A recent trip to the canine dentist got me thinking more about the high costs of dental work. Last year alone, I spent around $10,000 including on my own teeth including getting all four wisdom teeth pulled at once, a couple of root canals and many fillings.
You see, I had neglected to go to the dentist for about 5 years. My penchant for coffee laced with sugar probably didn’t help things. Sure, I brush my teeth twice a day, but the lack of checkups really hit me hard. Truth be told, I could be better about flossing.
Yesterday my friend’s dog had all but one of her teeth removed. As a rescue that was found pregnant and on the streets, we knew she had been neglected.
The dentist confirmed her teeth had been neglected for many years. They were BAD! In fact, it was one of the worst cases he had seen. The total bill? $3,000!
Across the board, dentistry is pretty expensive, especially when you don’t have insurance to cover the cost. I will be the first to advocate for dentists charging a fair rate that reflects the many years and half a fortune they spend on dental school. Still, how does the average person handle a dental bill in the thousands?
So how can you save money on dental care?
How to Save Money on Dental Work
Brush and Floss Your Teeth Regularly
I know what you are thinking, wow, this is a little obvious April. The truth of the matter is, both brushing and flossing are important.
Personally, I love brushing my teeth. In fact, I am a little weird and have a couple of different tubes of toothpaste in my drawer at all times so I can pick a “flavor” of the day.
I like to mix things up.
Flossing, on the other hand, I hate it. It is also one of the reasons I had so many cavities. You see, most of my cavities were in between my teeth. The areas where food and bacteria could accumulate and literally sit there against the tooth because I wasn’t flossing regularly.
I’m not a dentist, and I can’t give dental advice, but this one is a given right? Brush your teeth and floss them and you should have fewer dental issues than if you didn’t.
Scheduling Regular Exams and Cleanings
My own situation, and that of my friend’s dog, both illustrate the same situation. Teeth that weren’t regularly looked at and cleaned by a dentist.
You see, in my case, if I had been going routinely, the cavities that led to my costly root canal procedures would have just been less expensive fillings.
In fact, it is possible that with routine cleanings they may not have even been an issue at all.
The cost of an exam and cleaning is absolutely minimal compared to what it costs to fix a problem that has been exacerbated. Even if you have a cavity, knowing you have it now can allow you to save up to get it fixed sooner than later.
Not knowing can lead to bigger problems down the line that you may still not be able to afford.
Of course, dental insurance is one great way to save on dental care. How much you save and whether or not it makes sense all depends on the coverage.
In my case, the reason I stopped going 5 years ago is that my company stopped offering dental insurance as part of our compensation package.
Instead of shopping insurance and figuring out a different solution, I put it off and one month led to two, and here we are 5 years later with a $10,000 expense.
Whether or not dental insurance makes sense for you will depend greatly on the packages you can find, how many dentists accept that insurance, and what exactly is covered. It never hurts to shop around though.
Let Students “Practice” on You
A long time ago, when I was a student at Pasadena Community College in Pasadena, CA, one of the cool things offered was a reduced cost dental clinic.
The college had a dental technician course and, so, you could sign up to get your oral exam and teeth cleaned at a greatly reduced cost. The caveat? It was students doing the work.
While you may be thinking…there is no way I want a student anywhere near my mouth, in this case, they weren’t doing complex procedures and were always supervised by a licensed dentist.
If you need more advanced work, contact the local dental college in your area. Do they have any programs where students studying to become dentists can get supervised practice while offering you a reduced rate?
Depending on how much work you need to be done, it is definitely worth a call!
Ask for a Discount
It never hurts to ask right! Especially if you can pay cash all at once.
Even if you can’t pay cash, let them know you would appreciate any discount they could provide and that you would be happy to refer them to friends and family as well.
Most of the time there is some room for negotiation in the pricing, especially if you are having multiple procedures done. The worst-case scenario is they say no.
Save In Advance
Whether you are saving in advance for a procedure you know you or your child will need (like braces), or you just want to save for a rainy day, having the cash on hand won’t necessarily save you money on the dental fees themselves but it may help save you a little sanity, and any interest you might have incurred from putting things on your credit card.
How much you save or set aside will depend entirely on your own personal situation. Consider things like:
- How many people are in your family.
- What your total dental bill cost was the previous year.
- Any anticipated dental needs coming up now or in the next couple of years.
If you get regular cleanings and checkups and generally don’t have any issues, you’ll need to save less than someone who has three kids who are all going to need braces.
Free Printable Dental Savings and Payoff Trackers
I’ve created some free printables to help you track your dental savings or dental bill payoff. You see, I realize that both scenarios are possible. You may want to proactively save for anticipated (or unexpected) dental expenses or, you may just need some visual encouragement to help you pay off existing dental debt.
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Whichever the case may be, these printables are free for you to use if you think they will be useful.
There are a total of 8 pages in the printable available in my free resource library. There are four different header options to choose from and each header has a sheet with 25 or 50 teeth.
One has 25 spaces and one has 50. Just take the total, and divide by the appropriate amount of spaces. You can use the space at the bottom to write down the number so you don’t forget. Then, color in the teeth as you work your way to your goal!