An aching tooth causes enough pain on its own. The last thing you need is an accompanying financial headache, caused by worry about how to pay the dentist’s bill.
With a little research and persistence, you can find ways to get the care you need. A healthy mouth is worth paying for, so don’t let a large bill keep you out of the dentist’s chair, even if your credit is less than stellar.
If you need a little incentive, keep in mind that good oral health allows you to eat without pain, smile confidently, and may reduce your risk of other health problems, including heart disease.
How do you pay the bill, given that even a common problem such as a filling can cost hundreds?
Start by checking out our list of how to pay for dental work with bad credit.
Dental fees may vary depending on the provider. Ask friends, use search, Yelp, or Nextdoor for recommendations and then call those dentists to see how much they charge for the service you need. This may be complicated if a new dentist wants to repeat an examination you had elsewhere to determine proper care, so ask what will be involved if you are switching practices.
Explain that you have a limited budget. By calling at least three dentists, you will learn who may give you a break on cost. You can ask your preferred dentist to match a price you have found elsewhere. Even if the answer is no, you don’t lose anything, and you just might get a yes.
Ask about a dentist payment plan
Some dental practices may allow you to pay in installments, so ask whether dentist payment plans are an option. Your practice may provide them directly, or through a third party.
Be sure to ask whether the plan charges interest or fees.
Consider getting care at a dental school or free or low-cost clinic
Schools for dentists and dental hygienists need patients so that students can learn. They are supervised by qualified dentists to ensure proper care, and they often charge significantly less than a practicing dentist does.
To find a dental school near you that needs patients, check out this directory from the American Dental Association.
Tooth Wisdom, a nonprofit focused on providing oral care to older Americans, provides this search engine that lets you find schools, clinics, and other organizations that give care at low or no cost.
Check eligibility for government programs
Medicaid coverage for dental needs for adults varies by state, but CHIP generally provides dental coverage for all eligible children.
Set up a Flexible Spending Account (if your employer offers one)
A Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, allows you to pay the dentist with pre-tax dollars. You can only get an FSA as part of a benefits package from an employer.
Be sure to understand the rules if you want to use an FSA to pay for dental care or other health care expenditures. For example, you generally need to spend the money you put in an FSA within the plan year. If you don’t, you risk losing the money in it, but there are exceptions. To learn more, check out this primer on FSAs.
Look into dental credit cards and personal loans
Borrowing money may be a less-than-appealing answer when your credit is poor, but you may want to consider it if other options are unavailable.
Some companies offer dental credit cards that you can use to pay for care. If you qualify for one of these cards, investigate the terms to understand required payments, how interest accrues, and other key terms.
Dental credit card accounts will be reported to credit bureaus, which may affect your credit score.
Personal loans are another option. RISE and other lenders offer loans that can provide credit to pay for dental visits. As with credit cards, try to calculate the total cost, including interest, of any personal loan and understand all terms.
An aching tooth or other dental need can spawn larger problems, so don’t hesitate to get care. With a little work and research, you may be able to pay for needed care, no matter how troubled your credit history.