Being out of work is bad enough without having to worry about paying for dental care. Unfortunately, dental disasters do happen and they don’t always occur at the most convenient times. A painful, damaged or infected tooth, for example, needs to be treated immediately as delaying dental care can result in significant damage to your oral and overall health.
Although you may need to go to the dentist as soon as possible, many people avoid going or delay it even further, largely due to the cost of care. Thankfully, there are options that can make dental care far more affordable.
How to Get Affordable Dental Care
Dental clinics offer free or low-cost dental care. The quality of care tends to be good, but the service is in such high demand that you may need to wait a long time for an appointment – or appointments may be assigned on a first-come, first served basis. So, you’ll need to show up early, cross your fingers and hope to be seen.
Many communities have dental clinics; you can start your search for the nearest one on the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) website. You can also check the websites of the biggest public hospitals in your area to see if they have a community dental clinic.
If you have a dental emergency, the quickest way to get an appointment at a hospital’s clinic may be to go directly to the facility’s emergency room. You may get an immediate referral to the dental clinic or may get immediate care and a referral for follow-up care at the clinic. Note that you don’t want to show up at the emergency room if you aren’t experiencing an actual dental emergency such as an oral infection.
As noted above, the emergency room is not the place to go for dental care if you can avoid it. Many emergency rooms don’t have a dentist on call, and if they do the dentist’s hours are likely to be limited. At best, you may be able to get a painful tooth extracted and antibiotics for any infection you may have. You may even receive pain medication. But it will cost many much more than you’d pay for dental care elsewhere, and you’ll need to see a dentist for follow-up care.
But do not hesitate to go to the emergency room if you think you have an oral infection. The signs of this include fever, severe pain, swelling of the face or cheek, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck, or a gum abscess. Head to the emergency room quickly if you are having trouble breathing or swallowing, or have a bad headache, as this may indicate the infection is spreading.
Obamacare Dental Insurance
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in an uncertain period right now, people who are unemployed for any reason and who have lost their job-based health coverage can sign-up for a reduced cost ACA plan without having to wait for the next open enrollment period. You usually have 60 days from the day you lose your coverage to enroll. Visit healthcare.gov and review your plan options. Note that you can’t just purchase dental insurance alone, you need to purchase healthcare insurance on the website to get dental coverage.
Most people know that they can get dental treatment for free or at a reduced cost at a dental clinic. Students attending dental school need people to practice on as they hone their skills. This may sound risky, but the students are well-trained by the time they are allowed to work on people and are carefully supervised by licensed dentists. Check out the American Dental Association for a list of dental schools in your area. Check the schools to see if they have a clinic, and to learn how you can qualify for an appointment.
Be aware that work performed in dental schools will likely take at least twice as long as getting the same treatment from your dentist, as the students work more slowly and there are frequent breaks for supervising dentists to assess their progress. The cost of care may be free but will probably be based on your ability to pay.
Dental Payment Plan
If you have a dentist that you’ve been seeing regularly, and are experiencing a dental emergency, ask him or her if you can work out a payment plan for the treatment until you get back on your feet. Some dentists will be able to work with you on extending payments, others may refer you to a healthcare loan provider that they work with. In general, the longer you’ve been seeing a dentist, and especially if that dentist has a private practice, it is more likely that you will be able to work out an extended payment plan or other option.
Dental Savings Plan
The easiest way to reduce dental costs is with a dental savings plan. Also known as a dental discount plan, a dental savings plan gives you access to a network of dentists who reduce their rates by 10%-60% for plan members. You won’t need to wait in lines, or book appointments way in advance as you would at a clinic or dental school. Instead, you can see any participating dentist – and there are thousands of dentists who accept dental savings plans.
Unlike dental insurance, a dental savings plan can be used within 72 hours or less of joining the plan. You can start saving on your dental care right away and can use your plan whenever you need to – there are no annual spending limits and no health restrictions. Additionally, there are no waiting for reimbursements either, you simply pay your reduced rate directly to any participating dentist. You can purchase one or learn more at DentalPlans.com
Being unemployed is hard, but there’s no need to make it worse by suffering with dental problems while you look for a new job. You can choose emergency options such as dental clinics or dental schools to get you through this tough time. Or you can opt for a dental savings plan, which will help you save on dental even after you’re employed again.