Dental Care

Affordable dental care

Ideas for affordable dental care and discounted dental plans

Not everyone can afford the dental treatment they need, especially in today's troubled economy.

Job loss or a reduction in salary simply makes costly dental treatment impossible for many.  There are, however, some ways to obtain relatively inexpensive dental work or a discounted dental plan.

If you're tight on cash but you need some dental work, give some thought to obtaining inexpensive treatment at a clinic operated by an accredited dental school.  You'll be able to take advantage of substantial discounts on routine dental procedures such as preventative teeth cleaning, but more advanced dental treatments such as root canals, fillings and bridgework will also be available at a much lower cost than normal.  The dental students performing services at these clinics are not rank beginners; instead, they have progressed deeply into their training.  They are closely supervised by the school's faculty and staff members, who will step in immediately should a student require any assistance while providing dental care.

Dental schools are far and away the most likely place to obtain affordable dental care.  In many cases you'll be able to negotiate prices and/or pay your dental expenses using an easy payment plan.  You might even qualify for free dental examinations or receive free treatment by participating in a research project.  Considering that dental treatment can be quite expensive, participation in a research study can help your finances significantly and provide quality treatment at the same time.

Typically, dental schools offer discounted dental care in up to four general ways.

The first involves dental work performed by dental hygiene students.  These hygienists-in-training can perform preventative teeth cleaning procedures such as removing plaque and tartar as well as teeth polishing.  Dental hygiene students can also do dental deep cleanings like deep scaling and root planing.

Second, third and fourth year dentistry students frequently provide affordable dental care in a general dental clinic operated by their school.  Some dental schools do not permit second-year students to provide treatment in their general clinics, on the theory that they may not yet have received enough training.
Some dental treatments are much more complex and specialized than the basic treatments that second, third and fourth year dentistry students are able to provide. 

A specialized dental clinic for advanced dental graduate students to practice their specific specialties provides the setting for these more complex treatments, including procedures involving endodontics, periodontics, implants and other prosthodontics.  These advanced graduate students can provide affordable dental care for gum disease, root canals, dental implants, orthodontics and so on.
Some dental schools also offer the option of reduced price dental treatment provided by a dental school faculty member in a separate clinic dedicated to its faculty's practice. 

You might feel more comfortable receiving dental care from an experienced member of the school's faculty instead of one of its students, but it will cost more and will not be available under any discounted dental plan.  The fees charged at faculty clinics will be slightly higher than those charged at the general dental clinics operated by dental schools, but they will be lower than the fees charged by a dentist in private practice.  It is important to be aware of this possible option before you have your treatment planning consultation or make an appointment at a dental school clinic, because typically it will not be offered to you - you will need to inquire about its availability.

You should also discuss the possibility of obtaining affordable dental care with the dental school's clinic manager or facilitator, but only do this after you've been given a proposed treatment plan.  This plan will include the total charges for your proposed treatment, and these charges may determine whether you're eligible for a discount or payment plan.  Don't discuss a discounted dental plan with the dental student.  Instead, discuss the concept with the clinic's manager or facilitator.  If the clinic does not employ one, then ask to speak to the individual who is authorized to agree to a discounted dental plan.

You might be able to take advantage of a research study being conducted at the dental school.  Participants in these studies enjoy several benefits, including brand new products, innovative services and affordable dental care which might even be free.  The school benefits as well, because it is evaluating new treatment methods, equipment and materials that might eventually help everyone.  Research studies constantly improve the quality of dentistry.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you need dental treatment, because they might save you 50% or more on your next dental visit.  In separate articles on affordable dental treatment, and affordable family dental care we'll discuss more ideas to obtain affordable dental care.

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