Tooth Troubles: Finding Ways to Finance Unexpected Dental Work

It’s not news you look forward to, is it?

Your dentist has sat you down for “the talk.” You need a crown, or maybe a bridge. Or, worse yet — a root canal. Problem is, you don’t have insurance. And, you can’t get it after the fact. So, how do you pay for the procedure?

Look At Dental Insurance For The Next Procedure

Even though you’re focusing on your current procedure, you should probably read this from Guardian Life. It details the need for dental insurance and why you would want to buy it. It might not help you for your current procedure, but it might for followups and definitely for any other non-related dental issue you have. And, that will save you money the next time around so you’re not in this position again.

Dental Credit Cards

Most people in the U.S. don’t have preventative care like dental insurance. That’s about 108 million people. And, without insurance, small dental problems can become big ones. A dental credit card makes it a bit easier to pay for these types of expenses, however.

There is a downside to this, of course. If you ring up a huge credit card bill, you have to pay it off, usually at a really high interest rate.

You may end up paying more interest than you think. And, like many other types of medical credit arrangements, dental credit cards often show you a low initial teaser rate which doesn’t always reflect the long-term rate on the card. You won’t owe interest on any medical debt, for example, for 6, 12, 18, or 24 months, depending on the card you get. But, when that introductory rate runs out, you will pay upwards of 14.9%APR for up to 60 months.

It can take a tight financial situation and make it tighter.

If you take longer than the time period outlined or recommended by the card provider, then your interest rate may jump even higher — up to 30%, and the interest rate is retroactive. So, it’ll be like paying the higher interest rate the whole time.

And, if you can’t afford to make the payments, it could put you in a serious financial bind. Your credit will take a hit, and you may suffer from a lowered credit score, making it harder to get subsequent treatments or procedures.

The first impulse, of course, is to seek out credit solutions if you can’t pay for a dental procedure. But, if you try looking for a lower cost of care, you might save yourself time and money over the long run.

Getting A Discount

Some dentists will perform work at a discount. Don’t think you should try it? Why not? Insurance companies negotiate lower rates with dentists all the time. A dental school or dental society may be especially receptive to the idea. You’ll often be able to get excellent quality of care for a fraction of the price you’d pay at any other dentist.

If you can’t get into a discounted dental school, you may be able to get a sizable discount from a regular dentist.

Some dentists, for example, offer lowered costs for people who can’t afford their services. They may offer basic services for less than $200, and offer discounts up to 30% on basic services. Cash customers also eliminate hassle for dentists, which is why they offer such discounts.

Ask Your Dentist About Financing

Your dentist might offer no-interest payments on services. It’s not uncommon for dentists to do this for long-time patients, but they might do it for first-timers too. In-office plans usually aren’t reported to the major bureaus unless you default on the payments. It’s a less expensive way to take on medical debt, and you can work with your dentist to create  payment plan that works for you.

And, because you’re working with your dentist directly, if you miss a payment, you might be able to work with him or her without it negatively affecting your credit.

Before you try out any new dental practice, read reviews to make sure the place is reputable and that it doesn’t have a history of “trapping” patients with medical debt.


If you have a cash value life insurance policy, or money in savings, you may be able to finance a dental procedure yourself. Make sure you repay the money to your savings so that it’s there for you in the future. If you have a health savings account, you might be able to use some of the funds for certain dental procedures, too.

Erin Talbot is a financial advisor. She loves helping people manage their money by posting her insights online. You can find her articles mostly on finance websites.

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April 28, 2016 Tooth Troubles: Finding Ways to Finance Unexpected Dental Work