Are you afraid to go to the dentist? Your fears may not be based on mouth pain, but on a potential pain in the budget. Dentist visits can be expensive. Here are a few ways to lower the cost:
Bite down on the truth. Talk to your dentist before you need extensive work done. Let him or her know the extent of your coverage (or lack of it) or the facts about fixed income or unemployment. Your dentist may have information on programs or funds that can be activated if necessary. Ask if there is a discount available for loyal customers. Be prepared to look for another dentist if your current one doesn’t want to budge on his fees.
Paper beats plastic. Research average prices of dental work, and offer to pay cash at the time of services. Offering cash payment up front can often save the office time and money through billing or credit card charges. Insurance companies negotiate their fees with dentist’s offices, so ask the office if it would be willing to charge the amount it typically accepts from insurance companies.
Does your dentist offer layaway? Ask your healthcare office if it can establish a revolving payment plan with no interest, at an amount you can afford. And never, ever miss a payment. Don’t let them — or yourself — down.
Paybacks with payroll. Talk to your employer about the Direct Reimbursement program that allows patients to choose their own dental care provider and pay for services. The program then reimburses the patient for out-of-pocket expenses. Of course, there is a cap on the amount available. Use your negotiating skills to bring the charge down to a reasonable amount, pay in cash, then submit receipts for reimbursement.
See you next year. If you have dental coverage, find out when the coverage year begins and ends. If you need to have major work done, ask your dentist if he can start the work during the current coverage year, and finish it in the following year. For instance, if your coverage year ends on July 31, schedule the first part of work to begin during July and finish the work in August. The office can then bill a portion of the services in each year, staying within coverage limits in your dental plan and taking less from your own pocket. Be warned, though: Some dental plans have lifetime limits.
Avoid the dentist altogether. Brush at least twice a day and more if possible. Floss every time you brush. Schedule replacement times for your toothbrushes; worn out brushes do little to clean between teeth. A friend replaces hers every time she finishes a tube of toothpaste, and after she has gone through a bout of cold or flu.
Spare the lemonade. Citrus fruits as well as sugary drinks can damage teeth; controlling your diet can help preserve dental well-being. When choosing a smile-heatlhy diet, look for alkaline-based and high-antioxidant foods.
Soap in your mouth. Many toothpastes include detergents that wear at the enamel of your teeth. Mouthwashes with alcohol in their list of ingredients can dehydrate the gums and allow bacteria to enter around the tooth. Make your own toothpaste, or look for detergent-free toothpastes and mouthwashes with no alcohol.
The American Dental Association offers more tips to keep your mouth healthy and happy.
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