The cost of dental cleaning may surprise you. Though many dental procedures are expensive, basic dental cleaning may seem surprisingly simple for the rates dentists charge.
Along with the irrational fear most people have of professional dental care, it makes sense that less than 70% of the population visits a dentist in any given year in most states. People know they should go, they just avoid it.
In this guide, we’ll do our best to help you save money on dental cleaning. But let’s start with the main thing you came here for:
How Much Does Dental Cleaning Cost?
Professional dental cleaning costs $75-200, depending mostly on your location and the individual dentist.
This range does not include dental insurance and other ways to reduce the cost of dental cleaning—which can often take your out-of-pocket costs to $0.
If you are a new patient, you may also be charged $50-200 for an initial consultation. You may also need X-rays ($25-250). Expect an extra fee of $75-$150 for full-mouth debridement if you have excessive plaque and tartar buildup.
Standard cleanings (also called prophylaxis or dental scaling) are often included with any regular appointments you have with your dentist. This might seem expensive, especially twice a year.
However, neglecting your dental health always costs more.
The Cost of Avoiding the Dentist
If you think dental cleaning prices are high, you don’t know the half of it.
Many other dental procedures cost much more. Luckily, you can prevent many of them by taking proper care of your teeth. Regular dental visits can help you do that.
Sure, no one has more control over your dental health than you. (Brushing the right way goes a long way.) But a trustworthy dentist is your greatest ally in the battle to make your teeth last as long as possible. And that means they can save you money.
Not wanting to hear about more serious issues probably contributes to why some people avoid the dentist. But dental problems don’t go away on their own. Instead, they get worse.
Professional dental cleaning at least once a year helps to lower the chances of tooth loss.
Aside from the cleaning itself, regular dental appointments provide the added value of professional examination. Such diagnostics can lead to detection of many issues or potential issues.
Prevention is almost always less expensive than repair.
Dental Deep Cleaning: A Different Monster Altogether
If you develop periodontal (gum) disease, your dentist may recommend scaling and/or root planing, also known as dental deep cleaning or periodontal therapy.
Scaling and root planing may cost $500-4,000.
Deep cleaning may be expensive on its own, but it is still something like preventative treatment. It can help you keep your teeth and prevent the need for restorative work.
Still, with a proper dental routine and regular dentist visits, deep cleaning may never become necessary.
How to Save Money on Dental Cleaning
Just because the costs of dental cleaning pale in comparison to the cost of more serious procedures, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to save.
There are actually a number of ways to drastically lower how much you pay for dental care, basic cleanings included.
Will Medicare or Medicaid Pay for Teeth Cleaning?
Medical costs in America are sky high across the board.
Medicare and Medicaid are the main ways the government attempts to help people out with these ever-rising costs. As dental health is a vital component of overall wellness, the question is worth asking.
You’ll find mixed luck, depending on where you live.
Medicare only covers dental expenses related to an emergency. Via their site: “Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care… like cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, dental plates, or other dental devices”.
If you qualify for Medicare, however, you might be able to find Medicare Advantage plans from private insurance companies that include dental coverage.
You’ll find more flexibility with Medicaid. It is a program co-funded by the federal government and the states. Thus, coverage and eligibility vary from state to state.
Many state Medicaid programs cover cleanings and other preventative care such as examinations and sometimes fluoride applications or sealants.
There are also extended resources for children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.
You’ll have to do your own research, but keep in mind that Medicaid often expands and contracts based on the economy of your state. Make sure any resource you use is up to date.
The best way to learn what your state offers is to call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at 1-800-MEDICARE.
The primary focus of dental insurance is preventive care.
Most dental insurance plans include: two exams, two cleanings and a set of x-rays per year. If you are paying dental insurance premiums, basic cleaning should be free.
One benefit of dental insurance is that you feel obligated to go to the dentist in order to make your premiums worth it. We recommend reputable companies such as Humana, Delta Dental, and UnitedHealthCare.
While we recommend seeing the dentist at least once a year, we do not recommend getting dental insurance for a single appointment. There are other ways to save on a single appointment.
Most dental insurance plans have annual maximums of $1,000-1,500 but focus on preventative care. For the most expensive procedures they only cover a portion of the cost, up to the annual maximum.
Preventative care should never reach $1,000. And you lose the value of care you don’t use. Therefore, dental insurance plans aren’t necessarily a great value for everyone.
Discount Dental Membership Plans
Discount dental plans can help you save money on teeth cleaning and other dental procedures.
Instead of insurance premiums, you pay a yearly fee and receive a reduced rate on dental care. There are no coverage limits so you don’t have to worry about balancing usage across preventative and restorative care.
Discounts may be as high as 60%, depending on your plan. And with a large number of options available, you can easily find the best membership for you. You can find different discount rates, coverage, and yearly fees.
Dental cleanings are probably the most foolproof service you can get through a dental school.
You can offer yourself up as a test dummy for those studying to become a dentist. With other procedures this can seem more risky, even though anything you had done would be supervised by a licensed and insured professional.
In fact, most in-office cleanings are performed by dental hygienists—not the actual dentist his or herself.
You can find really good rates, but you’re likely to end up on a long waiting list. For this reason, you’ll probably have to plan months ahead. As long as you do so regularly, there is really not problem with this.
If you’re risk averse, you may find faculty or postgraduate clinics. Just keep in mind that your discount will likely be less. where you can find more reassurance (though less of a discount).
Search for Free Dental Cleaning
We will let you know from the beginning that you may never find tooth cleaning for free.
However, it is a relatively fast and easy service for dental professionals to complete. This is why finding free professional tooth cleaning is possible.
Lots of charitable organizations get involved with dental care. Your local UnitedWay may have information about free clinics in your area. Other charities such as Dental Lifeline Network, America’s Toothfairy, and ToothWisdom.org may also be able give your information or help directly.
You may also find other help locally. Contact your state and local health departments. This directory may help.
Lastly, perform a search at ClinicalTrials.gov. You never know what you may find. You could even find more serious procedures that you need.
Other Ways to Reduce Teeth Cleaning Costs
There are still some clever ways to lower dental costs, whether you’re already implementing the strategies from above or not.
Most of the following tactics rely on you. The ability to do research and the willingness to negotiate can save you a lot of money. When it comes to dental services, it’s often about knowing the right information and leveraging it the right way.
Hard work and cleverness can make all the difference:
Scour surrounding areas. Most people are surprised by just how much location can affect dental pricing. Dentists in prime markets with great locations can charge two or three times more for their services. Be willing to drive to dentists in blue collar neighborhoods, rural areas, or less-than-prime office locations and you could save big.
Find the diamonds in the rough. Once you’ve got a feel for where the least expensive dentists are in your area, shoot for practices that seem new or struggling. The harder a dentist is to find, the more likely he or she is to offer reduced rates in an effort to bring in business. You might skip to the third page of a Google search to find one.
Try some negotiation. When you have a good understanding of what you should be paying and what other dentists in the area charge, you can leverage that to push prices down. Showing your knowledge and asking the right questions can go a long way. After all, dentists make good margins on their services, especially simple ones.
Just say no. If all you want is a cleaning, say so. Don’t let your dentist add an examination or X-rays if you know you don’t need any. Don’t accept that these extras are “complimentary”. If they try to tell you that it’s all a package deal, just stand your ground. Like we said, they make great margins and don’t have to milk you dry.
Pay in cash or check. Don’t be surprised if you see your dentist’s eyes light up if you begin or end the negotiation with “…if I pay with cash or write a check…”. Dentist have to pay charges to insurance companies and credit card companies. Save them some money (and added hassle) and it becomes much easier to get your way.
Get professional cleaning while traveling. “Dental tourism” is slowing becoming more and more popular. And while dental cleaning isn’t expensive enough to justify traveling costs, you might consider having it done while on vacation. According to MEDIGO, you can find teeth cleaning for as low as $17 in Thailand or $29 in Mexico.
Mix and match these strategies with insurance, membership plans, or your dental school of choice for best results. Don’t look at these as independent, use them with your preferred providers and others to see how they will react.
Hopefully, you’re able to find something that can help reduce the costs of professional teeth cleaning. Have patience and determination or you will wish you did later.
Finances are a terrible excuse to avoid proper dental care. In the end, you’ll end up pay much more anyway. That includes money, but could also include your teeth.
In the end, you are the only one in control of how long your teeth last.