How Can I Affordably Treat an Existing Dental Problem?

How Can I Affordably Treat an Existing Dental Problem?

A problematic tooth could cause off-and-on pain, but you know if you don’t get it fixed fast, it will just lead to an emergency trip to the dentist – probably at the worst possible time. You’re not sure how bad it is or how much it will cost to fix…so what can you do to make sure you treat your dental problem in the most affordable manner possible?

Ask Your Dentist for a Discount

Most dentists will offer discounts if you’re paying up front, in full, with cash. You may not get that discount if you’re paying with a credit card (because of the fees,) but writing a check may be ok. This discount is your dentist’s way of eliminating the “cut” that an insurance company takes out of their prices when covering specific procedures, without the middleman being involved.

Cash discounts don’t work if you’re using dental insurance though, so this method only works if you’re going without dental coverage on your plan. The discount applied will vary from one office to the next; some dentists offer 5% off, while others may be slightly more.

Seniors, don’t forget to ask for discounts as well! Courtesy senior discounts are usually applied to services provided to patients age 65 and older.

Find a Free Dental Clinic

Depending on where you live, there may be a permanent or semi-annual free dental clinic offered in your area. Some of these clinics are income-based, while others are first-come, first-served.

Most dental clinics will only offer basic treatments, such as exams, cleanings, fillings, and extractions. If you don’t plan on having your problem tooth pulled, but you need a root canal and crown, the clinic may not be able to provide that service. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it to lose the tooth or wait until it starts causing additional problems. A healthier choice would be to get it treated as soon as possible, to avoid unnecessary pain and spread of infection.

Visit a Dental School

Is there a dental school in your area? Then you may be able to get high-quality treatment at cheap prices. Just because the services cost less doesn’t mean they’re not as good. Upper-level dental students will be able to provide anything from porcelain veneers to root canals. If there’s a specialization clinic available, you may also have access to advanced post-graduate care for issues like wisdom tooth surgery, orthodontics, etc.

Dental treatments at a college are usually not free. You can probably expect to pay about one third to one half of what your family dentist would charge. There are still salaries to pay, materials to provide, and facility operating costs that need to be covered.

Because of how affordable these services are and the limited number of patients that a dental student can see, you may find yourself on a waiting list for several months before you’re able to get an appointment. Your visits will likely take longer as well, so you may need to be able to take off from work.

Maximize Your Dental Insurance Coverage

If you don’t have a background working in healthcare or haven’t had a lot of dental or medical problems in the past, navigating dental insurance may seem like a foreign language. Fortunately, your dentist and treatment plan coordinator can help you to get the most out of your coverage so that you spend less money out of pocket and still get the treatment that you need.

How does this work? By strategically scheduling your treatments, and prioritizing them in order of oral health importance. This may mean having to break the phases of treatment up to a year or two, depending on what your maximum allowable amounts are. Or, you can opt for more conservative treatments that are covered by your insurance plan at a higher percentage. Being able to weigh the options against one another with your treatment coordinator can help you to compare the pros and cons. Be sure to keep any waiting periods or exclusions in mind.

Enroll in a Dental Savings Plan

For people who don’t have insurance, a California discount dental plan is an affordable option to consider. When you enroll in one of these dental savings plan, you receive 10-60% off of various treatments offered by your dentist. There are no claims to process, deductibles to pay, or maximum allowable amounts to comply with. You simply plan out your treatment with your dentist and the discount is applied at the time of service.

Are you comparing dental insurance plans or considering a savings option? Talk to the coverage specialists at Cal Dental Plans to find one that’s right for you!


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