Here’s an easy question: have your healthcare costs increased? Have you had to cut back on dental, vision or other types of insurance to afford your health insurance?
I’m lucky because I have a pretty good set of choppers. I blame it on good genes, fluoride in the water and Flintstones vitamins (well, maybe not that last one).
While I’m lucky, I’ve learned a few tricks about saving at the dentist…
1) Hygiene, people!
My dentist used to say, “You don’t have to floss all your teeth – just the ones you want to keep.” EW! While I’m not a serial flosser, I do my time. Brushing and flossing regularly are a must. As are visiting the dentist once or twice a year for a cleaning and check-up (click here for some reasons).
Oh, I hear you over there mocking my simple advice. Consider this: a 2011 poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by Empirica Research, found that 74% of respondents said they only go to the dentist when there is a problem. Nearly one in three (who didn’t have dental insurance) said they’d been to the dentist “only once” or “not at all” in the last 10 years. Again I say, “EW!”
Benjamin Franklin summed this up perfectly when he said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Let’s not forget who his friend was: George Washington. Wood teeth. Enough said.
A $130 dental cleaning and check-up or $125 cavity filling today can stop a root canal, crown, or even a dental implant tomorrow. Note that these can all costs hundreds to thousands, not to mention needles, Novocain, bleeding, embarrassing drooling, drills, and the like.
2) Put your money where your mouth is!
Do you have money in an HSA, FSA or HRA (if you don’t even know what that means, click here to learn more)? Basically, these are savings accounts you or your employer can set up. Contributions to these types of accounts are pre-tax. This means you get to take money out of your paycheck and move it to the account BEFORE taxes are taken out. It’s like getting 20+% more for your money! I don’t know why, but when I pay for a dental visit with my HSA Visa card, I feel like it’s free.
3) Choose wisely!
Finding a conservative dentist is never a bad idea. Some dentists today believe expensive cosmetic dentistry is everyone’s best option. Therefore, a second opinion is a great idea when faced with a diagnosis that doesn’t sit well with your soul. Here’s a real-life story to help illustrate: a few years ago, my husband went to a new dentist who had quite the palatial building. They put him right into one of their fancy-schmancy chairs and showed him the inside of his mouth with a high-tech camera and a large-screen TV
The diagnosis? “All your fillings are old and could fall out any day, so you should replace every tooth with crowns. It’ll only cost $10,000.” Who wouldn’t be terrified when faced with a ginormous tour of their mouth? I’m guessing every one of us would be on board with a complete overhaul (it’s scary in there)!
Long story short: he got a second opinion from a highly experienced, more “conservative” dentist who said the fillings had many years of life and suggested handling them on a one-on-one basis, as needed (it’s been 12 years and only two teeth needed a touch-up since then). Start by using a “conservative” dentist you trust or get a referral from a wise friend. If a diagnosis doesn’t sit well with you, get a second opinion. Click here for one place to check. [Link to Doctors Online]
4) Dental insurance?
Let’s admit – it might be less painful to have a root canal than wade through a dental insurance decision! Sometimes insurance might be a good deal if you have impending dental issues. If you get insurance through an employer, you’re typically handed the huge menu o’ options. If you purchase your own insurance – you have more options, but fewer good ones.
Whichever scenario fits you, the key is to evaluate value. In other words, consider what you’re getting versus what you’re paying. Americans are paying more than ever before for medical insurance and healthcare. It’s worth considering whether you’re getting the bang for your buck with dental insurance. We know you still need to keep your pearly-whites pearly (and white). But, you can be smart about how you're spending your hard-earned money. Click here to review 3 questions to help figure it out!
5) Dental savings plan?
Let’s face it, Groupon has proven that we love discounts on all things: massages, golf games, carpet cleaning, wax jobs, hot air balloon rides, groceries, etc., etc.
Now, let’s apply that to our dental needs. Most Americans would benefit from a savings plan because we don’t have dental insurance and even if we do, insurance covers less than before. Without insurance, we’re left to pay full retail on the open market. Did you know you can get solid discounts on dental services?
A dental savings plan is simply a group of providers (dentists, orthodontists, etc.) who have come together and agreed to give their members discounts on services, procedures and products. Dental savings plans have been around for decades, but were typically only available to those who worked at mega-sized organizations. With the cost of health care skyrocketing, they’re becoming more popular and more available to the general population. Click here to learn more.
If you’re like me, real-life scenarios help you understand how they work, so here goes…
Connie says, “All I did was chip a tooth! I had no idea it could cost me $5,500. That was the first estimate for a complete replacement. Then, I used my dental savings card to get a second opinion at a different dentist who gave me a much more conservative diagnosis. Even then, the cost without my card was $3,520. When I gave the receptionist my card, she went to the back to ‘calculate’ the new price. On her way back, she said, ‘This savings card is amazing!’ She's right. My new price was $1,487 - I SAVED $2,033 using my dental savings plan.”
David hadn’t been to the dentist in years and had this to say: “First, I have to say that I wasn't sure if a dental savings network would really save me money. I'm a believer now! I had a horribly painful toothache. I went to a website to find a dentist in my area that took the card. I found one right down the street and they were GREAT! My first visit was only $43, but I had to go back for the 'real' visit and a tooth extraction. At the end of that visit, they told me the normal price would be $350, but with my card it was only $124. Not only was she a great dentist - she also had a great discounted price. I've been telling all my friends and neighbors!"
Now, it’s your turn! Have you had some major dental expenses and found ways to save? Do you have questions?