Insider Reports: A Tightwad Visits the Dental Office

contributed by Jane

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Dental Plans

Good Dental Hygiene is $$ in Your Pocket

Cut Down Your Dentist's Bill

As a registered dental hygienist, patient advocate and lifelong tightwad, I have some practical tips to help you reduce dental costs without cutting on quality.

Before the Appointment

If you have dental coverage, review your policy. Know what is covered and what is not. Keep a record of your visits and the services received. For example, if your insurance pays for two cleanings a calendar year, make certain you don't get three. If x-rays and fluoride are not included and you cannot afford them, tell both the office staff and clinician you are refusing them at that appointment.

If you have no dental insurance, ask the office staff for prices on each service. Many times, new patients get an initial appointment for a cleaning, but also have x-rays, probing of the gums, fluoride, oral cancer exam, patient education and a check by the dentist added on as extra charges! Ask exactly what services are included in a cleaning.

Ask for the first appointment of the morning or afternoon. The staff is usually refreshed, less hurried and less likely to "cut corners."

Bring in your own current x-rays, if possible. (Keep a record of all your medical and dental x-rays.) If you are fortunate enough to have a local dental professions school, get your x-rays done there for a much reduced rate. Be certain to ask for the senior clinic students as they are the most experienced.

Make a list of questions/concerns to ask the dentist during the visit.

During the Appointment

At check-in, review with the front office staff the appointment time, services being provided and the payment details. Expect to see the dentist or dental hygienist in a reasonable amount of time. Ask the office staff for an explanation of unusual delays in a non-threatening manner. Expect courtesy in return.

Expect cleanliness! Make certain the clinical staff is wearing gloves and masks. This is for your protection as well as theirs. Dental offices that do not adhere to these practices are subject to fines by state and federal agencies.

Expect (and ask for) a thorough review of your medical history including vitals signs and blood pressure reading each appointment. An oral cancer examination should be a routine part of each visit. Ask the dentist or dental hygienist to teach you how to check yourself at home, especially if you use tobacco or are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Expect to be given an explanation of each procedure performed and educated on how to maintain your oral health at home. Many offices provide educational brochures.

Get out your list of prepared questions and don't leave without the answers. Write down the prevention and treatment plan your dentist suggests. Ask for all alternate treatment options. Understand why the dentist is suggesting the treatment.

After the Appointment

At check out, review again with the office staff the necessary payment procedures. Try to avoid any confusion on insurance filing policies, if applicable.

If you brought your own dental x-rays, consider taking them home to file. You may choose to get a second opinion.

Follow the patient education/suggestions provided to you. Prevention is much less expensive than treatment.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it by

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