Some of the areas with the highest cost of living in the United States are in California. San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles make up four out of the Top 10 most expensive cities to live in. The trickle-down effect of real estate costs and other considerations mean that the price you pay for other services will be higher as well. Dental care is no exception.
How can you find more affordable dentists and dental care in California? Here are a few ideas to consider…
Discount Treatment at California Dental Schools
Visiting a dental college means you can get state-of-the-art oral health care without the hefty price tag of a private practice. No, the treatments aren’t free, but they’re only a fraction of the cost of what they would be if you went somewhere else.
California has a few different dental schools that accept individuals from the general public as patients into their clinics. These include Loma Linda University School of Dentistry; the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific in Downtown San Francisco; UCLA School of Dentistry in Los Angeles; and USCF School of Dentistry in San Francisco.
If you don’t need major dental work, you can also consider going to a college with a dental hygiene program for your routine cleaning, exam, and x-rays.
The only downside to going to a dental school for your treatment is the time investment. Many of these programs are more challenging to get into and have long waits. By the time you actually get an appointment, it could be weeks or months later. Once you’re finally admitted, you tend to spend more time at your appointment for grading and evaluation. But if you have plenty of time on your hands, this option can save you lots of money in the long run.
Community Dental Clinics
Depending on where you live in California, there may be free or discount dental clinics in your area. Some private practices provide free care at annual charity events, as part of their way to give back to the community. Other clinics are available to the public, based on income requirements. You’ll have to contact the local clinic in your area to determine if you qualify for services. The state dental board and regional organizations usually have a list of annual charity events that are available to the public.
Ask for a Discount
A lot of dentists will offer discounts on treatment if you’re retired, a veteran, civil servant, teacher, or just paying with cash at the time of your procedure. It doesn’t hurt to ask over the phone about discounts before you schedule your appointment. Just know that the dentist can’t apply a discount to your deductible or out-of-pocket costs if you’re using insurance to pay for the rest.
Visit a Family Practice
In a lot of situations, general and family-focused dental practices tend to be more affordable than specialty clinics. You can still receive comprehensive treatments (such as root canals or braces) depending on your dentist’s experience and training. This means fewer referrals to other practices and a greater convenience when it comes to your family getting treatment from a dental team you already know and trust.
Focus on Prevention
Most major dental problems are preventable; not all of them, but many. Problems like tooth loss caused by gum disease, or abscessed teeth due to untreated cavities are a couple of examples. Seeing a dentist a couple of times a year is enough to intercept issues while they’re still reversible. Or, you can choose to treat them quickly, so that you’re paying for a less expensive procedure.
Work with Providers in your Insurance Network
If you have great dental coverage, the best way to keep your cost of care low is to work with dentists in your network. Your insurance company can provide you a list of participating providers in your area. Depending on the specific type of plan you have, going to an out-of-network dentist may mean your policy won’t cover as much of the costs as you’re used to. Be sure to read the fine print.
Unfortunately, not everybody has dental insurance through their job. At Aetna Dental Offers, we make it easy to enroll in your own dental savings plan, as an affordable alternative to traditional insurance programs. Our members save 15-50% on routine dental work and can use their membership at all participating dental and specialist offices. Plus, there’s no annual limit! Contact our dental care experts today to find out how to join and start saving right away.
Save 15% to 50%* at the Dentist
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