Brighter, a simple, free alternative to dental insurance, offers the following recommendations to anyone looking for quality dental care without breaking the bank:
You can't maximize your savings on something unless you understand what it actually costs to begin with. You can either start by calling your local dentists for quotes or look online for estimates of what your local dentists charge. (You can utilize Brighter.com to see the average costs of any dental service in your city.)
Yes dentists are healthcare providers, but they are also small business owners themselves and most of them are very open to "give to get" opportunities like any other smart businessperson. If you can pay cash, bring your entire family to the same dentist (group strength), prove to be a loyal patient, or have a flexible schedule that enables you to take less optimal appointment times - each of these are very valuable to a dentist. Bring these to their attention and many dentists will provide you with a ~5% discount.
Quality dentists only want the best for you, but that often results in their recommendations of services that have correspondingly higher price tags. If their initial treatment plan is too much of a financial stretch for you at this time, it's always better to get some treatment than none at all, so ask your dentist about alternatives. For example, maybe they can try a basic filling on a tooth before a crown, or maybe they can use a less expensive laboratory for the materials your treatment requires. When these types of options are available to you, the savings can be in the hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Unlike many medical conditions, dental needs are often non-emergencies so you can comfortably take some time to strategize your way to lower out-of-pocket costs. Ask your dentist how quickly you need the recommended treatment before it will become worse and-- especially in the 2nd half of the calendar year--you can often "time" your appointments to maximize other benefits. For example, if you do not have a Flexible Savings Account (FSA) (or another tax advantaged health savings account), you can push your appointment to January and open one before that so you're paying the dentist with pre-tax dollars. If you have a dental insurance plan with extensive exclusions and limitations (most of them do), it's often better to spread out appointments to the next calendar year to maximize how much your plan will pay.
You probably can't go more than a week without finding "New Patient Specials" in your mailbox from local dentists. These can be a great way to save on preventive care and sometimes cometic services too. But be weary of relying on these too heavily as it will require you to see new dentists each time and gives you no price protection should you require additional services - you will also want to do secondary research on the quality of the dentist you're considering.
The best way to spend less money at the dentist is to see him/her more often! I know that sounds counterintuitive, but its true. When you stay on schedule with your six-month checkups not only is each visit less extensive (your exam is actually quicker), but it's also the best way to guarantee that dental problems do not arise requiring more expensive services down the road. Clinical studies show that when you skip your regular exams your likelihood of developing gum disease or other expensive conditions increases 75%.
Students at your local dental schools need many hours of supervised experience before that can get licensed. If you're willing to give these aspiring dentists your services, you can often get free to low-cost care from them. The American Dental Association's website can help you lookup dental schools near you.
Many dentists participate in dental savings plans that provide discounts of 20 - 50% off their usual fees, these are win-win solutions for patients and dentists alike as they enable patients to save on needed care while providing the dentist with more patients. While Brighter.com is the only free version of this concept (available right now in Los Angeles) there are many companies that offer them in other parts of the country in exchange for an average of $100 in annual membership fees.
For more information on Brighter.com and our free membership, visit www.brighter.com or call 1.888.230.4717.