You don't have to pay the sticker price for dental care. Having dental insurance is a good idea, but as you've probably already discovered, if you don't have employer-sponsored insurance, it's rarely worth paying for. Basically, most dental insurance plans cost in the neighborhood of $600 a year, carry a maximum payout in the neighborhood of $1,200 a year, and only pay half for things like fillings and orthodontics, and nothing for cosmetic procedures.
Individual plans vary, but slide one of these terms up and you're likely to slide another down until you're back in about the same neighborhood as these terms [source: eHealthInsurance.com]. Consider this: A teeth cleaning usually costs about $75 to $150, which you might as well pay out of pocket, since a root canal will cost you $800, plus $450 for the follow-up tooth restoration, putting you over your yearly maximum [source: Dental Health Magazine, WebMD.com].
Instead of dental insurance, think about joining a discount plan. Like joining a shoppers club, a discount dental club earns you lower rates on procedures ranging from cleanings to root canals. Typically, in exchange for around $100 a year and agreeing to pay before you leave the office (rather than forcing a dentist to submit an insurance claim), you can cut your bill by 20 to 30 percent for routine procedures and up to 65 percent for specialized work. A quick online search returns results including Thedentalclub.com, AmeriPlan Dental and a list at Insurancecompany.com.
Finally, don't forget the power of old-fashioned negotiation. CNN's Money magazine reports that of the 10 percent of people in a survey who'd tried to negotiate lower dental fees, 64 percent were successful [source: Money].
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