Trips to the dentist can get expensive, whether you have a dental insurance plan or not. Costs climb higher when you need a complex dental procedure, such as an extraction, crown, or root canal. But putting off much-needed dental healthcare often isn’t an option, especially if you’re in pain.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or spread out the cost of a trip to the dentist. Here’s what to know about dental care costs, how to pay for expensive dental work, and how to choose the best way to cover the cost of an upcoming procedure.
Costs of dental care: What to expect
Dental health insurance can offset the cost of routine cleanings and some dentistry work, but not everyone has this insurance, nor does it cover everything. Even with dental insurance, you’ll generally have to pay deductibles and co-pays, which can add up. And you might hit an annual maximum that doesn’t come close to covering the cost of your dental bill.
If you need dental care and don’t have insurance, here’s what common procedures may cost out of pocket:
Teeth cleaning: ~$200
Dental filling: $157-$344
Wisdom tooth removal: $99-$340
Dental crown: $800-$1,700
Root canal: $500-$1,500
5 ways to pay for dental work
If you’re concerned about your ability to afford a dental procedure, there are several ways to cover dental costs besides paying cash.
Those with good or excellent credit may qualify for a personal loan from a bank, credit union, or online lender and use it to pay for dental treatment in installments. These loans generally have lower rates than credit cards: The average rate for a two-year personal loan is currently around 12.17%, while the average rate for a credit card is 21.19%.
Repayment terms for personal loans are often as long as five or seven years, but loan terms and loan amounts vary by lender. For instance, some lenders, like LightStream and SoFi, offer loans up to $100,000 for medical or dental procedures with loan terms as long as 84 months.
Lenders generally let you apply for a personal loan online, and loan funds are often disbursed the same day of approval or within 1-3 business days. You may see personal loans marketed as medical or dental loans as you shop around.
As mentioned, credit cards generally come with higher rates than personal loans. A credit card is generally the best option if you can afford to repay your balance in full by the end of your statement cycle to avoid interest charges — but that may not be doable when paying for major work like dental implants or veneers.
One way to skirt high interest payments is to apply for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR on new purchases. These cards have a deferred interest period of 12 to 18 months, allowing you to repay your balance in that window without incurring interest. You’ll likely need good credit or excellent credit to get approved for a 0% introductory APR credit card, and if approved, your new card should arrive in the mail in around 7-10 days.
Payment plan with your dentist
Many dental providers are willing to work with patients to formulate a payment plan that aligns with their financial situation. For instance, your dentist may let you pay off the balance for your procedure over several months instead of paying one large upfront cost.
Your dentist may also partner with a service like CareCredit to offer in-office financing. While financing at the dentist can be convenient, be sure you compare rates before going this route. You may be able to get a lower interest rate with a personal loan. Credit score requirements for in-office financing vary depending on the dentist and financial service they use.
Get care at a dental school
Many dental schools offer in-house teaching clinics where dental students and faculty work together to provide patient care. The cost of care at a dental school is often more affordable than what you’d pay at a private dental practice. Search the Commission on Dental Accreditation database to find a clinic near you.
Find a community health clinic
Community health clinics specialize in providing low-cost medical and dental care to patients even if they can’t pay for a procedure in full. Use the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ searchable database to find a local community health center.
How to choose a financing option and apply
The best way to finance your dental treatment depends on your unique situation. For instance, if you live in an area with several nearby dental schools, you might inquire about becoming a patient at one of those. If not, a community health clinic could be an alternative.
If you’re comfortable taking on debt, you could pay for a dental procedure using a credit card or personal loan. Comparing financing can help you choose the best option. Look at interest rates, terms, fees, and borrower requirements as you shop around. Use an online repayment calculator to determine if potential monthly payments align with your budget.
Is it cheaper to get dental work done in another country?
Getting dental work done in another country may be cheaper, depending on where you travel. But dental and medical tourism can be fairly risky, so weigh the pros and cons if you’re considering this option.
Ensure that you also vet potential clinics before you visit. Find a dental office that’s accredited by a reputable institution, research dentists in the clinic, and understand what dental services they offer.
Can you use an HSA for dental care?
Yes, you can use a health savings account to pay for eligible dental care. In general, you can use HSA funds to cover medically necessary dental procedures and preventative care costs, such as braces, fluoride treatments, and tooth extraction. However, procedures such as teeth whitening and dental supplies such as toothbrushes and floss are generally considered ineligible expenses.
What credit score do you need for CareCredit dental financing?
CareCredit does not disclose its minimum credit score requirements. If you’re concerned your credit score will be a barrier to getting approved, consider applying for a CareCredit card with a joint applicant.