Friday, September 16, 2011

Is dental care possible on a low income?

Dental insurance on a low income is not impossible... unless you want a 'good' policy. :-) Last year I paid for a dental plan that was less than $10 a month. It was a horrible plan which paid a very small amount of the bill. The dental office that took our policy had higher prices than the average office so I cancelled our policy.

I've been taking a small amount of money out of each check to save for dental work.  I knew  I could not save enough to pay for our yearly cleanings so I started looking for another option.

I discovered through my research that colleges with dental school programs sometimes offer discounted work. I checked out the closest university and discovered they had a dental program for dental hygienists and dentists. I called and sure enough they offered discounted prices for cleanings, fillings and just about any kind of dental work.

My first appointment lasted 3 hours which was longer than I had planned. I was assigned a young lady who took my health history and did an oral cancer screening. She then took xrays of my entire mouth. You could tell that she was not experienced but her professor was available to help her through the process. There was a problem with the xray machine so it's not totally her fault that it took so long.

The dental school program quoted $133 for the xrays and consultation. I knew that was high but figured I'd make up for it because the 'deep cleaning' would only cost $48 per quadrant compared to the $175 my dentist quoted. I have another appointment in October to start the deep cleaning. It sounds like they will do one quadrant per visit. A dentist will also look at my xrays and given an evaluation.

I had no idea what to expect but it actually wasn't a bad experience at all. There were quite a few people getting their teeth cleaned. The office was clean and bright and the instructors were very, very nice. The young lady was gentle. I'm a bit nervous about the deep cleaning being done by a non-professional but I'll continue to tell myself that I'll be getting better care than most people do in other countries. It's either this or no cleaning at all. I choose to be thankful.

I'll continue to do my part at home by daily flossing and 2 minute brushings. :-)

I'll keep you updated.


  1. My mom used to trade merchandise from her store with our dentist for a once a year cleaning for herself and my brother and I. No, it wasn't twice a year, but it was okay. I've never had cavities, either, though in later years I did have to have my wisdom teeth pulled.

    The dental school rates aren't bad, but your dentist quoted even less than the cheapest ones around here--with an exception. There is one place that has been advertising $29 for a cleaning (not per quadrant--that's IT). I wish I remembered where it was. My dad went. He wasn't thrilled with them, but felt he got his teeth cleaned, so he was grateful for that.

    Another thing you can do is to buy a set of dental cleaning tools. I bought some at Target for $5 about 6 or 7 years ago. I knew a dental assistant who was living in Europe for a few years at the same time I was; she used those tools every day in between brushing. I thought it was overdone, but now that I have some, I can see why--they get a LOT of plaque off!

  2. The dental stuff really concerns me. About the only time a dental plan has been particularly helpful was when my husband had a huge amount of work to be done. When my kids were small the company plan really didn't pay much. We would have come out just about as well if we'd just paid it all ourselves. Couldn't hurt to negotiate to see if they'd take a discounted amount for cash payment, or at least knock off 5% for cash rather than a credit card.

  3. I LOVE your new blog look..... the background is beautiful!!!

    We don't have dental insurance either, never have. None of the plans seem to be very good.

    I hope your cleaning goes well. With the professor supervising the procedure, the hygienist is probably being more cautious than normal.

    My root canal that didn't work, and the subsequent surgery on my gums to get to the root tip for the root canal was expensive. $1,200.00 for one measly tooth. It was in the front, so no choice.

    Flossing is so important! I worked for an orthodontist for 15 years, and we constantly stressed flossing.

  4. I just changed at the beginning of the year to a Medicare supplemental plan that includes dental and vision. Even so, I have had to kick in about $2000 for my bridge recently and will have to pay for it over two years. Hopefully my medium periodontal disease has improved. I have to go to the oral hygentist every four months now.

    Flossing and gums are so important. Without it, you can get plaque in your arteries that lead to heart problems. Yet I didn't know this.

    So glad you found this.

  5. I think you can get good care in such a place especially because the professors are not far away. We'd do it if we lived close enough to a school. Glad this seems to be working out for you,

  6. Good idea. When our eldest daughter had cancer she had dental work done at the state dental school for nothing. It was a 2 hr. drive, but worth it. We were very pleased with the service. For some reason I didn't realize it was open to non-patients.

  7. I've gone to the dental school too for my work. SOOO much do have to have time, but some of us have more time than $.

  8. I've had several crowns done at a dental school about 65 miles from home. The inconvenience was that it took more time and more visits than here in town. However, the price was right, and several years later the crowns are still in excellent condition. My last student dentist was almost ready to graduate and is now serving in the Navy.

  9. I did not know this about university dentistry.
    I find your blog so informative.
    We have been living on 1/4 income for 8 years compared to what we use to live on too.


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