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Topic: any ideas of how to save on dental work?

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Subject: any ideas of how to save on dental work?
Date Posted: 12/27/2008 9:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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first, I'm terrified of dentists :-( so I put off going even though I have dental insurance. The insurance isn't great though. ok, much better than nothing but still only covers about 50% and last time I had any work done it was still pretty expensive. I'm not even sure how to pick a dentist or what to ask..last time I walked into one from a card in the mail they told me thousands of dollars because all my fillings needed replacing..went to someone else and he just did a filling and cleaing for me and I was out the door.

I'm pretty sure I have some cavities and sensitivity at the gums between the teeth..one filling was pretty deep and he was talking root canal last time I was in there because the filling probably wouldn't stay in place. I do'nt know what root canals, caps, crowns, bridges - what is all this stuff an dhow painful and how expensive?? I live near a large city and there are all sorts of places which in a way makes it tougher for me...

not sure if there is a way to save at the dentist but just knowing w hat to expect would be helpful!

Date Posted: 12/27/2008 10:53 PM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2006
Posts: 333
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If the root has died you need a root canal.  I've had two done on molars.  The most recent was a few years ago when I went in for a new crown and had so much damage in the tooth that no amount of novocaine would work for the dentist to drill.  He sent me to an oral surgeon for the root canal.  I think it was a couple of thousand dollars and it takes a couple of visits to do it all.  That didn't include the crown.  The oral surgeon gave me enough pain killer that I didn't feel a thing. 

My son has to have a root canal on one of his front teeth - he chipped it badly about six years ago and the tooth finally died.  Our dentist can do it because it has only one root and isn't as complicated as a molar.  The cost of the root canal will be about $675 and the crown around a thousand.  And we don't have dental insurance. :(  I'm in central TX and don't know how these costs compare to the rest of the country.

Could you ask co-workers or friends for recommendations?  Maybe if you live near a dental school you could let the students practice on you for free - but if you have a fear of dentists that might not be a good idea!

 

Date Posted: 12/27/2008 11:12 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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golly geez! that's mega bucks..

how do you know if the root has died? I'm not sure how to tell..nothing hurts but sometimes it feels like I've flossed too hard when I haven't..that tingly feeling that kinda bugs me but nothing like 'OMG it hurts'..

Date Posted: 12/28/2008 12:33 AM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2008
Posts: 188
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Susanna, Kathy mentioned Dental schools and that is an absolutely AWESOME way to save on dental work , if you can find one. I have never seen one where you can go for FREE, but they are usually a substantial savings. The two that I am familiar with are set up just like a professional clinic and the students are assigned by their experience, and well supervised so there is no need to worry about them " letting students loose" on patients. My mom liked the school's clinic so much that even when she got insurance (which they didn't take) she continued to go there and paid cash!

Date Posted: 12/29/2008 12:08 AM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2006
Posts: 333
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Susanna, I knew the tooth was dead because the dentist told me it was.  With my first root canal, I got a real bad toothache that wouldn't go away.  The next time I was getting a new crown on a previously crowned tooth (I don't remember if it was hurting before I went in).  The dentist gave me novocaine about three times and I still came out of the chair when he touched the root, so he said it was too far gone for just a crown.

My toothaches haven't been the tingly kind you mention - they're usually deeper than that.

Your profile says you live in Stafford, near Houston.  UT Health Science Center has a dental branch in Houston if you want to check it out:

http://www.db.uth.tmc.edu/

Date Posted: 12/29/2008 12:24 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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thanks! I figured there might be one around here somewhere - we seem to have evrything else! I was told by a dentist about 3 yrs ago that the cavity was too deep and would probably need one because of that. hope I dont' need one :-(

Date Posted: 12/29/2008 7:55 AM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2006
Posts: 1,069
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I have not used this myself  but I do know  a site that might be helpful to find not only free dental or reduced rate clinics but also free or reduced rate medical clinics in your area by state. Maybe that would be helpful.  

 freemedicalcamps.com

Date Posted: 12/29/2008 4:25 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2007
Posts: 170
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If you are looking to save, dental schools are a great option. The only thing is that procedures take alot of time-  I'm talking a 3 hour visit for a simple filling, crowns that can take months instead of a week. So you pay with your time instead of your wallet.  For example- a root canal in a molar at the endodontist I refer to is $1400- a dental school post-grad ( someone who graduated dental school already but is looking to specialize) is only about $450. And all students are supervised by licensed Dr's.

Susana- a "tingly" feeling may not mean you need a root canal. You could just have leakage under the filling, you could have a new area of decay, it could be your gums- hard to tell without an exam or an x-ray.  One way to definitely tell you need a root canal is lingering pain to cold ( I'm talking a sharp pain of over 30 seconds) or pain to hot.

Kathy- A nerve can die in a tooth due to trauma- which neccesitates a root canal. A crown on the front tooth for $1000 is prety good- my fees are higher.  How old is your son?

If anyone want to see me in northern NJ- all paperback swap members get a discount! :)

Date Posted: 12/29/2008 6:06 PM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2007
Posts: 6,447
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I live in a rural area with a small city (less than 10,000). There is a community dental clinic there. They take insurance but the copay would be set on a sliding scale based on how much you can pay.

Most dental clinics also have payment plans. These are subject to credit approval as they are technically a type of credit card but only allowed for doctor, dentists and vets I think.

Also if you have a flex spending option at work you can sign up to have a certain amount taken out each pay period. You don't have to wait to have the full amount before submitting any medical or dental expenses. So if you planned on having 1500 for the year taken out you could get that whole 1500 right away. Course you still have to pay out of pocket and wait for reimbursment but that's how I got my dental work done last year.

At my job we have 2 different dental options. 1 is basic and the other is high. The cost difference is pennies. If it's time to sign up for next year's benefits you might check into that.

Also, some  work may be covered by your regular medical insurance.

Date Posted: 1/4/2009 3:45 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2007
Posts: 170
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From my experience, medical insurance will only cover certain extractions and maybe a biopsy. I do Oral cancer screenings in my office with a special kit, and I have seen the request for payment bounce between medical and dentaol insurance, each saying it is the others responsibility. Since it is hard to get payment, more people decline the test, and that leads to oral cancer being the only cancer who statiscally goes up in incidence while the rest of the cancers go down.

 

Date Posted: 1/4/2009 8:56 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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well right now I guess it'll have to wait til there's pain since I just had a car wreck and an totally  unprepared to make another 5 yrs of car payments..and mad as heck I''ll have to since mine is pretty much totaled. plus I can't stand going ot the dentist..I should have been going all along but just dread it like crazy..beyond belief. I hate the novacaine I hate the smell,sound...hated having my teeth pulled as a kid..had ot be held down for them to be pulled. just left a terrible impression on me. though I can honestly say I've never suffered terrible pain at the dentist..just the dread of it is unreasonable...

oh, the reason I think I need a root canal is the dentist said last time he replaced the filling hat it was really too deep and probably wouldn't stay..I dn't think it stayed..or at least not all of it. it was a deep cavity in the top tooth right after the 'canine'? the first wide one..

Date Posted: 1/4/2009 11:21 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2005
Posts: 4,469
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the very best thing to do is ask:)  Even if they can't lower the charges, they should be able to help you work out a payment plan you can live with.

Date Posted: 1/6/2009 11:48 AM ET
Member Since: 7/17/2008
Posts: 1
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You might consider INTERVIEWING prospective dentists before making an appointment.  Go in with a list of questions, and be very upfront about your anxieties and concerns.  If a dentist is impatient with it you are talking to the WRONG DENTIST; look elsewhere. 

Some dentists are much more gentle than others.  Some are very careful to explain everything in advance, others just barge on ahead without explaining a thing.  You need a gentle, patient dentist who is a good communicator.  Find one NOW, so you don't get stuck pulling a name out of a phone book in a crisis situation. 

You might also consider a tranquilizer before going to the dentist!  Get a friend to drive you home.  There are a variety of painkilling options available to you as a patient, find out about them when you do your interview.  If you are afraid of novocaine, ask about gas. 

You can also space the work according to how much you are able to tolerate;  do a whole batch at once, or just one part.  You might schedule a small job first, then some of your bigger work after you and the dentist have had a chance to work together. 

Decide if the priority is to save money, or get the best, most gentle dentist with the best equipment.   If you need to save money, a dental school is good.  You will have less control over who works with you, but I understand they do good work. 

A word about "dental vacations."  Some people go abroad to get work done at lower cost.  A friend of mine went to Mexico, had several crowns put in, and in less than a year had to have them all replaced!  Hardly a money saver.  Another friend went to Costa Rica and is happy with the work that he had done there.  But, if you are afraid of the dentist, you probably someone local. 

Like you, many people are afraid dental work.  A good dentist should be able to help you through this. 

 

Date Posted: 1/7/2009 1:51 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
Posts: 1,646
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I've had a root canal and it was absolutely painless.  The trick is to have it BEFORE the tooth becomes inflamed; the inflamation is what causes the problem.  Only trouble--they're expensive, approx. $1000 bucks.   Check with your local dental schools.  They usually do dental work for approx. 1/3 the cost and are expertly supervised, so the work is excellent.  Only trouble is, you''ll probably have a wait to get an appointment since they are in demand, especially now. 

 

niffir - ,
Date Posted: 1/7/2009 5:14 PM ET
Member Since: 2/13/2008
Posts: 495
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When I had my root canal about 3 years ago, it cost about $800 without insurance.   Not terrible, but a whole lot of money still!

 

I've known people who have bargained with the dentist to get a reduced rate.  Treat it like you would any big purchase-- comparison shop and ask if dentists are willing to lower their rate.  The worst they can say is "no" and they may well offer you a pretty reasonable discount.  There is no reason their prices should be inflexible.

Date Posted: 1/9/2009 11:38 AM ET
Member Since: 10/1/2007
Posts: 2,380
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We have a huge University/Hospital here and just yesterday the dental college had an ad looking for patients for free dental work!  My MIL goes there and just loves the care that she gets there.  She works at the hospital and it's very convenient for her.  She hasn't had to wait months for any procedure.

Date Posted: 1/9/2009 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 56
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Be sure to not miss cleanings--I didn't go for about 2 years (out of forgetfullness) and ended up having to get a new crown & then root canal. Not fun!  Invest in an electric toothbrush.  And there is 1-800 dentists to get referrals. Or dental schools, that is a good suggestion. 

I never understood why dental insurance was considered such a luxury for companies to offer, and for people to have. For cosmetic things, I get it, but for cavities & preventative procedures, it's necessary to everyone. Not only can tooth pain be as bad as pain from other body parts--if untreated , it can lead to things like ear & sinus problems, as well as infections all over.
Root canal is bad--EMERENCY root canal is a nightmare. Don't let it come to that!! 

Date Posted: 1/13/2009 6:21 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2007
Posts: 170
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I've had patients who have needed root canals and have put it off since the tooth didn't hurt them. There was an infection present, and one patient need back surgery, since the infection traveled down his back, into his discs. He was incapacitated for weeks.

Another guy didn't listen to me 2 years ago- he was admitted to the hospital recently with his eye swollen shut. He's lucky the infection didn't go into his brain.

I know it is an expense, but visiting the dentist can save your life!

Date Posted: 1/15/2009 1:53 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I'm scared...I feel sick just thinking about going...

Date Posted: 1/15/2009 11:12 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2005
Posts: 404
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((((((((((((((((((((((( Kathy mentioned Dental schools and that is an absolutely AWESOME way to save on dental work))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

Been there, done that!  Even a phobic like me got good service there! 

About the infection in the brain?  Yes, in the olden days people in the US died and some in other countries probably still do.



Last Edited on: 1/15/09 11:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/18/2009 9:52 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2007
Posts: 170
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Cheryl- infections from the teeth can travel around the body and affect the heart, brain, back- you name it. This is not the olden days. This is happening every day in this country to people who are educated, have jobs, and access to good dental care. It is the unfortunate result of these people simply not going to a dentist.

Date Posted: 1/20/2009 3:55 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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well I searched online and found the last dentist I saw...have an appt at 10 tomorrow and have already pigged out on 3 donuts, package of m&ms and have about chewed off my last fingernail...and feel kinda sick..though that's probably due to all the junk I ate :-(  I really dread tomorrow but gotta find out where I stand...sigh...

Date Posted: 1/20/2009 4:27 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2007
Posts: 4,588
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Good for you Susanna! I don't know which is worse for me the dentist or the OB/GYN! lol. Actually I've trained myself to go into a little hypnotic state when they are working on my teeth. I've been so deep into it that the dentist once thought I was falling asleep. :o

"infections from the teeth can travel around the body and affect the heart, brain, back- you name it. "  So true Rachel, I saw several patients in nursing facilities with this same problem, (infections traveling to other parts of their body I mean).

 

Date Posted: 1/20/2009 5:01 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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wouldnt you be able to feel an infection?! my teeth dont' hurt either but it's past time to get them checked out..pretty sure I have some cavities..not that I feel them as in hurting but feels like some space there..sigh...need more m&m's....

ETA I'd gladly go to the ob/gyn for another round...I don't even like the xrays at the dentist..sigh..gosh can't think about this..I hate dentists..the whole experience sucks except leaving...don't like the needle, don't like the sound of the drilling, don't like the smell..I swear it smells when they're drilling...arghh...

ETA again! well I went to the appt...need to get that filling -the deep one that seems to keep coming out-redone so I made the appt for next Friday. what a relief..he says he'll try to do it that way instead of a root canal if he can..crossing my fingers. but said the xrays looked good..so I got some of that restoring rinse stuff and a new toothbrush and gonna get serious with this preventive stuff! I hated the cleaning but finally relaxed enough and it felt great afterwards...gohs what a relief...just crossing my fingers the filling does ok...

 



Last Edited on: 1/22/09 12:21 AM ET - Total times edited: 2