. If you live in an area where your dentist is paying more for his or her location and typical staff salaries, it will also impact the numbers on your treatment plan. Not only that, but your dentist may be using labs that are located in other areas, which come back and impact the prices of things like crowns or veneers.
Before you decide to drive across town to see another dentist, ask yourself if it’s actually worth the hassle (or gas money.)
2. The Type of Dental Insurance Plan You Have
Every dental insurance policy is different and decided upon between your insurance carrier and the human resources department of your employer (unless you’re purchasing your own plan.) What they feel is best for the employees needs may be different than your expectations. Between HMOs and PPOs, you could be left with big out of pocket bills if you’re seeing the provider of your own choice.
Some plans have better “benefits” than others in that certain procedures are covered at a higher rate of reimbursement. Others might have lower deductibles. All of these specifics come into play when it comes down to your final dental bill.
3. Whether or Not a Dentist is “In Network” With Your Insurance
Maybe you’re seeing the most affordable dentist in your town, but if they aren’t in network with your insurance company it can still wind up being more expensive. Insurance clauses like out-of-network guidelines and fee schedules can have a huge impact on your dental bill, especially for out of network dentists.
4. Variations of Dental Treatment
Let’s say you need to have a filling in a back tooth. It’s not really visible when you smile, but if you don’t fix the cavity soon, you’ll need a crown.
Your dentist gives you two options for fillings: amalgam (silver) or composite (white.) Generally, a white filling is going to cost a little bit more than a silver filling. Your insurance company might only pay 80% of the average price of a silver filling, but you want to go ahead and get the white one. When this happens, you’re left with the extra balance!
5. Preventive vs. Restorative vs. Major Treatment
Ideally, a preventive care appointment will cost you $0. That’s because it’s common for insurance or certain discount dental plans to cover all of your cleanings and exams each year. Routine preventive care helps you keep your teeth healthy (as long as you take your dentist’s advice) so that you don’t need a lot of treatment later on down the road.
The issue arises when you have to start getting “work” done on your teeth. At that point, you’re left with at least some balance that you have to pay. Certain levels of dental work (like fillings vs. crowns) are reimbursed at different levels of coverage, like 50% vs. 80%.
6. Your Age
No, your dentist isn’t discriminating against you because you’re 40. It’s actually that there are different fee levels for children and adults. One office might bill a 14-year-old as an adult, while another waits until they turn 18. It will depend on where you live, the type of coverage you have, and the dentist that you’re seeing. The codes used to file for benefits specify adult vs. baby teeth and may even be cut off by your insurance carrier at a certain age (such as sealants for anyone over age 14.)
Because dental insurance has such a big impact on the total cost it takes to go to the dentist, many people are shifting from traditional insurance plans to discount savings programs. They like the predictable and easy-to-navigate benefits that leave the patient in charge of their own care (as opposed to always being at the mercy of the insurance company.) Ask one of our dental savings plan experts which solution is best for you or your family!