How to Save Money on Dental Care So You Won’t Go Broke at the Dentist

The Great Len Penzo has asked me, nay, compelled me to write a post for you, his followers, on how to save money at the dentist.

Well, he came to the right guy because I may just be the only practicing dentist/personal finance blogger on the planet. Pretty cool, huh?

So today I’ll share with you some of the best things you can do to save money on dental care so you don’t go broke at the dentist.

Dental care, like any other kind of health care, isn’t cheap. So it’s great to be able to save some money any way you can when it comes to caring for your teeth.

Dental Insurance

First, let’s talk about dental insurance. Dental insurance is a great thing, and if your workplace provides it at no cost to you, then obviously you should take it. But if you have to pay for all or part of your dental coverage, then it becomes a judgment call as to whether it’s a good deal or not.

A typical benefit is about $1,000- $1,500 per year per person and that’s it.   It certainly doesn’t take long to rack up a bill that exceeds that limit. But if you have great teeth like my man Len and you rarely or hardly ever need anything other than a cleaning, then paying for insurance may be a bad deal.   Just pay cash for your twice yearly cleanings and you’ll probably come out ahead in the long run.

However, if you consistently need dental work done every year or two, then insurance is probably a good deal from a numbers standpoint because they will pay out more money in claims than they take from you in premiums.

An alternative to having insurance is to insure yourself by budgeting a set amount every month for dental care. Then when the money is needed, it will be available.

Prevention

Next, let’s talk about prevention.

Most people know how to prevent tooth decay and gum disease through brushing and flossing, but not nearly enough people do it effectively.

I know this stuff is common sense for most of you but it really does work:

  • Brush every day at least twice, preferably three times (after every meal). You’d be amazed at the number of people that only brush two to three times per WEEK! I’ve even seen extreme cases of patients who had not brushed for YEARS!   Then they come see me and ask why their mouth is hurting. I’m not joking.
  • When you do brush, take your time. Thoroughly brush every surface of every tooth.   This should take three to five minutes.   Most people are shocked at how long three to five minutes seems when they are used to just brushing quickly and not really paying attention, but if you learn to be meticulous, that’s how long it takes.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste. Most toothpastes have it but some don’t, so read your labels.
  • Use a fluoride rinse after you brush.
  • Stop it with the sugared drinks already. That means sodas, sweet tea, energy drinks,   sports drinks, and anything else with sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Having one occasionally is not a big deal, but sipping on them all day long causes you to get a ton of cavities very quickly and will flat out ruin your teeth. I see this a lot in my practice and wonder why so many people never make the connection between lots of sugar and lots of cavities.
  • Get your teeth cleaned every six months. No, this is not a racket for your dentist to make more money. It’s called prevention. Cleaning the tartar buildup off your teeth regularly keeps you from getting gum disease, and a regular exam helps to find any problems at an early stage before they get out of hand and cost more to fix.
  • Don’t go to the cheapest dentist in town. Not all, but some will try to make up for cheap fees by doing more work. It’s sad but true. Ask your friends and family who they trust.

When it comes down to it, some people are just more genetically prone to dental problems, and those people are going to end up spending more money on dental care than other people who aren’t.

It stinks, I know, but it makes the tips above that much more important for those people.

Also, if you have mild dental fear, you don’t have to put off dental work anymore and incur larger bills because you waited too long due to fear.

You can ask the dentist for a mild sedative such as Valium or laughing gas (nitrous oxide). If you’re extremely fearful you can even ask for a deeper form of   anxiety control called conscious sedation. If your dentist won’t do it, then find one that will.

In this day and age, with the anxiety management tools we now have, dentistry can be done much more comfortably than in the past.

I hope these tips help you save a lot of money and time at the dental office.

Do you have any additional tips? Leave a comment.

Dr. Jason Cabler  is a Christian personal finance blogger, speaker, and owner of Celebrating Financial Freedom.  He loves teaching people how to become debt free and live a debt free life through his blog, books, and CFF self study course.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Noble

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    The awful thing about dental insurance is that the maximum coverage amount has been at $1,500 for probably 20-30 years. Costs have more than doubled over that time for dental services, so the amount of care that you get covered for decreases year after year, as your costs likely go up.

    I guess it’s better than rotten teeth, but it’s still pretty rotten.

    • 2

      says

      Actually, when dental insurance first started back in the ’60′s, the max was $1,000. So it’s really been that way for more like 50 years. Obviously, dental costs have gone way up since then, and you really have to weigh out whether it’s worth it or not.

    • 3

      maya says

      I agree with you. My dental coverage was at $1,500 and my money hungry dentist took advantage of my dental coverage and consumed all my maximum and i had to pay 2,000 extra on top of it for three crowns and other work that needed to be done….having bad teeth is too expensive and the cost is too high !!!!!!1,500 doesnt really help that much…. I was so angry why i was so stupid since they explained the cost in a misleading way….

  2. 4

    Holly says

    Flossing helps. And avoiding gummy, sticky treats, as well as cutting out sugar from your tea or coffee. In my twenties I was getting cavities even though I didn’t eat poorly; my dentist asked if I drank coffee w/sugar. I did, and a LOT of it. I switched to black coffee and my dental problems stopped (for the most part!).

    Also, be aware that your teeth become prone to decay while you are pregnant so don’t skimp on dental treatments and make sure to tell your dentist that you are expecting (if not showing!).

    • 5

      says

      I run into a lot of patients that have dental problems not long after they have a child. You really have to pay special attention to your dental care when pregnant because it’s easy to let things go when a new baby comes along.

      Great advice on the sugar as well. Any kind of sugary drink you consume a LOT of will cause cavities pretty quickly.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. 10

    says

    Dental care is so expensive, but like a car, regular maintenance on your teeth is important. What you say about prevention is very reflective of this. Even when you have benefits with your job that covers dental work, it usually only covers cleaning – if you have cavities it can be a lot more.

  4. 12

    popgoesweasel says

    I go to Costa Rica for my dental work. I have no dental insurance and find the costs about 70% less that US prices.

  5. 13

    says

    Though I think that the $1,500 maximum amount coverage of a dental insurance is not enough for some people. But for my wife and I, this is enough to cover our yearly dental expenses. I definitely agree with you that in order for you to have a good oral health, it is important to floss and brush your teeth for at least 3x a day. It is also best to get your teeth cleaned by a dentist twice a year and try to cut down on eating too many sweets. I also suggest getting a water pic

  6. 14

    says

    I find this aspect of my personal finances very frustrating. A health problem caused extensive dental work and I simply can’t afford to get in done on such minimal dental insurance policies with waiting periods up to two years. Improvements need to be made in this sector.

  7. 15

    says

    Great tips on saving money on dental care. Going to the dentist can be expensive and taking proper care of your teeth beforehand can help.

  8. 16

    says

    I’m a RDH…do you really think it’s necessary to generalize the entire population use a FL rinse after each brushing, especially if they live in a city w/ a fluoridated water supply? If we’re talking about cheap ways to help in terms of prevention I’d also recommend simple things like rinsing with water or chewing gum should brushing not be an option. I don’t know what dental fees are like in the US but I can’t imagine they’re way off from Canada; while dental insurance is a beautiful thing, for some (most)healthy people, their money can be better spent sometimes. If they’re paying 100-200/month in dental premiums but only pay 150-200 every 6 months for a cleaning/check-up I’d say get rid of dental insurance and budget 50.00/month in cash for dental. 600 is more than the 300-400 they need and if they’ve had a history of a clean bill of health even if they do need a minor restoration or even 1000 for a crown/rct/whatever, over their lifetime still less in cash than insurance premiums. I’m not suggesting everyone get rid of their dental, obviously if you have a mouth full of restorative work keep it but for someone like myself who’s never had a cavity I’d get rid of it.

  9. 17

    PawPrint says

    I’m curious what a dentist thinks of the discount dental plans like Careington. Also, what about using Groupons for dental work? I always wonder if the dentist trolling for business will say I have cavities when I don’t really have cavities. Also, how many times a day should a person floss? I’ve always heard once a day, but a friend says floss twice a day. Is more really better with regard to flossing? One thing not mentioned is that the way you brush and the kind of toothbrush you use can erode your gums, which becomes a problem the older you get.

    • 18

      says

      Once a day for flossing is plenty. Always use a soft or extra soft brush. Powered brushes such as Sonicare or Oral B are excellent.

      As for Groupons and discount plans, you get what you pay for. Many times these dentists are having trouble getting business, so the goal is to get you in the door. There are a minority out there that will mislead you into getting work you don’t need, but again, that’s the minority. The best dentist to go to is the one your friends and family recommend.

  10. 19

    says

    Dental insurance takes in more in premium than it pays out in benefits – with a $1,500 cap. So who should have insurance in addition to people with bad teeth as mentioned in the article?

    Big families pay the same rate as small families. A six child family consumes six times the dental care as a one child family, but they both pay the same premium.

    High income earners pay less for the same coverage. Most people buy policies at work using a pre tax deduction. High earners get a bigger tax savings, and thus pay less.

    Anyone without insurance should use their flexible spending account for routine dental care at minimum.

  11. 20

    Michael says

    Going or consulting a dentist is somehow an expensive thing to do especially if we are currently experiencing oral or teeth problem. Very interesting tips. It’s always better to prevent complications as early as we can by doing basic things like taking care of our teeth, minimizing sweets and always brushing our teeth every after meal.

    • 21

      says

      Very well said, Michael! You can really save much by just doing the preventive measures like proper brushing and flossing. It’s very basic and easy. It will spare you from spending much.

  12. 23

    LeeJames says

    Often I read the most ridiculous things from educated people. In this day and age, being unemployed/ disabled means no dental insurance. Since I grew up in a rural area with well water, I had no fluoride to prevent cavities. Many drugs dry the mouth and contribute to cavities. Medicaid doesn’t pay for things like crowns. Can you negotiate with your dentist for cash tx? A dental lab tech told me how much a dentist pays for a crown and I was amazed at the mark-up.

  13. 25

    MM says

    An alternative would be to get a dental plan and save money at the dentist that way.

    Use coupon code: PLAN10 at DentalPlans.com for 10% off any plan.

  14. 27

    evahm says

    I just came back from 2 weeks in thailand (oct 2012). 1200 for the return ticket, 20 bucks/night for a NICE hotel in chiang mai. a crown, 3 fillings, cleaning and molds made of my teeth with gel whitening kits (from USA). $320 total. Id say…like someone previous..that medical tourism is alive and well and worked for me.

  15. 28

    says

    I was brought up in an environment with hard water and my teeth got this thick crust on them. I kept ignoring it till late 30′s and then i had to get a take on it with a dentist. After everything was finished, the dentist (who was a friend of my father) took me in his room and told me i will give you an advice that if everyone follows will never need a dentist again, thought it might be worth sharing. He said floss your teeth after each meal. I am using B-Car dental floss stick and its been 3 years now without any issue. Well prevention is better than cure, so to speak.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>