With all the traveling, holiday parties, and gifts, it’s an understatement to say that many Americans can incur lots of expenses this time of year. If you’re one of these people, signing up for healthcare by year’s end is probably not your idea of fun. But no one wants to be caught in an emergency situation, so you probably grin and bear it.

Today, more people are signing up for health plans now, an annual survey of dental care from 2013 says that 47% of Americans do not have some form of health insurance.

This same survey also found that 67% of those uninsured Americans actually had a dental issue that needed help, such as fractured teeth and bleeding gums. So, what gives? Many of these people believe that their savings are worth more than their oral health. A recent post at Medline Plus confirms that this choice mainly comes down to cost:

Many Americans Skip the Dentist Due to Cost

Americans are more likely to skip needed dental care because of cost than any other type of health care, researchers report.

 

Working-age adults are particularly vulnerable, the study found. Some 13 percent reported forgoing dental care because of cost. That’s nearly double the proportion of seniors and triple the percentage of children for whom cost poses a barrier to dental care, the study showed.

 

Cost was the main impediment to dental care even for adults with private insurance. “It seems like medical insurance is doing a better job at protecting consumers from financial hardship than dental insurance,” said study author Marko Vujicic. Typically, private dental insurance includes annual maximum benefit limits and significant “coinsurance” — the patient’s share of costs on covered services, Vujicic explained. He is chief economist and vice president of the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Health Policy Institute in Chicago.

 

. . . Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans, agreed with the report that avoiding dental care can affect overall health. Fortunately, the percentage of the population citing cost as a reason for not getting dental services has declined steadily since 2010, Ireland said. And in 2014, it was the lowest since 2003, she added.

 

Colin Bradley is vice president of business development at Winston Benefits Inc., a company that helps employers administer dental benefits. He said employers who offer private dental plans must emphasize the value of those benefits, including preventive services often provided at no out-of-pocket cost. Read full article here . . .

Yet, without preventive dentistry services, such as cleanings, scaling and root planing, etc., uninsured Americans are setting themselves up for larger out-of-pocket expenses in the future (e.g. dental implants).

So what can you do to save money? First you should check with your employer for dental benefits. If you do have some benefits, then make sure you choose a dentist that is in your company’s network.

Another way to save money is to obviously practice good hygiene. If you are lax about brushing and flossing, now’s the time to step it up. If you know that you are in pretty good health, make sure you aren’t buying a plan that doesn’t suit your needs. While some plans cover basic and major procedures, you may only need a plan that covers an annual exam and some x-rays.

US News has some more great tips to save money:

7 Ways to Save on Dental Care

Ask about discounts. Some dentists offer services on a sliding scale for patients with financial need or discounts for upfront payment in full. Kendra Lawyer, office manager for Carothers Parkway General Dentistry in Franklin, Tennessee, says her office offers a 20 percent discount for patients without insurance who pay cash upfront . . .

 

Get a treatment plan in writing. Unlike a restaurant, where you can see the prices listed on a menu, dental care doesn’t have the same level of transparency. Ask for a treatment plan in writing with an itemized list of costs so you know what to expect, and talk through these costs with your dentist or orthodontist to see if there might be less-expensive options . . .

 

Visit a dental school. If you live near a dental school, find out if it offers free or inexpensive cleanings to the public. Messina says students perform work “under the supervision of licensed dentists, so you’ll get a high quality of dental work done.” However, the cleaning may take several hours (or even multiple visits), because students are expected to take their time and check every inch of your mouth carefully. “You’re trading time for money,” Messina explains.

 

Read all the tips here . . .

You shouldn’t have to juggle your expenses and your health–and it’s too bad that lots of Americans have to. However, there are definitely options if you do a little research.

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Perhaps more programs like these for adults?

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