Pick Your Procedures
Do you really need a porcelain crown, or could you make do with gold, porcelain-fused-to-metal or just a simple metal filling? Simply knowing that options exist before you open your mouth and your pocketbook can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Ask about your options, ask their prices, and then pick the procedure that best balances your health, cosmetic and financial needs.
Likewise, be aware that unlike open-heart surgery, you may be able to have a dental procedure done in stages, paying per tooth or per process as your budget allows. This means using insurance wisely. For example, if your plan carries a $1,200 yearly maximum, consider working with your dentist to spread pricey procedures across two calendar years. The "when" can make as much difference to your wallet as the "what."
Or, consider paying for treatment with a tax-deductible flexible savings account. At least then you won't pay tax on the chunk of your salary that you use to pay the dentist. Be aware, though, that your health savings account is unlikely to cover cosmetic procedures.