What happens when one or two dental visits a year turns into one in the last year or so? One in the last two years? One in the last three? Though teeth are a vital part of our lives, critical in enjoying food and having our words clearly understood, too many people still look at dental care as a luxury. Preaching to the choir, right?
Take heart. No matter the circumstance that ruled out a traditional, employer-sponsored insurance plan as an option for your family – there are other ways, including free solutions, to get the basic dental care for each of you needs. There are also plenty of options for subsidizing the cost of your dental care and making more advanced procedures affordable for your household.
In-Office Financing Options
Often better than third-party loans, in-office dental financing solutions are often interest-free. The specific arrangements vary among dental offices to a degree, but they typically entail consumers paying a monthly membership fee to get common preventative services for no additional charge and more advanced procedures at heavily discounted prices.
With in-office financing options, the question, “does my insurance pay for that?” goes out the window, according to Jessica Raymond-Allbritten, a dental hygienist.
“In-office membership plans are transparent and leave patients with black-and-white information regarding coverage,” said Allbritten in a piece for dental hygienist magazine RDH. “Treatment acceptance for fee-for-service patients also increases due to the treatment discount that can be offered.”
Here’s a look at some of the common features you’re likely to find from a local dental practice, especially if that practice is part of a larger network of dental offices or a major practice group:
Annual fees: While they’re often something to avoid with credit cards, annual fees for in-house dental financing programs ultimately offer a way for the dentist to help stabilize their financing plans so that a huge price tag won’t act as a barrier to needed services.
Tiers: You’re likely to find that an in-house financing program offers several options that are tiered to meet the needs of different groups of people. Planning on getting an employer-sponsored plan soon? Maybe an entry level plan will be all that you need. Made a major life change and you won’t be getting great dental insurance anytime soon? There’s likely a higher-dollar tier that packs much more value for your family.
No interest: Typically, dental offices simply want to lower the barrier to entry for their services and aren’t interested in acting like a financial institution. So you’re unlikely to be charged interest for in-office financing options and your payments won’t be reported to any credit bureaus, unless you completely default on your agreed-on payment plan.
Private Insurance, Government-Sponsored Plans and Savings Accounts
Does your family qualify for Medicaid or Medicare? Either of the government-sponsored health insurance plans will provide basic coverage for dental care, even if the coverage isn’t all that great on its own, noted Jenn Stoll, DentalPlans.com’s chief commercial officer.
“Americans can close the gap in dental care by coupling their Medicare or Medicaid coverage with an affordable alternative to dental insurance, such as a dental savings plans,” Stoll said.
With a health savings account, you bank money specifically for health-related expenses – including dental services. The funds are tax deductible, and you can withdraw them from your account tax-free.
Though they’ll still cost you more than an employee-sponsored plan, private insurance plans can also help significantly bring down the cost of dental care. But when you combine it with even minimal coverage from other sources, such as a government-sponsored plan or a health savings account, a high-deductible private insurance plan can work just as well or better than one offered through an employer.
Free Clinics and Dental Schools
Though you probably won’t find restorative or advanced cosmetic procedures offered at either of them, free health clinics and dental schools often offer low or no-cost preventative dental services. Free clinics offer the services to meet gaps in a community, while dental schools commonly offer free or deeply discounted services to the public so that students get real-world experience preserving smiles.
Prevention, Instead of Prescription
It’s cliché at this point. Still, somehow, it can’t be said enough. Prevention is the best medicine. If finances just won’t allow for a dental appointment anytime soon, it’s all the more reason to control the things you can: good ole fashion brushing and flossing, along with using moderation when it comes to food and drink that threaten your oral health.
If there are no cavities to pull, teeth to crown, roots to canal, gaps to bridge, those missed dental visits, though still critical, aren’t quite as consequential.
And it’s almost never too late to take preventive steps. There’s always value in planning ahead and preparing for potential problems.
So, want to make sure you’re doing everything the right way when you care for your teeth at home? Take a look at these tips for properly performing common dental hygiene practices.
More Affordable Than You May Think
Don’t let the fear of high costs drive your family to fall behind on dental care. Find out how much you can expect to pay for dental procedures and learn more about your options for covering the costs of care.
Click here to schedule a consultation with a dentist in Oakland Gardens, New York to learn more about your options for making dental care affordable for your family.