Trips to the dentist have become expensive for Americans. According to research published in the journal PLOS One, over the past 20 years, especially for older adults.

Many Americans who reach retirement may not know that Original Medicare doesn’t cover most dental work.

As recently as fall 2021, there were proposals in Congress to add dental, vision, and hearing aid benefits to Medicare coverage, but that legislation appears unlikely to pass any time soon.

Whether or not you have a dental plan, here are seven ways to help you at your dentist’s office.

Need dental insurance? Visit healthmarkets.com or call (800) 827-9990 to speak to a licensed insurance agent today.

1. Know what your plan covers

You could start by taking a closer look at your current medical plan. Some health plans may offer limited dental benefits. If it does, it’s important to understand what’s covered and what’s not. The same is true if you already have dental insurance. The more you know about how your dental benefits work, the more likely you’ll be able to manage your dental care costs.

Most stand-alone dental plans offer free annual cleanings and X-rays, but you may have to pay coinsurance. And you could face annual dollar limits for more in-depth procedures, such as root canals.

You’ll also want to know which procedures require a waiting period. While waiting periods may apply to major procedures, such as crowns, you may not have to wait for basic services such as fillings.

Even if you’ve had the same plan for years, make sure your dentist is still covered under it and is in network before you head to their office. Dental offices sometimes switch plans without telling patients, so even if your plan hasn’t changed, check whether your dentist still accepts it.

You could wind up paying more out of pocket if your dentist is suddenly outside your network.

2. Get your teeth cleaned regularly (and follow up at home)

Make sure you schedule your cleanings and then actually go. Getting regular teeth cleanings and updated X-rays help keep your mouth healthy. Visiting your dentist’s chair can help catch problems before they cause bigger complications.

Also important: Take your at-home care seriously. Ask your dentist if they have any favorite toothbrushes or flosses and get a walkthrough of the best brushing and flossing techniques.

These simple steps can help prevent potentially expensive future dental work.

Looking to get ahead of dental problems before they start? Speak to a HealthMarkets licensed insurance agent today (800) 827-9990. Or get started online.

3. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion

Say you have a sore tooth, and your dentist wants to extract it. Even if they’re right, it’s worth getting a second opinion, because prices can vary from provider to provider. This is true even if you have insurance.

If you have to pay out of pocket, ask your dentist about available payment options. Dentists may be able to offer you a payment plan, or a discount if you pay for the work up front.

Always ask what a dental procedure or service will cost. If it’s more than you expected or can pay for, dental work sometimes can be spread over two calendar years, which can give you some breathing room around your annual spending cap.

4. Consider going to a dental clinic

The best-kept secret in the business: You have more than one way to get great dental care.

You can see professionals at dental clinics, which are usually attached to a local university and offer services at reduced prices. Dental students are supervised by professional dentists, and you may end up paying only for the cost of materials and equipment used on you.

To find a dental school in your area, contact the dental society in your state.

5. Look for a coupon to save on dental work

Yes, coupons are available for discounts on dental care.

They can be a good option for people who don’t have health insurance or a dental discount plan.

That said, you may want to avoid jumping to different dental providers each time. There’s value in seeing the same provider over time: They’ll get to know you and your health issues, which can help them treat you more effectively.

6. Skip the dentist for the dental hygienist if you want only preventive services

A majority of states authorize dental hygienists—who aren’t doctors of dental medicine or surgery—to perform preventive services independently, without the presence of a dentist. (This includes things such as cleanings and X-rays.)

If you live in a state that allows it, consider booking your preventive dental services directly with a hygienist and specify that you don’t need to see the dentist. If the hygienist spots a problem, though, they’ll refer you to a dentist for further treatment.

7. No dental insurance? Consider a discount dental plan

Let’s get this out of the way up front: A discount dental plan is not insurance.

Rather, it’s a plan in which you pay a membership fee in exchange for discounts on dental procedures. This not only helps you save but may be a way to get regular cleanings and X-rays.

Discount plans are accepted at multiple providers, and your dentist may even have their own in-office discount plan, available only to their patients.

Need coverage? Find a dental plan by contacting a HealthMarkets licensed insurance agent today (800) 827-9990. Get started here.

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References

Hung, Man et al. “Health and dental care expenditures in the United States from 1996 to 2016.” PloS one vol. 15,6 e0234459. 11 Jun. 2020, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0234459. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7289437/

Medicare.gov Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/dental-services Accessed December 13, 2021

2021 Minnesota Statutes. Retrieved from https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/150A.10. Accessed March 3, 2022.

Dentegra. Retrieved from https://www.dentegra.com/for-members/use-your-plan/dentegra-discount-and-uhc.html Accessed March 1, 2022.

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