How much do dental exams cost?

You might be guilty of skipping out on your regular dental check-ups. This might be because you consider them unnecessary or expensive. A periodic dental exam costs $60 on average.

Perhaps you are saving that once or twice a year, but how much will you have to compensate for this neglect? And what exactly are you paying for if you decide to go in?

Creative Commons

Dental exam cost broken down

We have described the three most common dental exams in this article. Here is how much you can expect them to cost:

Exam typeAverage costCost range
Periodic$60$50-$150
Comprehensive$100$70-$200
Limited$100$70-$200

Play around with the calculator to figure out your estimate.

Dental exam
Type
Associated procedures
Calculate
0

Periodic exam

A regular check-up costs $60 on average. The prices range from $50 up to $150.

Not taking proper care of your mouth can lead to heart troubles, diabetes, infections, and more. This means additional costs of targeting those issues.

To make sure your teeth are well taken care of you should visit the dentist regularly on top of maintaining good oral hygiene.

Dr. Jason Chong
Most patients at my office return for regular recalls at least every 6 months.

A periodic exam is something you should expect to pay for twice a year. Most offices have a set price for this procedure. You might pay a bit more if you are not a returning patient.

Comprehensive exam

A comprehensive exam might cost about $100. It won’t cost less than $70 or more than $200.

A comprehensive oral exam is appropriate for new patients, patients who have had a significant change in their health conditions, or those who have not been to the dentist for over three years.

Dr. Peter March
Comprehensive exams and limited exams are typically the same cost. If it has been a long time and there are other issues, it is more cost-effective and better for overall health to have a comprehensive one. It can help find all issues rather than just dealing with one and coming back later.

The additional costs you can expect are a proper cleaning (to remove any stains, plaque and calculus), X-rays, and diagnostic procedures, as well as instructions on how to care for your teeth. You might be billed for those separately.

A comprehensive exam will likewise include a treatment plan in the case of cavities or signs of disease. This appointment will help you figure out other expenses to do with oral care.

Limited exam

A limited exam costs around $100. It won’t cost less than $70 or more than $200.

This type of evaluation, sometimes called an emergency exam, has the aim of targeting a particular issue.

Dr. Henry Hackney
A limited exam is the most basic evaluation, one that is often conducted in the case of emergency or walk-in patients. Any treatment that is required is billed in addition (i.e. fillings, extractions). Limited exams are almost always 100% covered by insurance.

It will end with a consultation and, if needed, a treatment plan will be devised.

Associated costs

ProcedureAverage costCost range
Full-mouth debridement$200$150-$300
Dental cleaning$100$70-$250
SRP, per quadrant$250$150-$450
Oral hygiene instructions$60$20-$100
2D oral/facial photos$80$30-$200
Panoramic X-ray$130$100-$250
FMX$150$100-$300

Some additional procedures might turn out to be necessary.

Full-mouth debridement

If your gums are inflamed or swollen, or if you have a lot of tough, hardened tartar on your teeth that make a proper diagnosis difficult, you may need a full-mouth debridement before your exam. After the procedure, your dentist or a hygienist will instruct you on how to clean your teeth and how often you should do it.

If it turns out that this procedure is necessary, it will have to be done beforehand. Due to insurance coding you will not be able to have your dental exam on the same day. The typical period that must elapse before the next visit for the provider to cover the costs is as many as seven days.

This procedure is rarely done. It is conducted if the dental professional can’t properly evaluate the state of the mouth due to calculus buildup.

Dental cleaning

Professional dental cleaning is a routine procedure that everyone should do twice a year. The best and most meticulous oral hygiene is not an alternative to this treatment.

The goal is to remove plaque and calculus. This can be done with an electric or ultrasonic device and handheld dental instruments.

It is often conveniently performed on the same visit as a periodic exam. In more extreme cases a full-mouth debridement might even be necessary beforehand. If active periodontal disease or heavy calculus under the gums is present you might need scaling and root planing as well.

Scaling and root planing

Scaling and root planing (SRP) helps target active periodontal disease. In fact, it is often the only procedure needed to resolve such an issue. If the disease has spread widely time-release antibiotics can be injected.

During this procedure, the dental professional wields a sharp hand-held tool called a curette. It is used to scrape off deposits from the teeth.

If the buildup is too heavy an ultrasonic device might be used to aid this process. After that, the root surface is polished to make it harder for new plaque to stick to it.

Oral hygiene instructions

It is common for the dentist or their assistant to give instructions on oral hygiene and care. This is especially true for patients who don’t come in for their regular check-ups twice a year.

In case of more complicated scenarios, for example when time-release antibiotics are injected into your gums, you might have to care for your mouth differently than what is usually recommended. If you are consistently doing something wrong it might also be a cause for cavities, or even periodontal disease.

This procedure, however, is problematic when it comes to unwarranted charges. It’s always a good idea to make sure you are not getting billed for things that weren’t done or that are covered by your insurance, especially if your mouth is generally healthy.

2D oral/facial photos

A dental exam is a great opportunity for non-invasive procedures that are necessary. Sometimes digital images can also be helpful in dental diagnosis.

The most common use for such photos is cosmetic in nature; extraction of wisdom teeth can greatly change the structure of the face. Other times intra-oral pictures might be taken to document plaque, gingivitis, and restorations. These can help ensure insurance will reimburse you.

Dental X-rays

Radiographs help detect gum disease and decay between the teeth, as well as problems below the gum line or in the jaw including impacted teeth, fractures, and abscesses. You can expect to pay for at least one of the following during your exam:

  • a panoramic X-ray,
  • a periapical,
  • a bitewing, or
  • an FMX (set of periapicals and bitewings).

Does insurance cover dental exams?

Yes. It is very likely that your dental insurance plan will cover the costs of the exam. Moreover, preventative care is often reimbursed fully.

FeaturesDental Blue for Individuals: Core PlanCigna Dental 1000Humana: Dental Preventive Plus PPO
Fee per person per month$35.95 (if you’re under 65)$30 or more$20.99 (after $35 enrollment fee)
Dental exam100% covered(no deductible)100% covered(no deductible)100% covered(no deductible in-network), 70% covered out-of-network (after deductible)
Deductible$75$50$50
Waiting periodNo waiting period6 months*No waiting period
In-network dentistsQuotes provided for in-network dentistsQuotes provided for in-network dentistsUp to 28% of extra discount, but you can see any dentist
Yearly cap$1,000$1,000$1,000

*If you’ve not had dental insurance for the past 12 consecutive months. Waiting periods are waived at Cigna if you’ve had valid dental insurance for a year.

It’s worth remembering, however, that insurance policies come with yearly maximums. These are around $1,000, which shouldn’t be a problem as regards dental exams, but if you need anything else you might reach that limit quickly.

Insurance also means a lot of paperwork. It is commonplace for procedures to be filed incorrectly, and then you might get billed. If this occurs it is always worth reaching out to your dental office. Clerical errors like this happen all the time, due to the complexity of insurance coding.

FAQ

Is a dental exam a necessary expense?

Yes. What’s more, it can help you save in the future. The ADA advises that you visit your dentist at least once a year. During this appointment, he or she will inspect your mouth for any issues that need treatment.

For example, it may turn out that you need a simple filling, which, if left untouched, could later turn into a root canal or even extraction (and later restoration). Those costs would be a lot higher than staying on top of your oral health and dealing with problems as they come.

How much is a dental exam with insurance?

Dental exams are considered a preventive measure and thus they are covered by insurance in full. Most often, this will be paid for before your deductible.

What can drive up the cost of a dental exam?

The cost of an exam is dependent on the experience of the dentist and your location. Offices in larger cities tend to charge more. The good news is that insurance should cover this procedure.

Is a dental check-up free?

If you are insured you are entitled to a dental exam with no out-of-pocket costs. You can also check at your local dental school whether students are conducting them at no charge. They need patients to practice on, which gives those with a low-income an opportunity to get checked out for free.

Save up to 60% on your dental care

Get yourself a discount dental plan and save up to 60% on dental procedures: exams, cleanings, fillings, and more.

START SAVING

Disclaimer: The total cost of dental exams depends on numerous factors. These include the location, the experience of the person performing the procedures, and the materials used. The costs vary from state to state, from office to office, and even from dentist to dentist working in the same office. These prices show the average expenses involved without insurance or dental plans. We did our best to compile and take into account values from many sources, but the final decision as to which procedures must be performed and how much to charge for them is always ultimately made by the dentist. We give no guarantee that the prices you find here are the prices your dentist will quote.