There are various ways to finance both cosmetic and necessary dental work. Using your own credit card is an option to pay for your dental work, although putting a large amount on your card may not be the wisest financial decision for you. As always, when using a credit card, be wary of your interest rates and monthly payment costs.
Dentists typically don't finance dental work themselves anymore. Using a third-party healthcare financing company, such as the Care Credit program or Citi Health Card, is becoming an increasingly popular method to finance dental work for both doctors and patients. There are no upfront costs to enroll, no teaser rates, low monthly payment plans, extended payment plans and instant qualification [source: Care Credit]. They also cover a wide range of dental procedures, including medical, cosmetic and orthodontic [source: Chase Health Advantage]. Think of these programs as credit cards to be used exclusively for dental health. Of course, be sure to read all the fine print before you agree to any plan.
Dental insurance is easy to obtain, much like general health insurance. Plans vary in price and coverage, so be sure to read through each plan thoroughly before you enroll. Many plans include these options:
- Dental PPO (Preferred Provider Organization): PPOs usually require you to meet a deductible and have an annual maximum amount of coverage. You can visit a dentist outside the network, but you'll probably have better rates if you use an in-network dentist. A PPO is your best choice for maximum coverage, but you'll probably pay the most out of pocket for the initial premium [source: Delta Dental].
- Dental HMO (Health Maintenance Organization): A HMO typically has no deductibles or maximum coverage cap. It does, however, limit your choice of dentist. This option requires a referral from your dentist or preauthorization from the insurance company for visits to dental specialists, as well as a co-pay for each visit [source: Aetna].
- Dental Indemnity Plan: This offers the greatest range of dentist and specialist choices, with no need for referrals. Instead of a set co-pay per visit, expect to pay a percentage of your dental costs up front, called coinsurance [source: Delta Dental]. You'll pay more out of pocket but have the advantage of choosing any dentist, anywhere.
Securing a loan from a bank or credit union is possible, but it can be a time-consuming process. Like a credit card, obtaining a bank loan is based on your credit score and credit history. If you need immediate dental work, a loan may not be the right option.
If your employer offers a flexible spending account, you might be able to use it to pay for your dental work. A Medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is an Internal Revenue Service-approved, tax-exempt account that saves you valuable tax dollars on eligible medical expenses, which typically covers dental work and braces. Each pay period, an amount of money that you have specified is deducted from your pay before federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes are assessed [source: Konrad]. You have to pre-determine how much money you want in the account, but your employer should provide resources to help you decide.
How do you go about comparison shopping for the best dentists and overall plans? Web sites such as DentalPlans.com and 1800Dentist.com can assist you locating in a dentist in your area who will accept a payment plan. It's as easy as entering your zip code and clicking to find the right financing options for your needs [source: Dental Plans].
- About Cosmetic Dentistry. "Cosmetic Dentistry Procedures." (Oct. 8, 2011)
- Aetna. "Dental Plan Types." (Oct. 13, 2011) http://www.aetna.com/plans-services-health-insurance/overview/dental-insurance/plan_types.html
- American Dental Association. "Financing Dental Care." (Oct. 13, 2011) http://www.ada.org/2679.aspx
- Butler, Sarah Lorge. "Why Your Dentist Costs So Much." CBS Moneywatch. June 10, 2011. (Oct. 14, 2011) http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/blog/family-finance/why-your-dentist-costs-so-much/4569/
- Care Credit. "Learn Why You Should Use Credit Care." (Oct. 8, 2011) http://www.carecredit.com/howccworks_whyshouldi.html
- Chase Health Advantage. "Procedures We Cover." (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.chasehealthadvance.com/procedures/
- Cleveland Clinic. "Health Library: Braces and Retainers." June 2011. (Oct. 16, 2011) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/devices/dental_care/hic_braces_and_retainers.aspx
- Colgate. "Checkups and Dental Procedures." (Oct. 13, 2011) http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Checkups-and-Dental-Procedures.cvsp
- Delta Dental. "Types of Dental Plans." (Oct. 8, 2011) http://www.deltadentalins.com/individuals/plans/plan-types.html
- Dental Plans. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://dentalplans.com/
- Konrad, Walecia. "Making the Most of Flexible Spending Accounts." The New York Times. Jan. 30, 2009. (Oct. 12, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/health/policy/30patientmoney.html