We write about products and services that we use. This page may contain affiliate links for which we receive a commission.
Taking care of your teeth can be expensive — especially when dental insurance plans don’t always cover the most expensive dental work procedures.
While dental insurance takes care of the routine exams, x-rays, and cleanings, it’s the extensive dental work that will drain your wallet. (Trust me, I know. But more on that in a minute.)
That isn’t to say that you should go without dental insurance, but you need to be aware of the dental costs that will come out of your own pocket if more specialized work is required.
Following are 3 ways I’ve learned to spend less at the dentist…
My Own Experience
I recently cracked a tooth on a lollipop. I waited until I was in a LOT of pain to see my dentist.
I went to the appointment, handed over my dental insurance card, and was full of novocaine before I was told that my coverage did not include root canals!
That’s just one of the things I did wrong — which ultimately led to a lot of expensive dental bills.
Don’t make the same mistakes I made. Here are 3 things I wish I had done:
#1 – Negotiate Fees
What if you head into the dentist for a routine exam and find out that you have to get several fillings. Rather than worrying about how you will be able to afford the cost, why not ask the dentist for a bulk discount instead?
Or, if you need some other type of dental work done, chances are it will be done over the course of several visits — which can be expensive. So, try to negotiate the total number of visits that will be required. For example, maybe 2 steps could be done on one day, even though you’d have to take the day off work to make it happen.
Also, make sure that the dentist has chosen the least expensive option for the specific procedure that you need done. As with anything, there are “good” “better” and “best” ways to do the same thing.
When negotiating with the dentist, it’s best to do it prior to getting the work done (as opposed to negotiating with a mouth full of novocaine!)
Trying to negotiate dental costs after the fact will significantly affect your chances success — especially after your insurance has already paid their portion.
#2 – Do A Little Research
Do you have a dentist that won’t negotiate or offer any discounts at all?
If so, then it might be time to start looking for a new dentist.
Take your time to research dental care providers — to ensure that you find the best one for you.
Once you find a dentist, consider these things:
- Do they accept your insurance? (Mine did, but didn’t cover most of my dental work.)
- Are they in your insurance network? (Mine weren’t, and I didn’t research this in advance.)
- Are they just as qualified and capable as your current dentist? (I had to enlist 3 separate specialized providers for 1 cracked tooth.)
- What is their practice like? Are their clients satisfied? (I regret not spending more time researching the dentists before I had my procedures done.)
Do your homework before you commit to dental work, and watch out for common dental scams as well.
I wish I had done these things prior to my tooth becoming so painful that I had to get it taken care of quickly.
#3 – Understand Your Treatment Plan
A dental treatment plan is a printout your dentist gives you that spells out:
- Exactly what dental services the dentist is recommending
- In what time-frame the dental work will be completed
- How much everything will cost after dental insurance is applied
The dental treatment plan is a comprehensive, big-picture approach to dental care — designed to prevent small issues from getting bigger and more expensive.
I wish I had asked to see a copy of my dental treatment plan — so I would have known exactly what to expect.
When I sought treatment for my cracked tooth, it would have been helpful to know in advance that I would have to:
- Pay the dentist for an evaluation and a percentage of the xray fees (office visit fee, plus what insurance didn’t cover for xrays).
- Pay the endodontist for a 2nd set of xrays (since she specializes in root canals, she needed her own films).
- Return to the dentist’s office and pay the dentist to put the permanent filling in the tooth (the endodontist only placed a temporary filling).
- Go to a periodontist and pay for a crown lengthening procedure to finalize the root canal and ensure it would last (which ended up costing as much as the root canal itself).
It might seem like a lot of legwork upfront, but the money that you can save will be worth it in the end — take it from me!
Other Affordable Dental Care Tips
- Research Average Costs For Dental Work In Your Area
- How To Determine If Your Dental Work Is Medically Necessary Or Not
- How To Find A Good Dentist
- Commonly Used Dentistry Terms & Meanings
I’m a health nut, a frugal mom, a dog lover, a DIYer, and a gadget girl. Personally, as a post-divorce, working single mom on a budget I have a lot of experiences that I enjoy sharing so others can learn from the things I wish I knew earlier! Professionally, I’ve worked full-time in a variety of marketing, sales, and editing jobs. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as Managing Editor at The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).