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How can I get dental work with no dental insurance?

Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella...

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UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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There are some options for getting dental work done even if you don’t have dental insurance. Indeed, you may be surprised to learn that your health insurance doesn’t cover dental work.

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Many health insurance providers consider dental insurance an entirely different channel of coverage. Popular dental insurance policies include DHMO (Dental Health Maintenance Organization), Indemnity or Individual Dental Insurance, and PPO (Preferred Provider Organization). Below is information on dental insurance, alternative financing, and determining what is best for you.

Why Dental Insurance is Different from Health Insurance

If you do not have dental insurance, what can you expect from a dentist’s office? First, understand that having dental insurance immediately elevates you in the dentist’s opinion.

He or she knows that if you have insurance he will get a percentage of the cost upfront. Having dental insurance shows that you are responsible and trustworthy. It is preferable to have some sort of dental insurance if you want full options.

That said, dental insurance is not as critical for most people as health insurance. A simple operation or a series of diagnostic tests can easily cost you thousands of dollars. On the other hand, dentistry may cost between $200 and $2,000—significantly less than a hospital visit.

Unlike physicians, dentists aggressively compete with one another and this affects their entire pay scale. Dentists charge fees directly to the patient, and since they are usually within a $5,000 range, many patients can afford to pay cash, check or credit card.

Because many patients actually prefer paying out of pocket, dental insurance is viewed as a luxury and not a necessity by some practices. Nevertheless, there are still some dental offices that only work with insured patients. It is up to the discretion of the dentist. Naturally, if he or she has had problems with patients not paying the billed amount, he or she would be less inclined to work with uninsured patients.

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Why Financing Doesn’t Always Work

What if you don’t have a credit card or a large bank account for these dental expenses? Some dentists offer financing options, especially for procedures that cost in the thousands. Just ask about a payment plan and most providers will work with you. This is especially true if you’ve been with the practice for years.

Of course, dentist offices are not banks. They have no way of accessing credit history, and they are not qualified legal tenders. Although a some offer emergency financing, by in large, it’s not profitable. If patients cannot pay the bill immediately, then financing a large loan will add on interest, and this in turn causes financial hardship. This unfavorable scenario may also lead to unfinished treatment or dental work that never ends and keeps adding to an increasing balance. In the end, the dentist is providing free work to patients who can’t afford it. It’s not fair to anyone.

A better option might be make arrangements to finance a dental loan through a bank or another short-term lender. In this situation, the dentist gets his or her money upfront while you pay according to a comfortable schedule. Ideally though, the best option is to pay for your bill in full right after a visit. You usually pay on each visit, even if you are asked to come back for more treatment.

Shop Around for Dentists and Insurance

Shopping around for a dentist who will work with your financial needs just makes sense. You will find competing rates and offices willing to offer payment plans for larger services. The same goes for the search for dental insurance. The informed buyer knows what his options are before making a choice.

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How Much Coverage is Enough?

Dental insurance can offer benefits, on average, of up to $1,000 a year. Depending on how well you care for your oral health, this average benefit may be enough for you, or you may need supplemental dental insurance. For some people, the average benefit complements their out of pocket expenses. Some dental plans also go much higher than $1,000 a year, though you can expect to pay more in premiums.

The easy answer is yes, you can get dental work without dental insurance. However, if you cannot easily afford to pay out of pocket expenses, than it may be beneficial to look for a dental insurance policy. Remember, some procedures are simple.

Still, the prices can be limiting depending on your budget. Here are some general estimates of what things cost without insurance:

• Tooth extraction $300
• Root canal can cost upwards of $1,000
• Tooth implants or braces $3000-$8000

Don’t conclude that you can afford to pay out of pocket. Ultimately, the cost of dental work will depend on the quality of your teeth and gums. The more work you require, the more you likely you will need a dental insurance plan. It is best to apply for such insurance when you are young and in good health.

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