10 Ways to Save Money at the Dentist. How to Get Help with Dental Bills

Save Money on Dental Bills

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Do you need help with your dental bills? Are you facing some huge dental bills and wondering how you can save some money?

We’ve got four easy ways you can start saving money on teeth care.

One of our Facebook Friends posted this question about Dental Bills:

After a few years of neglect, I had a minor dental emergency and found that I need to spend $7,000 to completely fix my bad teeth. Unfortunately, we don’t have dental insurance. Here are my questions:

  • How does your family deal with dental issues?
  • Do you think dental insurance is worth the expense?

How to Save Money on Dental Expenses

Dental care is important to your health. But there are many different ways to achieve dental health.

In the past we used a “perfectionistic” dentist who prescribed “complete fixes” costing three or four times more than alternate methods. We weren’t comfortable with his philosophy. A good dentist will understand a patient’s financial means and offer various price options rather than a take-it-or-leave-it diagnosis. If your dentist won’t do this, find a different one.

Many American families sacrifice their oral health under the belief that they can’t afford dental care. With over 100 million people in the U.S. without dental insurance, and one in five adults not attending routine dental care appointments, it’s clear that, while routine dental care is necessary, the cost is a legitimate concern.

Did you know that taking on the full cost is not the only option for maintaining routine dental care? There are a number of practical things families can do to help save money on dental care without putting their oral health at risk.

1. Get Educated – Get a Second Opinion

When faced with any large outlay of money, it is always best to become more educated. Get a second or third opinion; visit a local dental school to get input. The more educated you become, the better you’ll be able to determine what is a necessity.

2. Pay Less with Insurance

Dental insurance is expensive but when you’re facing a major bill, it might be a good way to go.

3. Pay Less at Dental Schools

Another option would be to contact a dental school in your area and compare their pricing. Many offer steep discounts on their services (search here for dental schools in your area)  

4. Pay Less with a Discount Dental Plan

Or you might be better served by a discount dental program. These types of plans have advertised prices for specific dental services. Dentists agree to accept the discounted rate.

Dental discount plans are often joined by newer dentists looking to build their practices. One place to learn about them is at DentalPlans.com.

Spend some time researching and you may find that the time you invest will translate into several thousand dollars worth of savings.

5. Inexpensive Night Guard

Steve grinds his teeth at night. Our dentist recommended a custom night guard that cost $350. We bought it and Steve used it until he needed a crown. The crown didn’t fit the night guard. This meant we needed to spend another $350 to get a new night guard.

Our dentist, seeing our frustration suggested using a boil and bite football mouthguard. Steve found one for less than five dollars. They work great and because of the low cost, can be replaced a couple of times each year without worry.

Watch this video where Steve describes the process and the cost.

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6. Educate your family and practice oral health best practices

There are simple, ongoing steps everyone should be following to keep their teeth and mouth clean and healthy:

  • Brushing at least twice a day
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Using an antimicrobial mouthwash when necessary
  • Consistently scheduling routine cleanings and examinations at the dentist

These preventive habits will not only encourage a healthy smile and fresher breath, but they can reduce the chances of developing tooth decay, gum disease, as well as a host of more serious illnesses and conditions that your dentist can help spot and diagnose in time to effectively treat. Failing to maintain good oral health habits like these often results in some level of dental complications down the road, along with a lot of unexpected expenses.

7. Work closely with your dentist

Your dentist is primarily interested in maintaining and improving your oral health. When you’re at your semi-annual checkup, take advantage of the opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions you have and listen carefully to the dentist’s recommendations.

If they suggest ordering x-rays or an additional procedure, listen to the reasoning behind the recommendation and make an informed decision. A small investment now can prevent tremendous expense down the road when a minor problem progresses into a major issue.

Many dentists offer flexible financing options and discounts for uninsured patients such as a sliding fee scale or installment payments that can make receiving the care you and your family need easier to afford.

8. Budget wisely and Plan for Expected & Unexpected

Your family’s oral health really does deserve to be prioritized in the family budget. Although you may not be dealing with an obvious problem currently, that doesn’t mean it’s wise to ignore routine dental care.

Be sure to budget effectively to cover, at a minimum, a routine exam and cleaning every six months, x-rays once a year, and the supplies and equipment needed to maintain those healthy habits described above.

It’s also important to plan for the unexpected to help soften a financial blow. Despite your best efforts, you or your child may get a cavity that requires filling. Perhaps a filling or bridge you already have will need to be repaired or replaced during the year. Or, maybe it’s time for your teenager to look into getting braces.

Budgeting wisely for these possibilities will ensure that an emergency situation doesn’t turn into a huge burden.

9. Use a dental savings card

One of the most valuable investments you can make in your oral care is to join a dental savings plan to reduce costs. As we mentioned above, DentalPlans.com offers dental discount programs that cover everyone in your family for between $12 and $20 per month depending on the plan you choose.

Dental discount plans offer significant savings off the total cost of both routine and advanced dental services. Plus, utilizing an established discount program ensures that you’ll be seeing qualified dental professionals included on the plan’s panel of participating providers.

10. Consider Mexico Dentists

We have come across several people in Arizona who have traveled to Mexico border cities to have dental work done. They claim that the price they paid is 50 percent less than they could have had the work done in the US.

We recently hosted a person in one of our AirBnB rooms who lives part of the year in the country of Colombia. He told us that he gets his teeth cleaned by a dentist (not a hygienist) for $25. And that all of the medical equipment (MRIs, CTs, X-ray machines) all appeared to be the latest technology.


If you’re facing a large dental bill, and you travel out of the country, this could be an option. But like most services, there are going to be good and bad providers.

Do your research. Talk with patients who have used specific dentists.

Here are a few articles that talk about going to other countries for dental care.


Maintaining dental health now can help prevent more expensive issues in the future.

Use some or all of these 8 recommendations to help you care for your family’s oral health without breaking your budget.

Let us know if we missed any ways that you’ve found to save money on good dental care.

5 thoughts on “10 Ways to Save Money at the Dentist. How to Get Help with Dental Bills

  1. Discount Dental Plans

    Medical and dental bills can be a large burden on a family’s finances, so it’s great that you wrote this guide. Thanks for also pointing out the existence of dental discount cards/dental plans. These can prove to be a good insurance alternative.

    1. Molly B

      I read in a newspaper article that if you do end up having to spend a lot of money for medical expenses such as dental work, you can talk to your doctor about spreading the cost over 2 years so that you can itemize the tax benefit for 2 years beacuse chances are you’ll max out your medical threshold for the year. At least that way you’ll get a few hundred bucks back…… something better than nothing.

      You can also negotiate with your doctor about the price or a lot of people go to their native country to get major dental work done to someone that their family trusts.

      As far as cleanings and stuff goes, the paper and weekly coupon magazines often advertize for bi-annual cleanings for first time clients as low as $30 to $40 exam, x-ray, & cleaning.

  2. Steve & Annette

    We just received this comment from Derek via email:

    My friend is going through a similar experience with an estimated $8000 worth of dental work after looking at the local dental schools. He searched internationally and found several dentists who were trained in US, one even taught at one of the dental schools. Both would do the same work for 1/2 off (and that includes the cost of airline ticket!)

    This is another option when in similar circumstances.

    1. Allison W.

      Having spent some time in my youth working in dental offices and now having a sister who is a dental office manager I can tell you that while dental insurance can be helpful, most plans only pay up to a yearly maximum of $1000.00 to $2000.00. Most of them also include out of pockets of up to 50% depending on the service provided. I just recently had to have a root canal, my first ever, and luckily my plan while it only has a $1000.00 yearly max does pay 100%. Unfortunatly, my root canal was 950.00, so the crown that needs to go with the root canal must wait until next year. Checking out dental schools is an awesome idea and I have known people who have done it. Also, check out bartaring websites. There are many professionals who are willing to barter their services if you have something they need. The dentist I used to work for once traded some very expensive mouth work for an exterior and interior house painting. Also get a 2nd opinion, my husband was told he needed about $2500.00 worth of work. We passed, pumping him full of pain pills and antibiotics instead (I know, bad, bad). Fast forward a year we find a new dentist and during the exam says “this tooth, is this the one that bothers you?” and proceeds to grind down a crown that was too large, free of charge….My husband never needed $2500.00 worth of work, it was just a crown that needed grinding. Finally, talk with your dentist and his business office manager ask what kind of arrangements they are willing to make. Some offer discounts for cash paid up front, others will work on payments. There are options you just need to be creative!

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