How to save money at the dentist
As we are self-employed, we have elected to forgo dental insurance and pay out-of-pocket for all our dental procedures. (Our kids are required by law to be on a dental insurance plan, but it still costs a fortune so we employ these techniques on them as well.)
We have had to be fairly shrewd when it comes to our dental health. Here are some things we do to drastically lower our dental costs:
We brush and floss regularly.
A no-brainer, but I am surprised how many people skip basic recommended dental maintenance. After a much-too expensive dental procedure, my dentist said to me, “You know, you could save a lot of money by just flossing every day.” For some reason, it took that statement and the huge bill for it to click for me. Since then, I’ve flossed every single day and SURPRISE! I haven’t had a cavity since.
Our kids got the cavity genes from me, so we are also diligent to keep our children flossing every day. In fact, my husband brushes and flosses our kids teeth until they are well into elementary school. I heard from a pediatric dentist that until a child can comfortably and confidently write cursive, they should have someone else brush their teeth.
There are no automatic maintenance procedures done.
Dentists love to x-ray the crap out of their patients, but when I’m paying out-of-pocket for them, I ask if it can wait. Oftentimes the dentist does x-rays and exams based on what insurance will pay, not what is necessary. I was able to talk my dentist out of x-rays for myself for a couple of visits.
When we can’t afford a procedure or service, we simply tell them, “it’s not in our budget.”
The dental staff gets this, especially when they know we are paying cash (be sure to ask for a discount for paying for cash for your appointment in-full). My daughter’s dentist even gave us a free x-ray at one point when our budget was really tight.
We take advantage of promo deals.
A few years back, I tried the “can I skip the x-rays” bit but my dentist denied me (it had been a number of years). I told the receptionist that the $250 wasn’t in our budget. Wouldn’t you know that they were running a special — dentist exam, full x-rays and a cleaning for under $100? I would have spent an additional $150 if I hadn’t asked.
My current provider (a dental chain) also has a “membership club” which is a pseudo-dental insurance program. I pay less than $100 a year (just for me — I don’t have dental insurance) and get a discount on cleanings plus free x-rays and dentist exams and a discounted price on procedures.
This is the advantage of going with a dental chain, like Gentle Dental. They typically have alternative ways to save money on procedures for the uninsured, like a membership plan, cash discounts, and billing options.
Take advantage of Groupon and other local daily deal site offers.
You can usually get an exam, cleaning, and a full set of x-rays for well under $100 on Groupon. If you don’t like the new dentist or want to stick with your current one, you can have the x-rays transferred.
Disclaimer: I am not a dental care expert nor am I telling you how to provide dental care for your family. Just sharing what my family does to save money and how we have learned to be proactive consumers in the marketplace. We question every procedure (politely, of course) and have the right to refuse procedures. And I am thrilled that dental practices are starting to pay attention to those of us who pay cash by offering cash discounts (usually 10%), special promotions and flexibility when it comes to services offered.
This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.