The good news is that there’s a dental plan for every budget, as long as you’re willing to take a look at the pluses and minuses of each one. Here are a few of your options for getting discounted dental work or plans, and the benefits and downsides you can expect from them.
Probably most people’s first choice when they’re looking for a cheap dental plan or discounted or free dental work, this setting allows you to get a lower price or an easy payment plan in exchange for providing experience for dental students. Since students aren’t allowed to work on patients until late in their schooling, there’s minimal risk, and you may be able to even get a free examination. The downside is that these procedures must be overseen by a professor in most cases, and can take a lot longer.
Students at dental schools also aren’t as practiced and may not be as gentle as a regular dentist. However, working with a dental school can be a way to get inexpensive treatment when you need it, instead of letting things continue to get worse over time. You may also be able to be seen by a faculty member. The discount is much less, but you’ll still pay less than you would for dental work at a private practice.
Discounted Dental Plans
Some clinics and private practices are part of organizations that will offer discounts to people who are members of their dental plan. You pay a set fee per year, then receive lower cost treatment, as long as you only see practitioners within the plan’s network. This can help you get some pretty inexpensive work done, but you’ll have to stick to a few dentists. That can be a problem in a network with few members, or one that doesn’t have dentists you want to work with, but the overall benefits can be worth it.
Some cities and states are beginning to offer programs where a discounted dental plan is available to people below a certain income level. This plan may only be available for children, or it may work for adults with low incomes, too. The coverage and dentists available under this kind of plan will vary significantly from state to state or city to city, so you’ll have to look at your local options to find out if this will work for you.
Some dentists and dental schools choose to have community service clinics where free or discounted dental services are performed. These can be a useful way to have work done inexpensively, but expect long lines and significant waits. In addition, these dentists will be working long hours for little pay, and may be tired when they get the chance to work with you. This can make them a problematic way to get your work done.
Group Dental Plans
If you can get a group of other people together, you may be able to sign up for a conventional dental plan at a discounted rate. Every insurer has different requirements for the number of people who can receive a discount, and this discount won’t be as large as if you were doing it through a big employer, but it can still be a cheaper way to get a dental plan than if you had to sign up singly. Just make sure you do all your research in advance so you know you’re getting a good deal.