Financing Dental Work: Payment Plans And Options

Dental costs can mount up pretty quickly. Here are some tips for finding ways to pay the portion not covered by insurance.

Unless you have deluxe dental insurance, chances are you are paying part or all of your bill. If there are several family members visiting the dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings, not to mention fillings or special treatments, bills can mount rapidly. If you find that your dental payments are starting to compete with your mortgage, maybe it's time to evaluate some alternative sources of funding:

1. Start a flexible spending account. Many employers offer an FSA account as a staff benefit. This allows you to set aside part of your income tax-free to pay medical costs. The catch is if you don't use the money by the end of the fiscal year, you lose it. So you need to budget your medical and dental needs accurately. If your employer currently does not offer this benefit, ask about it for the future.

2. Reevaluate employer benefits. Many large organizations offer a buffet-style array of staff benefits. That means you have to pay for the ones you want, with some perhaps provided at no cost to the employee. If you have been paying for optical care the past few years, you may decide to switch to dental benefits instead, especially if you or the family members on your plan no longer need vision care due to corrective surgery or because a child has grown up and moved out.

3. Add a dental line item to your household budget. If you previously did not plan dental spending but rather paid it randomly out of pocket, it may be time to set aside a certain amount each month for dental costs. For example, if last year you paid $240 for dental costs not covered by insurance, this year set aside $20 each month toward estimated dental costs. Then you won't be taken by surprise and have to scramble when the bills come in.

4. Set aside windfalls and bonuses. Most of us would rather spend unexpected income on fun things, but it's hard to relax and have a good time with a sizable dental bill hanging over your head. Pay the bills first and spend what's left over. The expenses may not be as great as you expected, so you could end up with more spending money after all.

5. Visit a dental clinic. Dental colleges sometimes offer reduced-fee visits to the community in order to provide dental students with hands-on experience. You may be able to get routine checkups and cleanings done at cheaper rates, and save the serious work of fillings or caps for your regular dentist. Call around to see if there is a dental school located near you.

With rising health care costs and shrinking health care benefits, we have to start looking for creative ways of meeting our medical and dental bills not covered by insurance. Explore options like these now so you'll be ready when the next bill comes in the mail. If it is less than you anticipated, you can enjoy the savings that you'll put in the bank. With financing options in place, you need not fear the next postal delivery.

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