By Susan Braden
Affordable dental care is optimal for maintaining your budget. Even if you have dental insurance, it often only covers a small fraction of the total cost of care. Fortunately, there are several solutions to help you cover unavoidable, out-of-pocket costs for the most affordable dental care possible.
Your Dentist’s Billing Office
Especially if you are a long-time patient in good standing, many practices will offer in-house financing to help you stretch the charges over several months. They might also give you the option of giving a down payment and paying the rest of what you owe upon completion of a series of procedures. Generally, this financing is done on a case by case basis, and whether it will be an option for you depends on several factors, including the amount you owe, the frequency with which you can pay, and the nature of the procedure. Remember, you have nothing to lose by asking about this option, so inquire by phone or at the time of your next visit.
If you are in need of restorative or cosmetic procedures, there are a number of private companies and independent financing plans that can help. Some offer “same-as-cash” loans with no interest for one to two years; others furnish low-interest plans that require you to pay in monthly installments with little or no down payment. Your dentist might already work with one of these companies, so inquire before applying online or over the phone. Usually, you will know within a few minutes whether you have been approved.
Where do you go to find the best third-party dental financing that can help you to obtain the dental care you need? The options are endless. Here is just a small sample of some of the most popular:
CareCredit. This is a healthcare credit card accepted by over 125,000 providers. This card enables you to pay a low monthly fee for dental costs, and there are no pre-payment penalties or up-front costs. The card can be used for follow-up procedures with no bureaucratic headaches. In addition, it covers chiropractic, fertility, hair restoration, weight loss, cosmetic procedures, and even veterinary care. CareCredit is endorsed by the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry, the American Academy of Periodontology and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. You can apply online or at your dentist’s office.
All Care. This is a line of credit to cover your dental expenses. Your dentist’s billing office will determine if this plan is available to you. If so, it will furnish options of no-interest payments, reduced rate payment, low monthly payments with up to four years to pay, and extended payment. With this option, you can start your finance plan with no down payment. Your monthly cost can be as low as $25 a month, and the card covers dental work for your entire family. There is no annual fee or pre-payment penalty. To apply, consult your dentist’s office. If they do not participate in this program, you might consider going to the All Care website to find a doctor who does.
Citi Health Card. If you qualify, this can also function as a regular MasterCard for any and all purchases. In addition, it furnishes flexible financing for healthcare costs such as deductibles and and copayments. It can be used for affordable dental procedures, as well as for orthodontists, vision care, and even veterinarians. There is no annual fee for this card, and online help is available 24 hours a day if you need to find a provider.
Chase Health Advance. Chase offers flexible payment plans for a variety of procedures, including cosmetic, dental, and orthodontic. Among the affordable dental services covered are bridges, veneers, crowns, implants, and oral surgery. This plan features no-interest plans for three, six, 12, 18, and 24 months, with extended plans of up to 48 months. Interest rates start at 11.99% and revolving credit lines start at $5000.
Another source of help in finding affordable dental services might be your employer. Some workplaces give you the option of setting up a flexible spending account whereby a portion of your income is set aside before taxes are assessed. Generally, you have a yearly amount allocated for healthcare expenses, including out-of-pocket dental costs. Consult with your employer to see if your company offers this option and to get information on how to apply and the reimbursement procedure.
Discount Dental Plans
Finally, an increasingly popular option for helping with your dental expenses is discount dental plans. These alternatives to dental insurance are inexpensive and easy to use. An added advantage is that these plans have no annual limits and no long or difficult paperwork. In many cases, they even cover specialties such as orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. One of the premier discount dental plans is the Careington 500 Series plan with over 65,000 participating dentists. If finding affordable dental care is a priority for you, signing up for a discount plan such as the Careington 500 Series could easily save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the years to come.
After you have investigated the various alternatives available to you, the prospect of unforeseen out-of-pocket expenses is not quite as daunting. Once you know you are protected from bearing the full brunt of these high costs, going to the dentist and seeking the care you and your family need will not be such a frightening prospect. While visiting the dentist might never become something you look forward to, you can at least approach your visits with the knowledge that you can afford it.