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Even people with strict dental regiments need professional intervention at times to help maintain their oral health. Often, this care takes the form of a complex oral procedure. From preventive care to reactive measures, dental procedures can be crucial in relieving pain, fending off future dental issues, and restoring oral health.

Many times, these procedures crop up unexpectedly and, often, people don’t have the extra funds to afford the care they desperately need. So how can you prepare financially for some of the most common dental procedures?

Understanding common dental ailments and procedures

While any dental professional would recommend regular dental examinations and cleanings for optimal oral health, many Americans on a budget view dental care exclusively as a reactive measure. Many people don’t schedule regular visits, opting instead to wait until they have a cavity or some other dental affliction. In fact, 56% of uninsured individuals skip preventive treatment altogether.

This lack of dental attention can lead to numerous complications that require oral procedures to alleviate discomfort and pain. Some of the most common oral procedures that go beyond routine dental care are:

  • Crown: People who suffer from a cracked tooth or a filling that impacts over half the tooth may need a crown to protect the tooth from further damage. Crowns are the most common dental procedure and vary in price from $800 to $1,700 depending on whether the appliance is porcelain or metal.
  • Implants: A dental implant may be necessary when a traumatic event or untreated decay result in loss of the natural tooth. Crowns are often associated with dental implants, as they’re usually affixed to an implant to protect the new tooth. Replacing a tooth with an implant is one of the most expensive oral procedures available, and can cost up to $5,000 in total.
  • Root canal: An untreated cavity that develops into deep tooth decay can result in the need for a root canal. Fifteen million root canals are performed every year in the United States, costing anywhere from $800 to $1,300 each, depending on the affected tooth.
  • Wisdom teeth: The most common dental surgery involves the removal of excess teeth often submerged beneath the gum’s surface. While this procedure is often preventive, the protrusion of these molars can cause jaw pain, trouble chewing, and the crowding of teeth. Approximately 5 million Americans have their wisdom teeth removed every year, spending roughly $800 or more, depending on the geographic region.

Not only are people deterred by the discomfort and inconvenience of having these procedures, but the costs can be virtually unattainable for the average American.

The dental insurance landscape

Over a third of Americans don’t carry dental insurance, forgoing coverage due to a lack of viable options. Many Americans are struggling to pay for coverage and, when pressed, are sacrificing dental insurance to afford health insurance for other medical needs.

  • Affordable Care Act: Although the Affordable Care Act offers options for dental coverage, the options can be complex to navigate. Very few plans offer dental coverage within the medical package, and those that do can be expensive. The Marketplace allows consumers to purchase additional dental care coverage for a separate premium, but this drives costs up too.
  • Medicare: Seniors insured by Medicare are often disappointed to find the program doesn’t cover most standard dental care, dental procedures, cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, or dentures. Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) will pay for certain dental services provided in a hospital, only if they are considered an integral part of another covered medical procedure, or if they are considered an emergency.
  • Medicaid: There are no requirements for offering adults dental coverage under Medicaid. While most states provide at least emergency dental services for adults, less than half currently provide comprehensive dental care.

With so many people lacking dental coverage, it’s crucial to find an alternative way to afford complex oral procedures.

The role of dental insurance alternatives

Dental procedures don’t have to be out of the question if you lack traditional dental insurance. There are a variety of options for preparing your finances to afford these important surgeries and procedures.

The first step to avoiding costly procedures as an uninsured individual is to focus on maintaining excellent oral health through positive daily habits like proper tooth brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash. You will still need to afford professional oral care, but quality self-care can help prevent many of the issues that lead to serious procedures.

Another popular option for uninsured and insured individuals alike is creating a health savings account. This increasingly popular practice allows people to estimate their total healthcare expenses for the year and set aside pre-taxed money to cover those expenses. While this option means paying out-of-pocket, using pre-taxed money saves a significant amount.

Another option to consider is enrolling in a dental discount program. These convenient programs provide between 20% and 50% off routine and advanced dental services for a small monthly fee (usually in the neighborhood of $10 per month for the entire household). As a bonus, some of these plans also include discounts toward prescription medications, vision care, and a whole suite of wellness services to better serve your health needs.

Undergoing vital dental procedures is difficult enough without stressing over finances. If you’re uninsured, find the best method for caring for your oral health that meets your budget.

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