Searching for a "Dentist Near Me" When You Have No Insurance
Strategies & Options for the Uninsured
Many people lack dental insurance but that doesn’t mean they should go without dental care. This article will help uninsured consumers:
- Understand the pros and cons of dental care without insurance
- Doing Your Homework Before Going to a Dentist
- Evaluate dental coverage alternatives costing less than $20 a month
The Pros and Cons of Dental Care without Insurance
If you’re uninsured and worried about access to dental care, be assured you can see a dentist without insurance. However, before you do, you should:
- Compare the fees that local dentists charge for the care you need
- Explore the possibility of a dental payment plan (or other options regarding how to finance a dental procedure) if you require expensive treatments that are beyond your budget
- Evaluate whether using extremely low-cost dental coverage may save more money on your dental care than paying for it without insurance
Dental insurance may not be the right choice for everyone. However, many plans have compelling features such as twice annual teeth cleanings with no out-of-pocket costs outside the normal monthly premium.
Doing Your Homework Before Going to a Dentist Uninsured
Step One: Find Local Dentists
The American Dental Association provides an online tool to find local dentists. Once you collect a list of dentists in your area, consider reviewing their reputations for quality on sites such as Healthgrades or ZocDoc. (FYI - Not all dental relationships are successful. If you choose a dentist and then afterward wonder if you made the right choice, see our resource on 7 Signs You Picked the Wrong Dentist.)
Remember - you want to compare prices among dentists with reputations for quality work. A low price from a poor quality dentist is no bargain.
Step Two: Compare Prices for the Services You Need
Armed with your list of quality local dentists, call them and ask for the price of the dental services you need. If a dental office refuses, cross it off the list. While prices might vary because conditions may be more serious than anticipated or reveal additional services during treatment, a dental office should still be able to quote an estimated price for a procedure under a given set of assumptions (e.g. a minor cavity on a molar).
Step Three: Calculate the Costs of Treatment with and without Insurance
Now that you have your cost estimates, you can determine which dentist is the least expensive for the care you need. You can also use your price estimates to see if low-cost insurance presents a more economical option (see next section).
Evaluating Dental Coverage Alternatives Costing Less Than $20 a Month
Uninsured consumers are often attracted to dental coverage costing less than $20 a month for an individual enrollee. You can see what options in this price range are available in your area by this link for dental insurance quotes. Dental plans below $20 are usually one of the following:
- HMO dental plan (sometimes referred to as a DHMO)
- PPO dental plan (sometimes referred to as a DPPO)
- Dental discount program
HMO Dental Plans
HMO refers to Health Maintenance Organization. HMOs restrict covered care to in-network dentists and, in exchange, offer very affordable premiums. Out-of-network dental care is not covered.
PPO Dental Plans
PPO stands for Preferred Provider Organization and, within a PPO, an enrollee has the option of getting dental care from an in-network dentist at a reduced rate of expense or using an out-of-network dentist with higher out-of-pocket costs.
Dental Discount Programs
Dental discount plans (otherwise known as dental discount cards or discount dental plans) are not insurance but rather a membership program where enrollees have access to a network of dentists who charge reduced rates for dental care. Typically these networks are narrow, which means they typically have fewer participating dentists than a PPO plan. Out-of-network care is not covered. However, members enjoy:
- Unlimited use of discounted dental services
- No caps on annual dental care
- No claim forms to complete and submit to an insurer
- No waiting periods on dental services once the membership becomes active
When you review the plan details on options costing less than $20 a month, click on the Plan Details and see what out-of-pocket costs are charged for the procedures you need. Sometimes the costs are a flat fee (known as a copayment) and other times the cost sharing is in the form of coinsurance where the insurer pays a percentage of the treatment price (e.g. 80%) and the patient pays the remainder out-of-pocket. You can calculate coinsurance using the price quotes received from the dentist, though in some cases the insurance company may have a lower negotiated rate on which the coinsurance percentage is based.
Once you have the out-of-pocket costs for an insurance plan, you can this amount to what you pay in premiums to see if it is a better deal than paying without insurance.
Dental coverage comes in a broad range of price points. A decision on what’s best for your circumstances involves the money you can afford for dental care, the services required for your oral health, and the economics of coverage vs no insurance.