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6 Smart Ways to Put a Dent in the Cost of Dental Care

Not only is your smile an important part of how you present yourself to the world, your dental health is strongly connected to your overall health. Oral health problems, especially if gum disease is involved, have been linked to a number of serious health conditions such as heart disease, poorly controlled diabetes, and even preterm birth.

Money is the top reason people avoid going to the dentist. Studies have shown that many adults in the U.S., even those with private insurance, struggle to afford dental care. Some people put off care until a more serious problem develops which, ironically, ends up costing more in the long run. A small cavity that costs very little to fill today can turn into an expensive root canal tomorrow.

So how can you stay up on preventative care, keep your teeth healthy and put a dent in your annual costs?

1. Cancel Your Coverage

Crunch the numbers and see if you’re spending more on dental insurance premiums than the cost of your family’s visits. This depends highly on your individual situation and insurance options. Ask your dentist to provide you with the fees for the services you’ve received and compare. If your teeth are healthy and you don’t need any major work, it might make sense to cancel for a year or set up your own savings fund (or take advantage of pretax plans) to pay for future visits. Don’t forget to include some savings for emergencies.

2. Use pretax dollars

If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) through your workplace or a health savings account (HSA), you can save by using pretax money to pay for both routine maintenance and major services such as root canals, braces or bridges. With an FSA account, it’s lose or it use it, so you’ll need to figure out your annual costs ahead of time. With an HSA account, your money grows tax free and you never lose it. Using pre-tax dollars is an easy way to squeeze a little more value out of your dental care dollars.

3. Double up on coverage

Do you have children who will need wisdom teeth extractions or braces soon? Unlike health insurance, most dental carriers allow you to have multiple plans pay toward your benefits. If you have a lot of dental expenses coming up, it might make sense to put family members on both your policy and your spouse’s policy. Not all policies cover braces, and most max out at $1,000 to $1,500 per lifetime, but every little bit helps.

4. Spread dental work across two benefit years

Major dental work – such as dentures, bridges and crowns – can cost thousands of dollars and is usually only covered at 50% with an annual limit of $1,000 – $1,500. Since most benefits reset on January 1 of each year, you can schedule some of the major work you need in the 4th quarter of this year and the rest of it in the 1st quarter of next year.

5. Make the very most of your dental insurance coverage

Are you getting the maximum value out of your coverage? Sit down at the beginning of your benefit year and schedule all your covered preventative care visits for you and your family. Make sure you’re going to a dentist who is in-network to get the lowest out-of-pocket costs.

6. Receive services at a dental school

Local dental schools can be a significant resource for reduced cost dental care. Dental students provide everything from routine cleanings and x-rays to dental implants, root canals and other major work – all at fraction of the price you would pay a regular dentist. Your procedure may take a little longer, but the work is supervised by licensed dentists who oversee student work.