To many, the cost of a basic dental examination seems absurdly high. We don’t necessarily disagree, but at least we understand why the costs are so high.
Whatever a dental exam costs, your dentist probably doesn’t make much on it. Dentists charge a high hourly rate for most procedures and make a profit on most dental appliances. An exam by itself though, does much less for them.
Still, it will probably seem expensive if this is the first time you’ve asked yourself:
“How much does it cost to go to the dentist?”
That’s why we’ll provide you everything you need to know about saving money on dental checkups. But first, we need a breakdown on price and potential upcharges.
How Much Do Dental Examinations Cost?
Basic dental exams cost $50-200. However, you may end up paying more. If it is your first visit, you’re likely to pay for X-rays and/or a cleaning. If you need an exam due to a problem, you’re likely to pay for X-rays and/or other analysis techniques.
X-rays can cost $25-250. And basic cleanings can cost $75-200.
Dental service costs fluctuate wildly, based on a variety of factors.
The most important thing is to understand what you’re being charged for. These price ranges reflect “hard costs” without the help of insurance or other money-saving methods.
This may seem expensive. Yet the costs of regular dental checkups pale in comparison to the cost of avoiding professional dental care.
The Cost of Avoiding the Dentist
Prices of more serious dental procedures can be alarmingly high.
If you don’t take care of your teeth, you’re destined to lose them—and pay for them too. A trusted dentist is your greatest ally in the fight for oral health (besides Authority Dental, of course). Pay them now or pay them more later.
Unhealthy teeth are expensive teeth. The more unhealthy, the more expensive. That’s why it’s so important to act quickly when you begin to notice dental problems.
Remember that dental procedures don’t even have to be complicated or extensive to become a heavy financial burden. That’s because there are a ton of factors involved in the cost of all dental procedures.
Tooth extractions cost $50-900. Root canals cost $300-2,000. Dental crowns cost $500-3,000. Dental implants cost $1,000-3,000. Dentures cost $300-5,000 per plate. And all of those price tags can rise due a variety of associated costs.
A $100 dental exam is nothing next to the long term costs of poor dental health.
Plus, you found us. With our help, you can get your out-of-pocket costs even lower.
How to Save Money on Dental Exams
Cheap dental examinations are usually pretty easy to find because they are so routine.
Local research helps a lot. Plus, there are lots of different businesses built to help you save on dental costs.
But first, let’s talk about how the government might help.
Will Medicare or Medicaid Pay for Dental Exams?
Oftentimes, dental health is low on the priority list. This certainly holds true when it comes to public assistance.
Medicare will never help with the cost of dental exams. The only dental costs Medicare with ever help pay for are those related to emergencies. There are however, Medicare Advantage dental plans that include dental coverage.
Other the other hand, Medicaid provides comprehensive dental coverage for children in all states via the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. Coverage for adults varies from state to state.
If you qualify for Medicaid, you’ll need to do some research to find out what is offered in your state. As of February 2015, 28 states covered preventative care through Medicaid. “Preventative care” includes examinations and cleanings.
You’ll need to do your own research to find out what your state offers. Coverage fluctuates along with state budgets so the best source of information will always be Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (1-800-MEDICARE) or your state’s local office.
Most dental insurance plans focus on preventative care as well.
Basic dental insurance usually includes two exams, two cleanings, and a set of x-rays every year. Most plans focus on preventative care, with annual maximums of $1000 or $1,500.
Paying for dental insurance makes you feel obligated to go to the dentist. In the long run, this is likely to save you more money than anything else. Early detection of issues is often key to keeping dental costs down.
If you have absolutely no intention in making regular dental visits, however, we do not recommend dental insurance. There are better ways to save money on a single visit to the dentist’s office.
Discount Dental Plans
Similar to dental insurance in scope, discount dental plans are one of the most versatile ways to save money on dental services.
Instead of premiums, you have a membership fee. For that fee, you receive dental services for discount price with no limits. If you end up needing a more expensive procedure, a membership plan could help you save $1,000s of dollars.
With a little bit of shopping, you can find a plan customized to fit your needs. You may find discounts of up to 60%.
Dental schools are a great source for all sorts of discounted dental services.
It may seem a little risky to volunteer to be a subject for a trainee. With basic dental exams though, all you really risk is a less-than-professional experience.
Anything and everything would be supervised by a certified dentist. And even if you get X-rays or a basic cleaning along with your exam, there really isn’t anything that can go wrong.
If it’s too much of a stretch for you, you could look for postgraduate or faculty clinics. Just keep in mind you’ll pay more than you would for the trainees. Either way, you should be fine.
The only real problem is availability. You may have to put your name on a waiting list or plan months ahead. If you need an exam due to a pain or another issue, you’ll likely need a better option.
You might want to look into some charitable organizations if you’re having a really hard time paying for dental exams and Medicaid is not an option in your state.
Plenty of people and organizations see the need for discounted dental care.
Local dentists may offer free clinics from time to time. Your local UnitedWay is sometimes the best source of information on free local clinics. You can also look into organizations such as ToothWisdom.org, America’s Toothfairy, or Lifeline Network.
We also want to stress the value of local research. State and city health departments may have information about programs that no one else does. You can also find various lists of local programs with a little extra research
If you’re looking for dental exams because you suspect a serious issue, you might benefit from taking a look at ClinicalTrials.gov. You may find info on restorative procedures where exams would be included.
Other Ways to Reduce Dental Exam Costs
This final group of strategies to save money on dental checkups is the most basic. But they can often be the most effective.
Our last few tips involve effort, people skills, and a little more research. Informed customers usually pay less for better work.
When it comes to inexpensive dental care, creativity can go a long way.
Ask about the procedure, not the exam. If you suspect that you are in need of a certain type of dental procedure, ask about it. Don’t ask how much it will cost to take a look. Instead, tell them what you think you may need and ask if they offer free consultations. This is especially effective when you need a high-priced procedure.
Figure out your market. Dental pricing fluctuates widely. Location plays a major role, but in ways you may not expect. Driving an extra 20 minutes may save you 50% or more. The best way to understand what competitive prices really are is to talk to as many dentists as possible. Take notes and be ready to leverage your research.
Look for weak links. A dental practice is lucrative—as long as it has clients. Many dentists are willing to lower their rates to stay busy. Figure out who those dentists are. They are the most likely to undercut the rest of the market on price. Good targets include new dentists, those with no marketing, and those in poorer neighborhoods.
Negotiate your rate. Don’t be afraid to ask for the price you want, especially once you have a deep understanding of your local market. If you get shut down, move on to the next one. You have to pick your targets well. But demonstrate that you’ve done your research and there is a chance you may really open your dentist up.
Offer to pay cash. This might seem either old-school or shady, depending on your perspective. But there is nothing nefarious to it: when you pay cash, you save your dentist money in fees. Checks have the same effect. Dental professionals have to pay both credit card and insurance companies to accept payment through them.
Get an exam while traveling. If you’ve never heard of “dental tourism”, here’s your introduction. Many dental services cost much less in other countries. An exam isn’t worth it’s own trip. But if you have a vacation planned, you should look into it. Search Dental Departures and you can find free or low cost consultations in Thailand, Mexico, and elsewhere.
The price you pay has a lot to do with how much effort you put in.
If you haven’t found the results you’re looking for, there is always something else you can try.
Dental exams aren’t nearly as expensive as actual dental procedures. Still, they aren’t cheap—especially if you end up paying full price.
Make them a routine and you can keep your overall dental health care costs down. Regular dental check ups help you avoid those more expensive procedures. As is true with health overall: prevention is always easier (and cheaper) than restoration.
When it’s all said and done, lowering the cost of dental checkups can have significant impact on your quality of life down the road. Try hard and do it.