5 Ways to Slash Dental Care Costs

Dental care can be expensive, even if you have insurance. Here are five ideas for cutting your costs.

Have you visited the dentist lately? If so, you are well aware of the hefty price tag that can accompany many services, both routine and non-routine.

A cleaning, full set of X-rays and exam generally costs hundreds of dollars. And if you’re among the millions of Americans who don’t have dental insurance, you’re paying the full amount yourself.

But there are ways to receive high-quality care without spending a lot of money. Here are five of them:

1. Try dental schools

A dental school is among the lowest-cost options for those who don’t carry dental coverage.

Skeptical about the level of care you’ll receive? Don’t be. Although the procedures may be done by students, they are well-supervised by seasoned instructors.

Bear in mind that you’ll likely spend more time at the dental school when receiving routine care. That is because instructors have to check the work of their students before you are released. The upside to the extra time is that your teeth and gums receive the thorough treatment they deserve.

Interested in giving a dental school a shot? Visit the American Dental Association’s website for a comprehensive listing of locations nationwide.

Also, consider dental hygienist schools for low-cost routine cleanings. You can find them here.

Here’s another possibility: The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says you may be able to sign up for a clinical trial focusing on your particular dental needs. If so, you may get free or low-cost care. Go to the institute’s website and click on “Clinical Trials” near the top.

2. Look for low-cost clinics

No dental school nearby? If you have limited income, look for a dental clinic associated with a federally funded community health center in your town or county. Such clinics charge for services on a sliding scale based on income. You can find them here.

3. Ask for discounts and avoid unnecessary care

If a dental school or community clinic is not an option, inquire about pricing and payment policies upfront before visiting a local provider. For instance, the dental office may give you a discount if you immediately pay the full bill. Ask about other discounts as well.

Compare prices between offices, which can vary widely. Talk to friends and read reviews to evaluate services if you’re looking for a new dentist. You want a dentist with fair prices and dependable care.

Check to see if the dentist has been disciplined by your state’s dental board. The ADA provides contact information for state boards here.

Also, be careful about accepting costly niche cosmetic services or extras you may not need, like a deep cleaning if you don’t have gum disease. A good dentist won’t try to talk you into a crown when a regular filling will do. Unfortunately there are dentists who try to upsell patients.

Once you’ve received treatment, keep adequate records in case you receive a hefty bill after the fact for services you didn’t authorize.

4. Keep an eye on coverage limits

If you’re fortunate enough to have dental insurance through your workplace, be aware of the coverage limits.

The plan may cover the entire cost of one or two basic cleanings a year, but you’ll often be responsible to pay for half the cost of expensive procedures. Also, insurance usually doesn’t pay for cosmetic procedures.

If you don’t have insurance, look into dental discount plans, where participating dentists offer lower prices to plan members, who pay a fee every year. Be careful to choose a reputable company.

5. Don’t skip preventive maintenance

Taking care of your teeth — both at home and in the dental office — is a simple way to keep the cost of dental care under control.

That means brushing twice a day and flossing daily. It’s essential for the health of your teeth and gums.

Also make sure to visit your dentist regularly. According to the ADA, 100 million Americans skip dental visits each year, “even though regular dental examinations and good oral hygiene can prevent most dental disease.”

So, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to the dentist. And while in the dental chair, inquire about any additional tips that will help you maintain an optimal level of care at home.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. Take 5 seconds and join our family by clicking here. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

More Money Talks News


  • marysue15

    I live in Tucson and have yet to find a dentist or dental office willing to discount for cash. The low-income clinics will only treat you if you have a tooth about to fall out; good luck if you need a crown. As a result, my husband and I travel to Nogales, Arizona, walk across the border to Mexico and see dentists there. The best Mexican dentists charge about 1/3 to 1/2 of what American dentists charge, and so far, we have been happy with our decision.

  • Gars

    Why is prevention number 5? It should be number one!

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    • Sean Cammack

      I agree completely! Also they should have pointed out that most people brush their teeth wrong by brushing side to side which means gums are being worn down (destroyed), and plaque and tarter are being missed between the teeth. To protect our gums from damage, and to remove plaque and tarter effectively we really need to use a SOFT toothbrush up and down on a 45 degree angle (the base of brush next to/parrellel with gums).

      It is a little more difficult and it takes time to develop new habits, but it is so worth it.

      Only properly brush and flose the teeth you want to keep!

      • Gars

        It’s also important to floss properly. By that I mean you nave to curve the floss around the teeth. Remember, between each teeth you have to floss the front of the back tooth and the back of the front tooth. Your goal is to clean the gum pocket as well as the tooth.

        Brushing does little to clean between the teeth so guess where gum disease usually starts?

  • Phillip McMurran

    #1 Preventive maintenance #2 Know what your plan covers #3 Have a good relationship with dentist

    • Gars

      It’s almost impossible to know what your plan covers. The difference between twice a year and once every 6 months is specifically designed to save one of the companies money, but can you tell which one? There are dozens of tricks like this that companies use.

      As a general rule, you will not game the dental insurance because the insurance company have pretty much seen every trick in the book and will quickly adapt their contract or policies to thwart your efforts.

      As a general rule, cheap insurance rate translate into poor payments.

  • bethanymclean

    If I’m not 100% sure it’s a dental problem I go see my MD. Even if they suspect it’s a dental problem they can prescribe you an antibiotic and give you the chance of not having a root canal done.

    • Gars

      Giving you an antibiotic does not give you an option of not having a root canal done. If you have an abcess at the root of your tooth, you have the real possibility of a big problem. Not doing anything leaves you open to some serious complications including death. Your option on such a tooth are to do a root canal to it or have it extracted. Choosing to treat it with antibotics to calm it down is simply a short term fix. While the pain may subside, the problem is still there and you’ve now killed off the bacteria that are susceptible to that antibotic. Future exacerbations may not respond to that antibotic and lead to much more sever problems.

      The wise physician will usually give you an antibiotic and pain medication and then tell you to see a dentist ASAP.

      With a really nasty abcess you’ll be back in the hospital’s ICU for IV antibiotics and placement of a drain by and oral surgeon.

      • bethanymclean

        I agree that there are times for root canals, but I have also personally met some overzealous dentists and had a second opinion to contradict. It seems that the dental field is too subjective. If you have gum disease, a root canal may not be necessary although an overzealous dentist may lead you to believe that it is. You should watch the reports, if you haven’t already.

        • Gars

          Root canals treat dead or severely diseased nerves of teeth. Gum disease causes pain by bacterial abcesses within the deeper gum pockets associated with advanced gum disease. In either case, proper diagnosis is the key. Treatment for the two are vastly different: Root canal/extraction for the first while deep cleaning, hygiene, and perhaps surgery for the latter.

          In either case, antibiotics only control the acute exacerbations rather than speak to the problem itself.

          And in every profession there are dishonest individuals.

  • Butte

    twice a day is good as long as it’s NOT immediately after eating; acid foods,
    juices and soft drinks soften tooth enamel. Wait at least one-half hour after
    eating for the enamel to reharden before brushing. Once tooth enamel is gone,
    it’s gone.

  • LagunaLady27

    Oral health is too important to risk going to amateurs. I have always brushed twice a day and flossed each evening. I also have my teeth cleaned twice a year, but when I retired and was able to floss after every meal, the dental hygenist noticed that my gum health and teeth were in far better shape than before.

    Flossing once a day is not enough. Find a clean location. Wash your hands well, and floss after every meal. You will like the results. I have.

  • Sean Cammack

    When brushing be sure to do so on a 45 degree angle so that the bristles can get between the teeth to flick the tartar and plaque away from the teeth and gums towards the centre of the mouth.

    At the end a few quick brushes of the inner cheeks, roof of mouth, and tongue will help to remove most of the bacteria in the mouth. To remove even more bacteria I recommend using a tongue scrapper after brushing and gargling.

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 2,084 more deals!