Have you ever put off going to the dentist simply because of how much it costs? If so, you aren’t alone. A 2013 Gallup poll found that there was a direct correlation between household income and dental habits. Compared to the last Gallup poll conducted in 2008, there has been a decline in the percentage of low- and middle-income households who go to the dentist annually. These are households that bring home between $24,000 and $60,000 a year. Further validating the correlation is that fact that those who make less than $12,000 annually are half as likely to go to the dentist as those who make more than $120,000.
Considering the cost of dental care has risen steadily over the last several years, it isn’t shocking that many people are getting priced out of affording a routine checkup. But, it is worth looking into. Even many people who have access to dental insurance through their employer opt not to obtain due to scant dental coverage. Monthly premiums may be affordable, but out-of-pocket expenses aren’t since annual maximums have held steady at around $1,000 to $1,500 for decades.
What, then, are you to do? Foregoing dental visits isn’t advised. After all, prevention is key. But if millions of Americans are skipping the dentist because of financial concerns, what are some low-cost ways to get the dental care you need?
Affordable dental treatments
Believe it or not, getting low-cost or free dental care is possible. And there are a number of ways that you can get it. We’ve put together a list of five ways that you can get dental care, and they’ll all leave you grinning from ear to ear.
Window shopping dental costs
Did you know that dental costs can vary by hundreds or even thousands of dollars within the same city? Don’t be afraid to call around to get a better price. Sometimes we feel like we’re “cheating” on our service provider by visiting a competitor, but don’t. Remember, this is your money and your mouth. You need to find a dentist that you’re not only comfortable with, but also an amount that you’re comfortable paying.
Dental clinical trials
There are numerous universities and research organizations that rely on volunteers to test new treatments and help them conduct research studies. For example, PPD, an Austin-based dental research clinic, is looking for volunteers who need their wisdom teeth extracted, so that they can test the effectiveness of a new pain relief drug. The procedure is not only free, but you’ll be financially compensated for your time. Sounds like a win-win.
If you’re interested in participating in a dental clinical trial, or to find one near you, you can learn more by visiting Clinical Trials GPS.
Community dental clinics
Depending on your household income, you can get low to no-cost dental care by visiting a community dental clinic. These dental clinics are run by licensed dentists and hygienists who have volunteered their time and services to make dental care more accessible to the impoverished and underserved. Plus, these clinics are located nationwide, so you’re sure to find one close by. Be sure to call in advance to find out if you qualify for treatment, as some dental clinics specifically serve those within a certain percentage of the federal poverty line.
Government dental assistance
If you have children and earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford private dental insurance, look into CHIP. The Children’s Health Insurance Program provides uninsured children with access to low-cost health and dental care. Some states even cover pregnant women. If you are expecting, check your state’s eligibility requirements to see if you qualify.
Dental savings plan
Last but certainly not least are dental savings plan. This is an affordable alternative to dental insurance. It works like a warehouse membership — you get to enjoy discounts on dental work in exchange for a low annual membership fee. The discounts are pretty generous too, ranging anywhere from 10% to 60% of the cost of most dental procedures. This includes ones that dental insurance won’t even cover, like cosmetic work. Plus, you don’t have to worry about health restrictions, benefit caps, waiting periods or deductibles. You simply pay a discounted price on the procedure you need by visiting a dentist who participates in your plan’s network.
Alternatives to dental insurance
These are just five of the ways that you can get affordable dental care without a hefty price tag or dental insurance. If you don’t qualify for the first program you look into or aren’t eligible for a certain dental clinic trial, don’t give up. Rest assured that there are many more options out there. Keep exploring until you find the right fit. A quick online search or call to your state’s dental association will open up the door to a plethora of resources.