Due to unemployment, income stagnation and inflation, Americans have trimmed most of the fat out of their budgets. Now that the bare bones of your expenses are exposed, you may be asking the questions that plague many others in these difficult times: Why is my dentist so expensive? Is there such a thing as a cheap dentist?
How Is Dental Insurance Different from Medical Insurance?
If you have medical insurance, you probably contribute a relatively cheap copay that covers the cost of a doctor’s visit, as well as any tests your physician may recommend. Several weeks later, you can receive a statement from your insurance carrier detailing the expenses you incurred during your visit.
Though you only have to pay in the double digits, it’s not uncommon for a simple physical examination with routine blood work to run your insurer close to $1,000.
If you have dental insurance, however, know that a greater percentage of treatment costs will come out of your pocket instead of being covered by a third party. While only 10.3% of doctors’ visits, 3.3% of hospital care and 26.8% of long-term care expenses fell on the shoulders of patients, Americans paid 44.2% of their dental bills out of their own pockets in 2007. While it may seem that your dentist is too expensive, you may, in reality, just have to bear more of the costs.
The Focus of Dental Insurance
Especially if you have to receive more complex treatment such as bridges or crowns, you will see for yourself the priorities of your insurer. Most traditional dental insurance focuses on prevention. Therefore, many policies cover most to all of the cost of routine checkups and cleanings in order to encourage you to go to the dentist regularly. The level of support drops dramatically, however, for more intensive procedures such as crowns, dentures and endodontics.
Changes Since World War II
In the book Making the American Mouth, author Alyssa Picard speaks compellingly about the role the post-war orthodontic boom had in accustoming middle-class Americans to paying out-of-pocket for certain “nonessential” procedures. It was not long before parents accepted that paying for braces was an inevitable part of raising children, no different from footing the bill for school pictures, sports or test prep courses. As a result, Americans are known around the world for their straight teeth and glistening smiles. These standards may help explain why a cheap dentist is increasingly hard to find.
The Unseen Effects of High Dental Costs
Because dentistry professionals recognize the increased financial burden that falls directly on patients, they usually give you more control over your treatments.
For instance, if your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, he may offer to treat the tooth “either now or later, depending on your budget.”
- While this statement may reveal your dentist’s level of empathy, it can also create a false sense that you can delay treatment indefinitely. Unfortunately, procrastination will not make your issue go away; in fact, the longer oral problems remain untreated, the more severe and expensive they become.
Since rising treatment costs can both cause patients to delay treatment and eliminate large blocks of patients entirely, many dentists are now willing to accept discount dental plans and/or break up the cost of treatment into manageable payments.
Is There a Cheap Dentist Out There?
Even if you have dental insurance through your employer, you will likely feel the effects of rising costs. Since it’s difficult to find a really cheap dentist these days, investigate a discount dental plan. Unlike traditional dental insurance, there are no yearly maximums, waiting periods, deductibles or claims forms, and you can begin saving right away.
Discount plans not only allow you to see a cheap dentist but can also lower prices 15-60%. In many ways, discount plans like the Careington 500 Series are the best of both worlds: quality comprehensive care at prices virtually everyone can afford.