What Affordable Dental Care Does NOT Mean

November 26, 2018

Young girl scared at dentist visit, siting in chair and covering her mouth

“You get what you pay for.”

In most areas of life, these are wise words that are proven true time and time again. However, in some cases, this mentality can make us draw the wrong conclusion about value and price. An excellent example of this is the search for affordable dental care.

If you were told that one local dentist charges $150 for a routine examination and a dentist down the street charges $50 for the same exam, what would your immediate reaction be? Many people who were brought up learning “you get what you pay for” would probably assume that the more expensive examination is superior in some way. They may believe that going to the dentist who charges less would require sacrificing something — maybe speed, quality, or convenience — for that lower price.

But, that’s a costly conclusion to jump to — and, it’s inaccurate.

First, let’s define what affordable dental care is and how you can obtain it. Then, we’ll look at three concerns patients may have about affordable dental care, and what the facts show:

How can you find affordable dental care?

When considering having to pay for dental care, most people think first of insurance, then jump right to paying out-of-pocket in full. As we’ve covered previously on this blog, though, there are alternatives available that can make dental care more affordable under many different circumstances. Some of those options include:

  • Dental discount programs
  • Negotiating with local providers for lower fees
  • Office-specific discount packages
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)
  • Low- and no-cost clinics

No matter how you pursue more affordable dental care, however, it’s vital that you not settle for services that are slower, less convenient, or of lower quality. That’s not the true cost of affordable dental care.

Affordable dental care is not low-quality care

Although we tend to view them as very different, dentists and medical doctors have to meet essentially the same rigorous educational and licensing requirements to practice their respective skills. This extensive list includes:

  • A bachelor’s degree - usually four years of post-secondary education
  • A doctorate in dental medicine (DDM) or dental surgery (DDS) - usually another four years in dental school
  • Passing the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
  • Up to two years residency (if their specialty requires it)
  • Obtaining a state license to practice - each state has its own requirements, some above and beyond the minimums listed here

In addition, state licenses must be renewed on a regular basis (often every two years), and all states have requirements involving continuing education to ensure that every dentist is completing at least a minimum of ongoing training in the latest tools and techniques in order to qualify to renew their license.

The requirements for dental hygienists are not quite as extensive, but they do still need to meet rigorous standards and maintain a minimum level of continuing education in order to work with patients.

Thus, whether you’re paying top dollar for that exam or you’re able to get it at a discounted rate, if you’re seeing a licensed dentist, you can be confident you’re receiving quality care.

Affordable dental care is not slow care

While it’s true that any dentist’s office can be abnormally busy at times, and no office can eliminate all unforeseen circumstances, paying less for your oral health care shouldn’t mean you have to wait hours to see a provider or that your services will take forever to complete.

Your time is valuable, and so is your dentist’s. Of course, no one wants to feel like they’re on a conveyor belt being pushed through the office as fast as possible to get them out the door. But, at the same time, quality care includes proper scheduling etiquette, being efficient while you’re being seen, and avoiding unnecessary delays. (And, being punctual to appointments is very much appreciated as well.)

Affordable dental care is not inconvenient care

Along the same lines, receiving dental care at a discounted rate should not require tremendous inconvenience. Your appointment times should be mutually agreed upon, you should expect to be finished in a reasonable amount of time, and plans shouldn’t be changed dramatically without adequate warning.

This is a situation that occasionally comes up in the case of low- or no-cost dental clinics. These clinics offer a valuable service in many communities and are usually an excellent way to obtain affordable dental care. The one trade-off is that some clinics are understaffed or trying to accommodate far more patients than they were designed to handle. As a result, there may be a long waiting list for appointments and/or long waits at the time of service.

In conclusion, remember that “you get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily apply to affordable dental care. This is especially true if you’re using a discount dental plan. For more information, click the link below or find a participating dentist here

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