Open Wide: 5 Ways to Score Discount Dental Care

Photo: ryanlinstrom

Most of us dread going to the dentist, but it’s a necessary evil if we don’t want our teeth to fall out of our faces. The dreams I have about that are bad enough.

But dental fees without insurance can be costly — and prohibitive. Many people won’t go to the dentist to fix whatever’s ailing their mouths because they can’t afford it (there are 45 million Americans younger than 65 who don’t have dental coverage). That’s a very dangerous practice because the problem can turn quite serious quickly — and then there’s really no choice in the matter.

To help you keep your pearly whites in pristine condition without having to take out a second mortgage, here are some alternative ways to get good dental care at reduced rates. (See also: How to Find Free (or Cheap) Health Care Resources)

1. Go Back to (Dental) School

Some dental schools provide services for cheaper than they would be at a regular practice. The work comes from students under the supervision of dentists. To find a dental school in your area, visit the American Dental Association. I had one of my wisdom teeth extracted at a dental school after it became abscessed because I was without insurance after I graduated college. I saved a lot of money — it was probably about 80% of what it would have cost if I had gone to my regular dentist without insurance. Also, when I was a kid, my mom took me to a dental school for teeth cleanings during periods where we didn’t have dental insurance, and I highly recommend it. If no dental schools are in your area, perhaps there’s a dental hygiene school. Two different schools, but both will make your mouth happier.

2. Join a Discount Dental Plan

DentalPlans is a great resource for those without insurance who are seeking lower-cost dental care. The site allows users to search, compare, and select from more than 30 discount dental plans that offer savings of 10% to 60% off most dental procedures. To find a dentist near you, just type in your ZIP code to search available plans, dentists in your area who participate, and the costs of the plans.

3. Sign Up for Daily Deals

Best known for discounts on lifestyle goods, sites like Groupon and Living Social are starting to help people fill their insurance voids. According to Deal Radar, about 1 out of every 11 deals offered online is for a health care service. Personally, I’ve purchased a couple of teeth-whitening Groupons that saved me a lot of money. I know that’s a cosmetic procedure, but it’s something that my insurance wouldn’t cover, and I’m too cheap to pay the regular $600 fee; the $149 price tag was much more appealing.

4. Find One-Time Freebies

Check out Free Dental Work for free dental clinic event listings. This resource can be especially helpful if you have children in need of dental care.

5. Search for Price Breaks

Can't find a dental school in your area? No worries. You may be able to find the care you're looking for on the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Once you're on the site, click on the “Finding Dental Care” section to locate dentists and programs that offer discounted dental care in your area.

Do you have other ideas on how to get quality dental care when there’s no insurance available? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

My dentist wanted to remove my old cavity fillings. I complained about the cost. He said as long as I came in for regular cleanings, he could monitor the fillings without taking them out right away and he would check to see if they became too bad.