There is no doubt that good dental health is part of overall good health. Yet, most dental services are not covered by typical major medical health insurance or Medicare, the large public health insurance plan for seniors and disabled people in the USA. It may be hard enough to afford routine dental checkups and cleaning, but it is even more challenging to plan for the costs of really expensive dental services like orthodontics, crowns, and dentures.
Affording the Dentist: Obtaining Dental Insurance
If you qualify for private health insurance from the health insurance marketplace, you may be able to add in health reform marketplace dental insurance. Americans who make a moderate income and do not have access to other affordable health insurance usually qualify for private plans, and they may even qualify for tax credits to help pay the bill.
Others can choose to purchase coverage on the individual market or sign up with a group dental plan at work. Still, most dental insurance comes with deductibles, waiting periods, and yearly limits, and many dental insurance policies exclude cosmetic work, like braces, so it is very important to balance the costs and benefits.
Dental Insurance and Medicare
Note that people who receive Medicare benefits do not qualify for the health insurance marketplace. Medicare only covers dental work in very limited circumstances. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer supplemental dental insurance that extends the coverage provided by traditional Medicare, but it is still pretty limited. Some beneficiaries buy stand-alone dental insurance policies, but the same cautions apply about shopping for Medicare dental insurance as apply to any other dental policies.
Dental Discount Plans
These are not dental insurance, but they work in a way that might remind you of the way an HMO or PPO works. They come with a network of dental professionals who offer discounted services, and some may even offer free or really cheap checkups, x-rays, and cleanings to attract new patients. The good thing is that discounts usually apply to a variety of different oral services, and this might include routine dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and even dentures.
Dental discount plans are usually much cheaper than dental insurance, but they don’t actually pay for anything. If you buy a dental insurance PPO or HMO, you may already get discounted network services, even on uncovered services. so you might not need to purchase a discount plan. In any case, you should compare the price and the benefits to make the best choice.
Local Dental Colleges
If you are lucky enough to live in a community with a local dental college, you may have access to cheap dental services. These colleges need to train student dentists, and they may offer routine and cosmetic dental services to community residents at very low prices. All work still gets supervised by professional dentists, so you don’t need to worry about having students working on your teeth. You can also get your teeth cleaned at a school that trains hygienists. Visit the Commission on Dental Accreditation to find dental schools in your city.
Work Out Payments With Your Dentist
Dentists used to be a little bit easier about setting up payment plans, but they must have gotten burned a few times. Some offices, especially those of orthodontists, will still set up payment plans. Alternatively, finance companies like Care Credit offer a credit card that works at participating dentist’s offices, and they are usually willing to offer credit to people with fair to great credit.
Local Foundations and Charities
A number of local foundations and charities may offer help. Additionally, you can find federal, state, or community dental clinics that offer dental services on a sliding fee scale that is based upon income. PPARX was founded as the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, but they also have a handy online search that you can use to find all sorts of discounted medical and dental services too.