Dental work is absolutely essential to maintaining both oral health and general overall health. Untreated dental issues can eventually lead to systemic infections that increase your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other medical problems, in addition to putting you at risk for tooth loss and painful abscesses. Yet dental work can be expensive, and dental insurance policies lag far behind traditional medical insurance in coverage. Fortunately, there are several ways of financing dental work that allow you to break up your bills into manageable chunks.
Your dentist will create a detailed treatment plan for you before work begins. Some offices automatically provide detailed cost breakdowns, while others will provide one if asked. Either way, be sure that you have a full accounting of the costs involved before you get started.
While it is certainly best to treat dental issues as soon as they occur, some conditions are higher priority than others. For example, a missing tooth replacement may be delayed without significant risks, while an infected tooth that is left untreated could rapidly worsen. Ask your dentist to prioritize your issues to spread the financial burden over time.
If you need a multi-stage treatment, such as dental implants, your dentist may be able to break up the work to maximize the amount that your insurance will pay. For example, he or she might extract failing teeth at the end of your insurance year, and then place the implants at the start of your next insurance year.
Consider Credit Cards
Different credit cards have different interest rates, and introductory offers can be particularly attractive. If you are good at managing credit and will have the funds to pay off your dental work before the introductory period expires, a zero-interest or very low interest rate credit card can be a great way to finance your dental work. Just be careful not to use the card for things you don’t need, and remain disciplined enough to pay off the balance. Then leave the card account open so that it can help your credit score over time.
Ask Your Dentist About Financing Plans
Many dentists work with financing companies such as Care Credit that specialize in medical and dental financing. If you need a great deal of work done, or your credit score is not high enough to qualify for a low-interest credit card, these companies may be able to help. Their requirements are typically less stringent than those of traditional banks, and they often provide high credit limits. Although their interest rates are high, they sometimes offer zero-interest deals for those who can pay off the balance in 6 months or a year.
Dental work is essential for your health, so it is important not to put it off. Don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist about your financial concerns. Dentists understand budgets, and will work hard to help you find a way to manage your dental expenses.
Although there are a lot of good dentists out there, finding just the right one for your family can be tough. Many simply do not click with you. Some don’t use the latest techniques, some have a hurried approach, and some specialize only in particular patient groups. Here are some tips for finding a good dentist for your family.
1. Ask About the Dentist’s Education and Training
Think of searching for a dentist like conducting job interviews. Some of your most basic questions should be about the dentist’s education and training, particularly as it applies to your family’s needs. Where and when was the dentist trained? Does he or she take frequent continuing education classes? Does the dentist have certifications in dental implants, oral surgery, or other specializations? What about specific populations, such as geriatrics or special needs patients?
No dentist is an expert in all fields. However, the dentist you choose should be up to date on the things that your family is most likely to need. If you have a small child, experience with pediatrics may be among the most important factors. Likewise, if one of you is facing extensive dental work, a certification in oral surgery might be a primary consideration.
2. Consider the Overall Approach to Dentistry
It is important that you and your dentist see eye to eye on your overall approach to dental health. Do you prefer an old-school dentist with a paternalistic bedside manner? Are you looking for cutting-edge treatments? Do you want to be a collaborator in your own dental care, or would you rather have your dentist make all of the major decisions? None of these are right or wrong, but the dentist you select should reflect your own personal style.
3. Think of the Practicalities
Your dentist’s office should be reasonably convenient to your home or workplace, and the office hours should fit with your schedule. You should choose a dentist who accepts your insurance plan, and offers some type of financing for extensive procedures. Take a look at the missed appointment policy as well, especially if your schedule is tight and ever-changing.
Also consider how the office policies align with your family’s needs and concerns. Is the dentist skilled at handling nervous patients? Is sedation available if needed? Does the dentist handle complex cases, or serve as a treatment coordinator with a network of specialists? Is it acceptable to bring a relative or friend into the treatment room? Again, there is no right or wrong, but some policies do not mesh well with some individual needs or desires.
4. Consider the Costs
Dentist fees are complicated, so there is typically no way to get a firm price without an exam. Still, it is worth calling around to compare ballpark fees either on specific work, or on such common procedures as X-rays and simple fillings. Don’t choose your dentist based solely on price, but make sure that the one you choose is reasonably competitive in your local area.
5. Take a Look Around
Stop by the offices of your top few dentists to get a feel for how they operate. Is the waiting room clean and inviting? Do you receive a warm welcome? Are treatment rooms clean, and do staff practice universal precautions? Also take the time to ask a few questions and note the responses. Do you feel like there is an open and honest rapport, or does the staff seem bothered and rushed?
6. Personal Connection
Finally, make an appointment with the dentist you like best. Ultimately, this is the only way to tell whether you truly click. Think of this as a final interview rather than a firm commitment. Get to know the dentist and staff, and think through whether these are people with whom you feel comfortable. If you are unsure, feel free to move on.
Finding a good dentist is relatively simple, but finding a good dentist that is right for you can be trickier. Put in the time and effort to find someone with whom you can truly build a professional relationship based on trust and rapport. Do not entrust your family’s dental health to a dentist who, for whatever reason, you just don’t feel comfortable with.