8 Tips for Finding Affordable Dental Care Without Insurance

by Shelley Frost
Look of gratitude. Beautiful young woman sitting in a dentist chair and smiling at her dentist while he holding a mouth mirror and a probe for a checkup

Trying to figure out dental care without dental insurance? You're not alone; estimates show about 68.5 million American adults are without dental insurance.

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But that doesn't mean you're doomed to have a mouth full of cavities or uncontrollable gum disease. Affordable dental care is available, even if you're paying out of pocket.

Can You Get Dental Care If You Don't Have Insurance?

Yes, you can still get dental care even if you don't have health insurance. Dental offices typically offer patients without insurance the same services as people with insurance. You'll pay out of pocket for the full amount of the dental services you receive. Expect to pay the full amount at the time of service.

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How Can You Get Affordable Dental Care Without Dental Insurance?

Paying for dental work without insurance can add up quickly. It's possible to find affordable dental care without insurance, but it takes a little research and effort. Here are some ways to lower your dental costs when you don't have insurance.

1. Visit a Dental School

Before becoming full-fledged dentists, dental school students need lots of practice on real teeth. To help students get that experience, many dental schools offer significantly discounted services in exchange for you letting a student do the work. Licensed dentists supervise the treatments, which can range from simple fillings to more complex procedures. The pricing varies but typically amounts to the cost of materials and equipment.

If you're just looking for a cleaning, find a community college or other schools with dental hygiene programs. Budding dental hygienists often offer free cleanings to get in the practice they need to graduate.

2. Look for Public Dental Clinics

Many areas have public dental clinics supported by tax money and typically operated by the local health department. Treatments vary and are available at a reduced fee for people without dental insurance.

3. Check for Nonprofit Options

Some nonprofit organizations specialize in helping uninsured or low-income patients get the dental care they need. This could range from free to low-cost dental services. The qualifications can vary, so check your eligibility first. For instance, some programs might be available to anyone without insurance, while others might only be open to people below a certain income level or older adults.

4. Call Around for Pricing

Not all dental offices have the same pricing, so it can pay off to call around. You might find more affordable dental care at an office in a smaller town or a different part of the city. Some dental offices cater to low-income or uninsured patients and might offer a sliding fee scale. While you're calling, ask about discounts for paying in full up front.

5. Stick With the Necessities

Some dentists might offer additional services that aren't really necessary. Before starting treatment, ask what they plan to do and get a cost breakdown on each service. If some of the services don't seem necessary, ask more questions to determine if you want them.

On the other hand, skipping services or treatments you need could complicate your oral health. Waiting to treat a condition could make it get worse, which could cause additional complications. The procedure to remedy that issue could be a lot more expensive.

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6. Go to General Dentists

Any kind of dental specialist will almost always charge more for the services you receive. While some dental treatments are only available from specialists, many others can be performed by a general dentist. This can save you money on the bill for the same treatment. Just make sure your general dentist has the necessary experience with the procedure you need before making your decision.

7. Ask About Payment Plans

Paying your bill at the date of service is often the most affordable option, especially if the office gives you a discount for paying cash. However, you might not have the funds for more complex procedures. Ask if the dentist offers payment plans to let you spread out the cost.

8. Care for Your Teeth Well

Proper oral care at home can keep your overall dental costs lower. Brush and floss regularly and thoroughly to reduce the risk of decay and gum disease. Going for routine dental exams can also help. Even though they cost money, you could avoid more costly procedures required because of neglecting your teeth.

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