Save $1,000: Get a dental X-ray
Putting off diagnostic dental care can cost you big time. No insurance? There may be a way around that.
Here's a cautionary tale from my sister the dental hygienist. A patient who didn't have dental insurance decided to skip the bitewing X-ray.
The woman's reasoning was threefold: No decay was visible, her mouth felt fine, and she didn't want to pay the $55 fee.
A little over a year went by and a tooth started to hurt. Uh-oh.
When she returned to the office, an X-ray revealed a cavity too deep to fix. Decay can exist where a dentist can't see it: between teeth or underneath an existing filling. That's why X-rays are recommended every so often.
Now the patient is facing at least $1,000 worth of treatment. Did I mention that she doesn't have health insurance?
Originally she thought she couldn't afford the $55 film. Now she realizes that she can't afford to have skipped it.
Neither can you.
More than 130 million Americans have no dental insurance. If you're among them, check out these options:
- Dental schools offer inexpensive (and supervised) care. Look for one in your area on the website of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
- The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics has links to free and low-cost health providers in the United States. Some of them provide dental care.
- Look for a discount dental plan. More than 100,000 dentists nationwide participate in such plans, offering discounts of 10% to 60%. Find dentists in your area through the search tool at DentalPlans.com.
- Search for pro bono care. FreeDentalWork.org offers listings for regional clinics and dental health events. Dentistry From the Heart is a nonprofit that puts needy patients in touch with dentists willing to donate their time.
Dental care is expensive if you don't have insurance. But X-rays aren't necessary at every visit. Depending on your age and current oral health, you may need bitewing X-rays only every two to three years.
Budget for those films. Prevention is cheaper than repair.
Don't skip cleanings either. Some dental hygiene schools provide low-cost care. The American Dental Hygienists' Association website has a state-by-state list of schools.
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It's several years later, the orthodontia is complete, my teeth are straight and behaving properly now and I have all of my original teeth. I think it's a good thing to take care of your teeth.
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