One of the cheapest ways to access dental care is to locate a dental clinic in your area.
Dental clinics are usually privately funded, or affiliated with dental schools. As such, the public, low-income families, and at-risk individuals can access free or discounted treatments. It’s a great option for families without dental insurance or people who meet strict income requirements.
Where to Find Discounted Dentistry
Start out by contacting dental schools in your area to find out what their protocol is to see new patients. If they are not taking any until the next semester, you may want to check with the state dental board to locate clinics or annual public dentistry services.
Not every municipal area has their own dental clinic, so you may have to drive an hour or two away, depending on where you live. Plan to be at the clinic for awhile, potentially all day.
Specific Treatments and Wait Times
The purposes of dental clinics is to help individuals:
- Eliminate oral pain
- Remove (extract) badly infected or decayed teeth
- Receive preventive or therapeutic cleanings
- Screen for advanced diseases, such as oral cancer
- Have small cavities filled
If your oral health needs go beyond this scope of care, the clinic may not be able to help you. They are simply there to alleviate discomfort and eliminate infection. While extracting a tooth may not be your “preferred” treatment choice, it still fits into the standard of care, given the circumstances. Some dental schools, however, do provide more treatment options to enable their students wider experience in restorative care.
You will want to be prepared to take extra time out of your day when you visit the clinic. Some locations (such as dental schools) will schedule your appointment at a specific time, but you will need to arrive early to complete the necessary paperwork and prevent you from losing your time slot. There are always other people waiting, who will be happy to take your place!
Planning Your Visit
For clinics that are open to the public, plan to arrive several hours in advance. You may need to line up in the dark hours of the morning before the clinic even starts seeing patients. This is because there is such a high demand for free dentistry, that the providers available to perform the services will be fewer than the patients that need to be seen.
Even if you’re admitted first thing — right when the clinic opens — it may be several hours before all of your treatment is finished. Most free dentistry starts out with a quick exam or screening, followed by a cleaning or emergency extraction and fillings. Being seen between multiple volunteer providers allows the clinic to run more efficiently, but it can also mean that you’re waiting longer as a result.
Remember, being willing to wait can save you hundreds of dollars in dental care costs at the end of the day.
What if You Need Advanced Care?
Where can you turn if you need dental services that aren’t provided at a charity clinic? Maybe you need a crown to prevent having a tooth extracted, or are considering saving up for dental implants instead of wearing a denture. If that’s the case, a public clinic will not usually be able to help. You’ll need to find a private practice that you can afford.
For other people, getting off work for a trip to a public dental clinic isn’t possible. Really, the only answer is working with a dentist in your area who offers a cash discount, financing plan, or accepts dental discount plans. This saves you money by spending less time off work and reducing the overall cost of your dental bill.
Consider Discounted Dental Plans
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Can I Go to the Dentist Without Insurance?
As families see their health insurance premiums spike, more people than ever before are having to go without dental insurance. Consequently, these individuals are avoiding seeing a dentist altogether. Even if you’ve never missed a checkup in years, avoiding a trip to the dentist can come at a cost. Yes — you can go to the dentist without insurance — but how can you do it in the most affordable manner possible?
Ask for a Cash Discount
One of the first things you can do if you need to see a dentist without having insurance is ask if they offer a cash discount. Some offices will provide a 5-10% reduction in your bill, if you pay in full for your treatment at the time it is rendered. This can obviously take a lot of planning in regard to what your budget allows. For people without the ability to pay for extensive dental treatments, it’s not a possibility.
Not every dentist provides cash discounts, but if you need to see a dentist right away and do not have insurance, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
3rd Party Financing Options
Some offices work with 3rd party lenders so that you can finance your treatment in full. As long as you pay off your bill in time, this isn’t an issue. But if you allow a balance to roll forward, it can add up to huge interest charges on top of your existing loan. Be sure to read the fine print and pay off the total balance in time, and you’ll be fine.
If time is not an issue, you can seek out a charity dental clinic, dental school, or public health practice that offers free and discounted treatments. While some of these have income requirements that must be met, it is an option for people who need urgent treatment but don’t have insurance.
Most clinic visits can become an all day affair, as there are lengthy waiting times and patients are shuttled between providers. But if you need dental treatment and cannot afford it, this option is worth considering.
On an important note: charity clinics will generally only offer a few services. Procedures like exams, fillings, extractions, and cleanings are usually all that are provided. Anything more extensive than those will need to be performed by your family dentist.
Adding Insurance to See a Dentist Quickly
Another option to see a dentist is to enroll in an affordable dental insurance plan and choose one of their in-network providers.
In most cases you can see a dentist right away, assuming the plan has already taken effect. Plus — if your policy does not have any waiting periods — you can start on treatment as quickly as possible, taking advantage of discounted or included services without paying anything extra.
An affordable insurance policy will usually cover things like:
- Annual exams and oral cancer screenings
- Preventive cleanings (prophylaxis) with the hygienist every six months
- Fluoride and sealants to help children avoid cavities
- Diagnostic x-rays to screen for disease or to evaluate specific concerns
- A discount on restorative treatments, including fillings, crowns, root canals, or even implants
In most situations, you can save more on your dental treatment by adding an affordable policy to your monthly budget rather than seeing a dentist if you do not have dental insurance. For people with a history of tooth problems or dental diseases, it’s a wise investment.
Please note that there may be fees involved if you cancel your policy early. Most plans require a time commitment to keep their costs low to everyone. You wouldn’t simply add the plan, see the dentist twice, and then drop the policy until you’re experiencing a toothache months down the road.
Discounted Dental Insurance and Membership Plans
At LowerMyDentalBills.com we work with small businesses, families, self-employed professionals, and a large network of dentists to provide affordable dental plans that the everyday person can afford. Through private insurance policies to membership plans, our enrollees are able to take advantage of a full range of covered services.
You’ll wonder why you went so long without having dental insurance! Plus, our plans are accepted by local practices in your area. Contact us today for information or to become a member.