Few emergencies are as cringe-inducing as breaking a tooth.
Not only does it generally come on suddenly, with little or no warning, but it’s usually exceptionally painful and it’s not quick and easy to resolve. Perhaps “surviving” a broken tooth involves a bit of exaggeration, but when you’re in the midst of dealing with it, it can feel like a matter of life or death.
There’s also another side to the pain and discomfort caused by a broken tooth, and that has to do with how much it can hurt your wallet.
The cost of repairing a chipped or broken tooth
The most recent figures available range from $75 to $6,000 to repair a chipped or broken tooth, with an average cost of about $1,325.
Obviously, there are many factors that go into how expensive it’s going to be, but it primarily comes down to how much of the tooth has been damaged or lost, whether or not the remaining tooth is still healthy or if its integrity has been compromised, and how much pain the patient is currently in.
For very minor chips that have not affected the rest of the tooth and are causing little or no pain, a quick and relatively inexpensive bonding procedure can fill in the chipped surface, making it look and feel like new again. For major damage that goes up into the gum line, it could require a complete extraction and replacement with an implant or other cosmetic device.
No matter how serious it is, however, it’s wise for the patient to at least have a dentist examine the tooth after damage has occurred. That way, a professional will be able to evaluate the tooth itself as well as surrounding teeth, gum tissue, and bone, to determine if there has been any unseen damage that’s likely to develop in the future. That examination alone could cost several hundred dollars, not counting whatever treatment options the dentist recommends.
How to save on emergency dental care
Even when dental services appear suddenly on your to-do list because of an emergency or unexpected illness, it’s possible to control costs and avoid letting a painful procedure hurt your wallet too.
More importantly, by being prepared ahead of time with adequate cost control measures in place, you shouldn’t have to waste time or suffer unnecessarily as you try to figure out how to pay for dental services you desperately need.
"No matter how serious it is, it’s wise for patients to at least have a dentist examine the tooth after damage has occurred."
Dental insurance is one option to consider if it’s available to you. Under most insurance plans, advanced dental services like tooth restoration, fillings, crowns, implants, or cosmetic replacements, are covered at a set percentage.
This can be very important for individuals who have access to insurance through a job or organization, and who have already budgeted to cover the monthly premiums. It’s important to understand each plan’s individual limitations, copays, and deductibles as well, since they will factor into how much of the emergency bill is covered when it’s all said and done.
Discount dental programs
Many of the same considerations apply to discount dental programs. A dental discount plan is not insurance, rather it’s a discount program that helps those without dental insurance automatically receive a percentage off of the overall cost of a dental treatment.
For example, the Dental Solutions program offers a monthly membership fee of just $9.95 to include the entire household. This low monthly membership fee provides discounts of 20% to 50% off the normal retail cost of nearly all dental services, from the basic preventive cleaning and examination to advanced restorative and cosmetic dentistry. There are no additional copays at the time of service, deductibles that need to be met, or limitations that cap how much money you can save.
You do still need to choose a participating provider in order to utilize a discount dental program, so it still makes sense to make that selection ahead of time rather than waiting until you’re in severe pain.
Low- and no-cost clinics and community programs
Another option that’s often overlooked to help you save on dental care is the availability of low- and no-cost dental clinics in your community, or benefits programs available to community members who meet certain criteria.
In most cases, these kinds of programs are either administered or monitored by the local or state Department of Health and Human Services, so visiting their website and/or calling a representative of that government agency is a good first step in exploring that option.
As noted, these kinds of plans will often require that patients meet certain criteria, including income level, being citizens of particular cities or counties, etc.
With appropriate planning ahead of time — including filling out all necessary paperwork and meeting plan requirements — you should be able to determine if your local options can handle an emergency situation, and how to best take advantage of them if they can.
A broken tooth can be a serious inconvenience, but it doesn’t have to cause extreme pain and suffering. Rather than waiting until it happens to you or a member of your household, prepare now by looking into the three options outlined above and be ready to take action the moment an injury occurs.