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How To Save Money At The Dentist’s Office

I recently had a dentist’s appointment to have my teeth cleaned. For the most part, I am terrible with keeping up with regular dentist appointments. This was the first time I had been in a few years. Regardless, this latest trip helped me to realize that, yes, you can save money at the dentist’s office. Of course, the first line of defense against saving money on dental visits is to take great care of your teeth. But beyond that, here are 5 more great tips:

1. Choose the Right One

If you don’t already have a regular dentist, I would not just pick one out of the phone book. I actually picked out three that accepted my insurance carrier, and called their offices. I requested price lists from them. Surprisingly, the prices at all three had some differences. I also found out that you can request a “usual, customary and reasonable” list (USR) from your insurance provider. Policies with a USR clause will not pay more than what is on their sheet. So it’s a great idea to compare the USR list with the dentist’s pricing list.

2. Go!

The first thing that I realized is that I am wasting money by not going to the dentist at least once per year. Wasting money? How could that be? Well, I think I pay roughly $12 per month for my dental insurance. Cleanings are free. Therefore I am leaving money on the table by not going to the dentist at least once a year to get my “free” cleanings. I am spending about $150 on dental insurance whether I go or not. This motivated me to schedule at the very least, annual visits. Even if you don’t have insurance, I’d still suggest at least going for at least 1 visit per year (if not two) to maintain your teeth. The last thing you want is decaying teeth and gums once you get a bit older. I promise you you’ll regret it!

3. Know Your Policy

Second, I would get a pretty firm grip on what my policy does and does not cover before going. It didn’t happen with me, but last year, my wife went to the dentist and had about $1000 worth of work done. As it turned out, over $700 of it was uncovered. Know your policy.

4. Beware of the Sales Pitch

The point of my dentist appointment was to have my teeth cleaned and nothing more. Of course, having not gone in the past few years, it would not have surprised me to hear about a cavity or two. I do take good care of my teeth, but not great care.

While I did not hear about any cavities, I did hear about a host of other things that I supposedly “needed” done. This guy came back into the office like someone who had just done a diagnostic on a car. He started in about things like caps and crowns. He then talked about whitening procedures and something called a “veneer’ which I still never really understood except for that it sound like a paint job for your teeth.

He even mentioned something about having my teeth straightened. I’ve had my same teeth my whole life and they’ve always looked pretty straight to me!

5. Tread Lightly, but Stand Your Ground

I want to be very careful before I say what I am about to say. I am by no means suggesting that you should second guess your dentist. However, had I agreed to all of the procedures that he recommended, it would have cost me over $2000. One thing we did talk about before I left was how much of this stuff was strictly cosmetic and how much would have a direct effect on my long-term dental health. After a little fast-talking, it seemed to me that most if not all of it was cosmetic in nature even though he tried to present the procedures as being fully necessary.

If your dentist tells you that you need to have something done and you are unsure, get a second opinion.  As I said, I wouldn’t just blow off your dentists’ recommendations, but at least take the time to question them.

Maybe I just had the luck of visiting a dentist who was out to sell me stuff I didn’t need. I am by no means saying that this is the norm. What I am saying is that by doing a little research on the front end and being cautious during your visit, you could potentially save yourself a significant amount of money.

Anybody have a good or bad experience at the dentist office recently? I’d love to hear some stories!

(photo credit: emrank)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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