Been to the dentist lately? Get ready to pay more when you go

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Dentists and experts offer ways consumers can save money on their dental needs

If you’ve been to the dentist lately, you may have noticed that the prices have gone up. And industry sources say prices for everything from pulling a tooth to putting on a new crown will likely continue to rise, too.

A new poll suggests that three out of four dentists plan to raise their fees this year to try and offset challenges they face on their end like inflation, insurance reimbursement, and staffing.

The consumer actually had a hand in prices going up, too. More than 80% of the dentists polled said that their revenue was impacted by short notice, less than 24-hour cancelations, leaving them little time to slot another patient in.

ConsumerAffairs reached out to several dentists and financial experts for suggestions for consumers who want to take a bite out of their dental costs. 

Ask your dentist if they have any deals or subscriptions

Dr. Fatima Khan, DDS, at Altus Dental in Houston said that if a patient has a dentist they like and don’t want to switch to another because of price, they should ask if their dentist offers an in-office membership plan. 

“Your dental expenses will be reduced because they offer discounts on in-office procedures. Also, going for routine checkups is cost-effective because you can identify minor issues before they become a major problem,” Khan said.

“For example, a small filling will cost less than a root canal and catching gingivitis and reversing that before it progresses into periodontal disease will save you money and save your teeth.”

Some dental clinic chains are following suit. 

Dr. Arwinder Judge, DDS, chief clinical officer at Aspen Dental, told ConsumerAffairs that the practice recently launched a savings plan that costs $39 a year but lowers the prices up to 30% on most costs typically associated with preventative care and gives free exams and X-rays.

Go overseas

Now, this may sound a little far-fetched, but people have been known to travel outside the U.S. to get all sorts of medical procedures done, so why not dental work, too?

How about Portugal?

One New York City resident said they were facing $5,000 for a two-appointment root canal in the Big Apple, but found they could get the same for $300 in Lisbon. Yep, “dental tourism” is being touted as a real thing, at least by Julien McRoberts, owner of Dental Destinations Portugal.

McRoberts claimed that patients can not only save thousands on dental procedures, but also get the side benefit of exclusive hotels, tours, and unique experiences.

The notion of dental tourism was even verified by Colgate, pointing out that the current crop of “dental destinations” being promoted includes Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Egypt, Morocco, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, Croatia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

But there are issues inherent in dental tourism. For example, language barriers, medical standards, and care continuity.

“If you receive dental care in another country, the foreign dentist might not know your dental history. When you return, your own dentist might not know what treatment you received or why it was performed,” Colgate’s team wrote.

Go to a dental school or community health center

Khan also suggested that consumers consider dental schools and community health centers.

“You can get treatment at a local dental school. The cost is significantly lower than private practices and the student dentist will be supervised by a licensed dentist. The main drawback is the students are still learning and it can take a long time to have a simple procedure done,” he said.

As far as a community health center is concerned, that’s the perfect answer for someone who’s uninsured. Khan said the primary benefit is the sliding scale fee discount program that is based on your family’s annual income and size.

Do a better job taking care of your teeth

Dr. Kasen Somana, a cosmetic dentist and founder of Signature Dentistry may be a half a world away in Toorak, Australia, but he said that saving money starts with being proactive about your oral health care at home. 

“This means brushing and flossing regularly, scheduling regular check-ups and cleanings with your dentist, and making sure to address any issues as soon as possible. Doing so helps to prevent more major problems that incur higher costs down the road.”

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