Dental care in the US isn’t cheap, especially without insurance, but fortunately, there are various dental financing options which can help make it more affordable, even if you have bad credit, or would prefer financing with no credit check.
If you’re wondering how you can afford the dental work you need, we’re about to explain your options for dental financing in the US. You might be able to lower the cost of your treatment by getting dental insurance or traveling abroad, and then there are several ways to spread the cost into more manageable payments.
Whether you want to get implants, braces or veneers on finance – or you need to pay for expensive restorative treatment – we hope this guide to dental financing helps you make an informed decision.
Table of contents
- 1 How can I afford dental work?
- 2 A dental loan or credit card
- 3 Dental insurance
- 4 Dental payment plans
- 5 Dental tourism
- 6 Dentistry covered by Public Assistance
- 7 Veneers on finance
- 8 Cosmetic Dentistry Grants
- 9 Conclusion
How can I afford dental work?
Going to the dentist isn’t cheap. Why? Dentists in the US are in school for up to eight years and then must complete a few years of residency after graduation. With high graduate education costs in the US, this can often add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Of course, they must also purchase all the necessary equipment, employ staff, and cover the cost of running a clinic. So if you feel ripped off after sitting in the dentist’s chair for half an hour, remember you’re paying for much more than just one person’s time.
But this is little consolation if you find yourself unable to afford the dental work you need or want. Below we will go through the different ways you can finance your dental work and make it more affordable.
A dental loan or credit card
One of the dental financing options you may want to consider is a loan or credit card. You apply for these just as you would with any other big purchase, like a car or a new kitchen.
You’ll need to research different lenders to find a loan or credit card that suits your financial situation. Read more about how to choose a dental loan or credit card in our complete guide.
Paying for dental work with a credit card gives you the flexibility to make repayments as and when it suits you. However, credit card interest rates can be very high and if you only repay the minimum amount each month it will end up costing you an awful lot. Some cards have an introductory 0% interest rate, which is a good option if you’re confident you can repay the full amount before the special offer ends. Be careful with dental credit cards, as if you don’t pay off the card within the 0% interest rate introductory period, the rate may double dating back to when the credit contract began.
With a dental loan, you borrow the money from a lender and use it to pay your dentist in full. You might get a small discount for paying in cash up-front; it’s worth asking.
Interest rates on loans vary considerably depending on the amount you borrow, for how long and what your credit rating is like. A personal loan may or may not be more cost-effective than a payment plan, so take the time to compare your options. SuperMoney is a website that can help you compare lenders to find the best rate for your dental financing. They can even show you lenders who offer dental financing with no credit check, or with bad credit.
Many Americans don’t buy a dental insurance plan because they aren’t aware of the options available to them.
Dental insurance is one of the most common dental financing options in the US and can help with the cost of dental work by giving you a way to pay your expenses (or at least a portion of them) in predictable monthly payments. Most policies have annual limits though, so don’t expect your insurance to cover all your costs every time you see the dentist, especially if you have poor oral health and often need dental work.
When choosing an insurance plan, depending on your personal needs, the following are some of the things you’ll want to know if your plan offers:
- Emergency treatment cover
- Treatment of pre-existing conditions
- Dental implant insurance
- Cosmetic dentistry coverage
- Oral cancer coverage
- Hospital stay allowance
It can be reassuring to know you have some financial protection in place should you find yourself in need of any of these services or types of treatment.
Your insurance policy options in the US include:
- Indemnity insurance: Indemnity insurance offers high premiums and high annual deductibles in exchange for high annual caps for a broad range of treatments. This type of insurance is usually only available for groups and may only be a good idea if you are a high-risk patient.
- DHMO: DHMOs have low monthly premiums and no deductibles. These plans are ideal for those who want affordable dental care and don’t mind sticking to an approved provider network.
- PPO: With a PPO you can see any provider you want for your various treatments needed. In exchange for more flexibility, the premiums are higher than with DHMOs.
When choosing what type of dental insurance is right for you, it is very important to take into consideration your needs and, even though it’s impossible to know, how much treatment you expect to require.
Some dental insurance plans apply waiting periods to at least some types of treatment. If you already need urgent dental care, it’s no good taking out a new insurance policy with a 3 month waiting period, so make sure to choose a plan that has no waiting period. Also, be aware that there are usually higher costs for pre-existing conditions and dental problems.
Insurance might not save you a lot of money on your dental care in the long run, and you may still need to look at dental financing for bigger treatments, but it will make payments more manageable and offer some protection in emergency situations.
Read more about the different options and things to consider in our full guide to dental insurance in the US.
Dental payment plans
Many dental clinics offer their patients the option to pay for their treatment in installments with a payment plan. This type of dental financing involves paying a certain amount up-front and then splitting the remainder into smaller monthly installments.
Payment plans can be used to finance dental implants or other expensive prosthetic treatments. You might also consider this dental financing option if you need several fillings or root canals and can’t afford the full cost up-front.
Choosing a provider
There are many companies that offer dental finance in the US. In most cases, dentists have an agreement in place with one particular provider. You’ll find that each provider has different terms and conditions, and some may have special offers like 0% interest or no sign-up fee.
Before taking out a payment plan with your dentist, be sure you understand:
- Interest rates: How much interest will you be charged in total?
- Admin fees: Is there a charge to apply or sign up for the plan?
- Early/late repayment fees: Do any charges apply if you’re late with a repayment or you want to pay off the finance sooner than planned?
- Credit checks: Does the company run a credit check when you apply? If yes, are you likely to meet their criteria?
You can read more about all of these considerations and the different types of payment plans here.
If you’re not happy with the terms of the provider your dentist uses, you could look at other clinics in your area and see which providers they use. There are also some companies which offer dental financing options that can be used at any dental clinic.
Alternatively, a personal loan or credit card lets you finance your dental treatment without restricting your choice of dentist. A loan or credit card may be a better fit for you if you have bad credit or would prefer a lender that requires no credit check.
One way to save significantly on expensive treatments like implants, veneers and crowns is to travel to another country where dentistry is cheaper. You may be wary of this idea at first, but countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, Hungary, Poland and Spain have well developed dental tourism industries with world-class dental facilities offering prices 50-70% lower than in the US.
It’s important to take into consideration what work you need done. For instance, If you don’t require much work then going across the border to Mexico will be much more cost-effective than flying to Europe when you consider the combined cost of your flights, accommodation and treatment. If you need a lot of treatment, however, you may find that your costs will still be cut considerably even if you fly across the Atlantic. And you could venture to somewhere like Thailand or Turkey and enjoy an exotic holiday while you’re there.
Of course, you shouldn’t just jump on a plane and visit the first clinic that offers you a good deal. It’s important to carefully research your choices before getting affordable dental work overseas. To discover more about the best countries to visit and things to consider before you book, read our dental tourism guide.
Combined with dental financing from a loan or credit card, this option could enable you to get your dental treatment much sooner than you thought possible.
Dentistry covered by Public Assistance
If you are eligible to receive benefits from Medicaid, and can’t afford dental work, then your children will receive limited but free dental care. This care must at least include:
- Relief of pain and infections
- Restoration of teeth
- Maintenance of dental health
In some states, Medicaid dental financing extends to adults who can also receive limited free dental care. Check out this article on Medicaid to learn more.
Cosmetic Dentistry on Finance
Veneers on finance
Veneers, being a completely cosmetic treatment, are almost never covered by insurance or Medicaid. If you want to get veneers to improve the appearance of your smile, you’ll need to pay for private treatment or find an insurance plan that includes this service, often with a much higher premium.
Veneers can cost anywhere from $250 to $2,500 each, depending on the type, with porcelain veneers being the most expensive. If you want to fix several teeth or a whole jaw, you might need to get financing for your veneers
Insurance rarely covers cosmetic veneers, but you might consider getting treatment abroad at a clinic that specializes in cosmetic treatments for overseas patients.
Braces on finance
Medicaid provides free braces for children when considered medically necessary, but if you want braces as an adult, you’ll probably need to fund your own treatment. On the upside, this opens up your choices for better aesthetics, for example with Invisalign, clear braces or lingual braces. On the downside, it means you’ll be paying thousands of dollars for your treatment.
Plenty of dentists offer orthodontic financing to help spread the cost of braces. You may also find insurance policies which make some contribution to orthodontic work, especially for children.
Dental implant financing
By far the most expensive type of routine dental work is implants. With a price tag averaging $4,000 for a single implant in the US, and some clinics charging much more, it’s not surprising that many people need to explore dental implant finance options.
Some insurance policies make an allowance for implants, but this probably won’t cover the full cost. You might choose to travel overseas for cheaper implants or get more affordable dentures while you save up for your treatment. A dental financing option such as a loan or payment plan, especially when combined with another strategy, can make implants much more attainable.
Cosmetic Dentistry Grants
The Cosmetic Dentistry Grant is a program created by the Oral Aesthetic Advocacy Group that can help fund implants and dentures. There is some question as to whether this dental finance company is a legitimate financing option, or is just a marketing scheme. If you are interested in this option, please do your homework and make sure you carefully read the fine print. To participate in this program you must be able to :
- Pay for all x-rays associated with the initial assessment (which they call free)
- Pay for all treatments needed to restore your oral health before starting the program
- Fund all remaining expenses not paid for by the program
If you are considering Cosmetic Dentistry Grants, keep in mind that despite how advertised, this program is not free, and a dental loan or credit card may be a better option for you.
When you need to make dental work more affordable, there are two main ways to go about it.
First, you can reduce your costs with a good dental insurance policy or by getting dental work overseas.
Second, you can take out a payment plan or dental loan, or pay with a credit card, to break the treatment cost down into smaller repayments. SuperMoney can help you compare lenders online, including options for those with bad credit. They can even help you find lenders that require no credit check.
You may even be able to combine these two strategies, especially if you want dental financing for more expensive treatments like veneers and dental implants.
SuperMoney: The Smart Way to Finance Your Medical Expenses. Consulted 22 May 2019