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Dental Hacks to Save Your Money and Your Teeth

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Make dental care affordable with advice from Consumer Reports

Here’s some quick dental hacks on how to save your money and your teeth at the same time as recommended by Consumer Reports.


It’s a fact of life--the older you get, the more susceptible you will become to periodontal disease and gum disease. Worse yet, by the time you reach retirement age, you will discover that Medicare does not cover routine dental care.

The end result is that for many, their personal dental health will suffer because dental costs will be too high to get regular maintenance and treatment, which in turn can seriously affect a person’s overall health and lead to increased medical bills as well.

But don’t think that you are limited to buying dental insurance on your own from a private dental insurance provider, which can be very limited in what they cover while costing too much. Consumer Reports notes that a typical plan, like AARP’s PPO “Plan B” dental insurance, begins at $474 per year per person. It has a $100 deductible and an annual cap of $1,000, and you pay part of the cost for all services and procedures. The end result is that you’d spend at least $574 before reaping any benefit.

So what’s a person to do to protect themselves both financially and medically? According to Consumer Reports you can begin right now by making sure that you are continually practicing good oral hygiene; and, that you should start looking for options that will provide you with discounted care.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

To keep your mouth healthy be sure to follow the basics of good dental hygiene such as these listed below because routine care can help prevent significant issues down the road as you get older:

1. Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste, followed by rinsing thoroughly after brushing.

2. Floss regularly to remove food particles between teeth after meals. Insure that you getting in-between those hard to reach areas especially.

3. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, which can promote tooth decay. Drinking plain water is best.

4. If you struggle with dry mouth, which can increase your risk of tooth decay, try increasing your production of saliva by using sugar-free chewing gum or eating hard candy with xylitol, a natural sweetener that has fewer calories than sugar. Ask your doctor whether any of your medications might be contributing to a dry mouth.

5. And if you don’t already get your teeth checked once a year, do so now.

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Learn About Coverage

• If you’re working, you may be able to get coverage through your job. Take the initiative and ask your employer if the company or business offers a retirement health plan that includes dental care.

• If you haven’t done so yet, look for health plans available through the Affordable Care Act marketplace to see if there’s one to fit your dental as well as medical needs.

• If you are a veteran, you should ask if your health plan also offers dental insurance at a reduced cost. And in fact, if you have a service-connected disability, you may be eligible for free comprehensive dental care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

• Look for other options such as dental savings plans where you’ll pay an annual fee in exchange for discounts of up to 50 percent at many dental offices across the country.

• You may also want to consider looking into a dental health maintenance organizations, or DHMOs where you pay an annual fee in exchange for regular checkups and cleanings from participating dentists, and receive discounts on more-complicated procedures.

• Just because the receptionist or other dental office employee may quote you a specific amount of dollars for a procedure, it doesn’t hurt to find out what the real cost is in your area and then go back to your dentist and ask for a comparable price. Resources to check on the rates of dental procedures can be found at Fair Health Consumer (fairhealthconsumer.org) or Healthcare Bluebook (healthcarebluebook.com).

• You can also go to your local health department or community health center where they may also offer low-cost care. Tooth Wisdom (toothwisdom.org) can help you find these services, or you can call your health department.

• You can also try university dental schools where you'll be treated by supervised students and could save up to 30 or 40 percent of what you would otherwise pay at a private dental office.

If you have found a good resource for cutting the costs of dental care, share what you’ve found by writing to us in the comments section below.

Reference: Consumer Reports article in The Washington Post “Even when insurance doesn’t cover dental care, you may be able to curb costs"

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