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5 Strategies for Healthier Smiles Without Dental Insurance

 by Patricia Lynn Henley   Posted on November 7 2013

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Dental costs can be staggering: $20-$250 for X-Rays; $75-$200 for a standard teeth cleaning; $50-$450 to fill a cavity; $500-$3,000 for a crown; $75-$3,000 for tooth extractions; and $15,000-$80,000 or more for a full mouth reconstruction.

For someone working an entry-level retail job with limited or no insurance, a growing young family or a retiree on a fixed income, those costs can seem insurmountable. But there are options available.

  1. Make a few phone calls.

    To get started, contact your local or state health department, or the state chapter of the American Dental Association, and ask about programs in the area that provide free or low-cost dental care. In many states, it's possible get referrals over the phone by calling 2-1-1. For seniors, the nonprofit Oral Health America lists dental resources by state.
  2. Look for a local dental school.

    If there's a dental school nearby, they typically have clinics with reduced rates for services by supervised students or faculty.
  3. See if you qualify for aid.

    Federal health centers provide dental care on a sliding-scale basis, depending on income.
  4. Consider being part of a medical study.

    Participants in clinical research may get free or low-cost dental treatment for a specific process or for a specific condition -- search for participant openings by city or state for studies on dentures, implants, braces or whatever type of dental work is needed.
  5. Pay in installments.

    Some dentists accept CareCredit, a credit card that lets patients spread out their payments for dental or medical services; use the provider locator tool to search for dentists in a particular area who accept CareCredit or to check whether a particular dentist accepts the card. (Be careful: this is a credit card, and can have a high interest rate. The company frequently offers a promotional 0% interest rate for a specified length of time -- typically six, 12 or 18 months -- but if the amount is not paid in full by the end of that period, the interest charge applies to the entire amount financed and not just the amount still owing.)

Dental work is often a major financial hit, and unfortunately, it's not covered by health insurance. However, the options listed above are worth exploring, to see if there's some way to lower the cost of needed services.

And if you have other tips for paying for dental work, please post a comment and let us know.

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