Published in: Personal Loans | May 10, 2019

How to Pay for Dental Care When You Don't Have Insurance

Paying for dental care without insurance can be really expensive. Check out these options to figure out the most affordable way to take care of your teeth.
Person shopping for health insurance on a tablet.Image source: Getty Images. 

When you have a problem with your teeth, often you have no choice but to get dental care. Toothaches can be really painful, while missing teeth can impact your appearance in major ways and can even affect job opportunities.

Unfortunately, getting dental care can be really expensive when you don’t have dental insurance. If you find yourself in this situation, you’re going to need to find a way to pay for the care you require. To help you out, check out these tips for paying for dental care when you don’t have insurance coverage.

Look for low-cost dental services

One of the best ways to make sure you can afford dental care is to look for the most affordable dental services possible. Inexpensive care can often be found in dental schools if you have one in your area. You could also look into public clinics where dentists perform work for free or on a sliding scale if you have demonstrated proof of financial need.

To find a dental school in your area, search the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Be sure to contact the dental school to find out the services they provide as well as costs and fees, as care at a dental school clinic is not free. You should also be aware that, depending upon demand for services, there may be a wait before you’re able to get the care you need.

Explore discount dental programs

If you already have a problem with your teeth that you need to address, it will likely be too late to get dental insurance to cover your issue since the care you need would probably be excluded due to the fact you have a pre-existing condition.

However, there are dental discount programs you can join even when you are already in need of dental help. Typically with these programs, you pay a small fee to get access to discounted dental services from participating dentists. Delta Dental is one example of a discount program you could consider, but there may be others that operate in your state as well.

Before you sign up for a discount dental program, compare projected costs to what you’d pay if you simply visited your local dentist and requested a cash discount. If you won’t save enough to make up for the fee of joining the discount dental program, then it’s not worth doing.

Talk with your dentist

Many dentists are willing to offer you discounts if you are able to pay cash since they don’t have to hassle with billing your insurance.

Some dentists will also let you work out a payment plan or they have in-house financing companies they work with that will provide you with dental loans. Typically bigger dental practices are more likely than smaller ones to offer these options, so that’s worth considering when you choose your dentist.

If your dentist does offer some type of financing, make sure you compare rates and terms with loans you could get on your own -- don’t assume that they’ll always offer you a better deal.

Consider a personal loan

Even if you’re able to get a discount on services or visit a dental clinic, you’ll still need to come up with some money from somewhere to pay for your dental care. If you don’t have the cash to pay out-of-pocket even when you’ve cut costs as much as possible, a personal loan could be the next best alternative.

There are dedicated personal loans that specifically cater to people who need medical or dental services. However, you don’t need to restrict yourself to only considering these loans. You can apply for a personal loan with any lender you want, including online lenders, credit unions, and local banks. Personal loan lenders don’t care what you do with the money you borrow, so there’s no reason you can’t use it for dental care. Looking for just a general personal loan, rather than a medical or dental loan, will give you a wider selection of lenders to choose from.

Taking out a personal loan to pay for dental care can be much better than using a credit card because you can borrow the amount you need for your care up front and will know exactly when you’ll pay it back based on your loan terms. You won’t get stuck in a cycle where you make minimum payments on credit card debt and it takes you decades to pay off your dental work.

Most personal loans have around a three- to five-year repayment term, so you’ll have plenty of time to pay off even the most expensive dental work with affordable monthly payments. You’ll also usually be able to get a much lower interest rate on a personal loan than the standard interest rate on a credit card. That will make paying for your dental care much less expensive over time.

You should shop around carefully for a personal loan to find one at the lowest rate possible -- remembering that your credit score will affect your rate. Borrow the minimum needed to get your dental work done, and borrow for the shortest time period you can so you’re not spending years paying interest.

Most personal loans fund very quickly, so you can find a lender offering good terms and usually have access to the money you need for dental care within around a week or less.

Getting dental care can be affordable even without insurance

While coming up with the cash to pay the dentist is undoubtedly a difficult proposition, it’s worth doing if you’re having pain or are at risk of gum disease, losing teeth, or other serious dental issues. You just need to make sure you shop around to get the most affordable financing so paying to resolve your dental issues doesn’t cause you to compromise long-term financial goals.

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