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Affording Dental Work on a Fixed Income

Affording Dental Work on a Fixed Income


If you’re recently retired, unemployed, or living off social security, you know just how challenging it can be to work things into a fixed income budget…especially when it comes to dental care. But you also know that the longer you wait to address your dental needs, the more advanced and costlier they become to correct.

For people with a fixed income, here are three different sources for affording dental treatment:

Free Dental Clinics

Depending on where you live, free dental clinics may be available on certain days of the year (once every six months) or even daily in more urban areas. Be aware that you may need to get your name on a waiting list – and potentially wait for weeks or months – or show up very (very!) early on the day of the dental clinic.

Typically the services free dental clinics provide are simple, straightforward, and meant to relieve pain. For example, the clinic would offer an extraction for your abscessed tooth, but they wouldn’t offer a root canal. In most cases, cleanings and extractions are about as extensive as the free treatments get. Why? Because of the time and overhead expenses involved. Most dentists are volunteering their services for free. The clinic itself will likely be run on donations, which reduces or eliminates many of the resources that a private practice dental office might have on hand.

If you need a follow-up treatment, you are usually sent to the hospital, public health clinic or given the number of a dentist to call. However, those treatments are not provided free of charge. They are simply a referral for you to get ongoing care if you need to do so.

Some areas also have dental clinics where treatment is provided at a discounted cost. Again, the wait for these clinics is very long and it may be very challenging just to get an appointment.

Discount Dental Plans

A discount dental plan is an affordable alternative to dental insurance, where you can join a savings program that’s accepted by dentists in your area. Being a member gives you immediate access to discounts on many dental treatments…whether it’s a crown, filling, or even a denture.

Although you pay for out of pocket, you only pay for the treatment that you want or need Your discount is typically applied across the board on all procedures, even if they are cosmetic and elective (such as whitening or veneers.)

Unlike traditional dental insurance or free clinics, there are no waiting periods before you can get care. And the discounts offered by each plan are pre-set, so you can know exactly how much your treatment is going to cost. This takes the guesswork out of trying to determine what your insurance will or will not pay for, and lets you manage your budget more effectively.

Fee-for-Service “Indemnity” Plans

Indemnity insurance plans are “fee for service.” What that means is that you pay the dentist directly, out of pocket, for the full cost of the treatment. For people on a fixed income, this can sometimes be challenging. You then file a claim and your indemnity insurance plan processes the claim and sends you a set reimbursement for a percentage of the fee you paid the dentist. (In some cases, your dentist can file the claim and get the reimbursement directly, while you pay out of pocket for the amount not covered by your insurance.)

Typically, under the “fee for service” model, a dentist sets his or her own prices for providing dental care. These fees may or may not be higher than other dentists in the same area charge. Indemnity plans may not save you the most money on dental care, but if your dentist doesn’t accept other types of insurance, an indemnity plan can provide you with some savings.

At, we can help you take the guesswork out of finding the cheapest or most affordable dental insurance or discount dental plan. Contact us today to speak to one of our savings experts to see how you can access affordable dentistry today!

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