Visiting the dentist without insurance

How to Pay for Dental Work With No Money

Have you been to a dentist and been told that you need extensive dental work or costly treatments? If you’re wondering how to pay for dental work with no money, you do have a few options for free and low-cost care.

The common wisdom is that we need to see the dentist every 6 months for a checkup and cleaning. Like many people, I’ve experienced times in my life where I didn’t have dental insurance and wasn’t sure that I could really afford a visit.

It had been a while since my last appointment when I finally went in. 2 years, to be precise. I knew to expect some potential dental issues, but to what extent, I wasn’t sure.

As I settled into the chair and tried to relax my jaw so the dental hygienist could assess my years of professional neglect, I couldn’t help but worry about the potential costs. Was I looking at multiple cavities, or worse, root canals? Had my years of avoidance led to disastrous consequences for both my mouth and my bank account?

Even with dental insurance, procedures can cost in the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Without insurance? Forget about it! Anything beyond basic cleaning and perhaps a cavity filling would require waiting and saving up.



The news for me at that initial appointment wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, either. I needed a crown to fix an old filling, among other things. The total cost for that alone was somewhere in the ballpark of $800. Ouch.

Luckily, I did have insurance and would only have to cover half the cost out of pocket. Still, over $400 is nothing to sneeze at when you’re living on a tight budget.

What if I’d have been among the approximately 23% of Americans with no dental coverage?

If you find yourself in this position, you’re not alone. About 74 million Americans lack dental insurance. According to the ADA, 40% of American adults didn’t see a dentist in 2018 due to the cost.

While this certainly doesn’t speak well to the way that our country handles medical & dental coverage, lacking insurance doesn’t have to mean going entirely without dental care. There are a few options that you can consider to afford dental work without insurance.

How to Pay for Dental Work With No Money

First, it’s important to point out that if you’ve been avoiding the dentist due to not having dental insurance, don’t let that keep you away. There are dentists who will perform routine exams and cleanings for a small fee. My own dentist offers this type of basic low-cost plan, and it’s a relief knowing that option exists.

Dental work can be very expensive, but basic care can cost far less. Saving up and paying for preventative treatments now will save you in the long run, both in terms of money and in terms of your teeth. Dental implants and dentures can cost thousands of dollars, so if you’re able to pay just a fraction of that now to maintain your dental health, it’s well worth it.

If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, save up some money to pay for a visit.

Do a search for dentists in your area and check out their websites. Make calls to local dental offices. Ask if they offer this option so that you can at least get in and get a professional cleaning. Dental health is closely tied to overall health and dental issues like gum disease correlate to heart disease, pregnancy complications, and more. You really can’t afford not to see a dentist at least once every year or two.

Get a Second Opinion

So you finally found a dentist who would see you without insurance. You got a cleaning, had an exam, and you hear the news you were dreading- you need dental work that you can’t afford.

The dentist gives you a breakdown of the costs of what you need. It costs hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. You’re wondering how in the world you’re ever going to pay for it and start imagining a bleak future with missing teeth.

Before you panic or feel completely hopeless, return to your local dentist search. Seek out a second opinion before you give up hope, take out a loan, or put hundreds of dollars worth of dental work on a credit card or personal loan.

It may cost you in terms of an exam fee, but it could prove to save you from hundreds of dollars in unnecessary or excessive dental work. Always get a second opinion so that you can hear from another expert.

Read: 101 Smart Frugal Tips You Should Be Using

Check Out a Dental School

Find out where the local dental schools are in your area. Dental students train on actual patients, so you can undergo procedures at a fraction of the cost of an already practicing dentist.

Dental schools typically offer a sliding scale cost system, so what you pay may depend on how much you earn. Contact the school or schools in your area to learn about the options they have available. You may be able to get dental work done for free when you pay for some services.

If you’re nervous about having a dental student working on your mouth, it isn’t an uncommon concern. The treatment may take a little longer than it typically would, but that’s because the student is learning under the supervision of a trained and skilled professional. A licensed dentist will be there to make sure that the student is performing the procedure correctly. You may also have a few follow-up visits to be sure that everything has gone well.

Read: Frugal Beauty Tips for Summer

Get Dental Work Done Free at Community Clinics

Many communities hold free dental clinics throughout the year. Check DentalClinics.org to see if there are any free or low-cost services in upcoming your area.

Check local newspapers and community bulletin boards, like in your local library.

The only downside to this option is that you may have to wait in a long line to be seen, and once you are seen by a dentist, you may be given the option to choose just one treatment. If you’re in a really tough spot financially or haven’t visited a dentist in years, seek out one of these clinics to at least get checked out.



Ask for Payment Plan Options

Many dentists are willing to work with patients and can offer a payment plan for procedures. Talk to your dentist about the options available to you. They may be willing to accept payments in installments as they begin treatment or have an in-house financing option that you qualify for. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Figuring out how to pay for dental work with no money sucks, and it can leave you feeling hopeless about the state of your smile. Keep calling dentists in your area and explain your financial situation. See if they’re willing to work with you on a payment plan or reduced-cost care. Dental schools can be a great place to turn for procedures like fillings, tooth extraction, root canals, etc.

Your dental health is an important component of your overall health and wellness. Don’t be embarrassed if you feel like your teeth and gums are in bad shape. If you think that you can’t afford dental work without insurance, chances are that there is an option that can work for you and your budget.

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