Avoiding the dentist is tempting, especially because having a cavity filled or a tooth pulled is not anyone’s idea of fun. But there’s another reason why people would prefer to avoid the dentist: Dental work isn’t cheap.
The cost of dental care per person has increased since 1996. According to a Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report that calculated data from 1996 to 2015, there was a 23% increase in costs (adjusted for inflation). And once you have a family, you might have to pay for multiple dental procedures each year, which can really add up.
While the costs are a nuisance, skipping the dentist can put your health at risk. Untreated cavities are a pain (literally), and dental problems potentially can also lead to more serious health issues, like heart problems. Dental visits are just as important as visits to your physician—you don’t want to put them off for too long.
Because most medical plans don’t include dental work, dental insurance is often sold separately. And even if you have dental insurance, there’s no guarantee that it will cover the entire cost of an expensive procedure.
Fortunately, there are a few ways for you to pay for dental work if it isn’t covered by your insurance. Let’s take a look at what dental work your medical insurance might cover, payment plans for dental work, and dental loans.
Using Insurance for Dental Work
Your medical insurance provider may only offer coverage for dental work it deems “medically necessary.” And what is medically necessary varies from provider to provider. Because dental health affects the rest of your body, there can be a fine line between what’s considered a dental procedure and a medical procedure.
Oral surgery could potentially be billed as a medical procedure. And while dental procedures aren’t typically covered by medical insurance, there may be components that are covered under certain circumstances.
Since it can be a case-by-case basis, before you move forward with any dental procedures, it’s probably a smart idea to talk to your medical insurance provider to see if you’re covered. That conversation alone can be a good start to understanding potential out of pocket costs that may come up.
One important thing to note is that there is a difference between a dental office that takes your insurance vs a dental office that you are in-network with. A dentist may take your insurance even though you are out of network with them.
When a dentist says that they take your insurance, that likely means that they will file a claim to your insurance for you. But if your insurance doesn’t cover a procedure or service, the price will generally be set at your dentist’s discretion—and you would typically be responsible for paying the costs out of pocket.
Generally, using an out-of-network dentist means your insurance would cover less and you’d pay more. Being in-network, on the other hand, usually means that your insurance company has pre-negotiated the fees with the dentist and they generally can’t charge more than that. So you’d typically pay less with an in-network dentist because more of it might be covered by insurance.
Payment Plans Offered by Your Dentist’s Office
Paying a bill on a weekly or monthly basis can be much more manageable than paying it in a lump sum. That’s why dental offices may offer flexible payment plans for procedures not covered by insurance.
Because payment plans differ from dentist to dentist, it can be helpful to speak to your dental office about the specific terms of any payment plans offered. For example, you might want to ask what procedures qualify for a payment plan.
Is there an interest fee, and if so, how much is it? Do they have to check your credit before offering you a payment plan? Asking these questions beforehand may help keep you from getting blindsided by any unexpected costs.
These payment plans may be offered directly through your dentist office, or they can be offered by third-party services like CareCredit . Check with your dentist to see which type of financing options they offer to see if they are a good fit for you.
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Using a Health Savings Account
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is another potential financing option for your dental work. An HSA gives you the ability to put pre-tax money in each month that you can then use for medical expenses (which may include dental care).
This can help lower your overall health care costs because it is pre-taxed money. Since most dental care is an eligible expense, many people decide to use the money in their HSA to help pay for any co-pays or dental procedures they may need.
With HSA contribution limits for 2019 , you can still contribute up to $3,500 for single coverage or up to $7,000
for family coverage. If you are 55 years or older you can contribute an extra $1,000. For more information about HSA qualifications, visit healthcare.gov .
Unlike many other things this day and age, the cost of dental work can actually be negotiable (depending on your dentist and your situation). First things first, it can be smart to have your dental provider walk through your treatment plan with you thoroughly.
Ask all of the questions you need to make sure you actually need the procedures they are suggesting. Are they trying to sell you on extras like teeth whitening?
If you’re able, you could see if you can get a discount on your dental work by paying cash, or the entire cost all up front. Some dentists may give a percentage off for this. Or, if you don’t have insurance, you could see if you can score yourself an uninsured rate. Some dentists will be flexible, the worst case scenario is that they say no. It can be worth a shot to ask!
Another thing you can do is to have an honest conversation with your dentist about your financial situation. If your budget has no breathing room, see if they are open to giving you a discount, or if they are willing to give you a payment plan or push out your bill for a few months.
Taking Out a Dental Loan
A personal loan is an unsecured loan that you can use for almost anything. And because of this flexibility, many people use personal loans to pay for out of pocket medical expenses.
Using a personal loan to finance dental work (dental loan) might be a better option to finance dental work than using a credit card. The lower the interest rate, the lower your monthly payment. And personal loans tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards.
Credit cards currently have an average interest rate of around 17% , but online lenders such as SoFi offer personal loans with lower interest rates to qualified borrowers.
How much you can borrow is also flexible when it comes to personal loans to finance your dental work. In short, a dental loan might be a good option to cover additional dental needs, from basic cavity fillings to more complex, high-cost procedures.
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