You’ve made the decision: after years of putting it off, you are going to make an appointment with a dentist and find out exactly what you need to do to get your smile back into shape. Or perhaps a painful tooth made that decision for you. Whatever the reason, you’re taking a big step towards better health and a happier life.
But you’re worried. You’re concerned about what the dentist or hygienist will say when they see how badly you’ve neglected your teeth. And you’re scared that the cost of getting them fixed will be more than you can afford.
Relax – dental professionals are very accustomed to working with people who haven’t been able to access regular dental care. They want to help you get your smile back to healthy. And there are options that can help make dental treatment more affordable.
Sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only one who is dealing with a particular issue. And when it comes to worry about dental care, you have a lot of company. About 20%-25% of people in the U.S. have what medical researchers describe as “dental anxiety.”
People get stressed about going to the dentist for many different reasons, from claustrophobia to embarrassment about their poor oral health, the cost of care and concern about getting a difficult diagnosis. Recent research from West Virginia University and the University of Pittsburgh even suggests that the fear of going to the dentist may be a genetic inheritance.
Dental anxiety can range in severity from just dreading a visit to the dentist to complete avoidance of dental treatment for many, many years. Of course, with avoidance of dental treatment comes poorer oral health. And the longer a person delays getting treatment the more their oral health will deteriorate, sparking yet more fear and embarrassment about going to the dentist.
Your dentist knows that there are a lot of reasons that keep people from getting regular checkups and cleanings. He or she is unlikely to make you feel bad about your oral health – instead your dentist will be understanding and do their best to put you at ease. If you do feel like your dentist isn’t treating you in a professional and compassionate manner, leave and find a dentist who knows how to treat patients right.
If dental anxiety has been keeping you from seeing the dentist, you may wish to find a dentist who specializes in working with anxious patients. These dentists are particularly accustomed to working with people whose oral health has been compromised by delaying dental care.
If you can’t find a dentist who specializes in working with nervous patients, simply tell the person who you speak with when making your appointment that you are anxious about dental work, that you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, and you’d like to come in for a checkup and talk to the dentist about a treatment plan.
Treatment plans outline the dental care you need to get your mouth healthy again. When you review the plan with your dentist, tell him or her what you can afford to spend monthly or annually. Ask what treatments are the most important, and which you can delay for a little while. Be up front about what you can and cannot afford. If the dentist makes you feel bad about not getting all the treatments you need ASAP, you may wish to find another dentist.
You should also be able to ask your dentist if there are less expensive treatments that you can get now, to address your most urgent oral health issues, while you save up money for the procedures that you need. And if you have dental insurance, and your treatment plan exceeds your insurance’s annual spending maximum (typically $1,000-$1500) you should also ask your dentist about spacing out treatments so that you can get the most out of your insurance coverage. This is a very common concern, and your dentist will not be surprised when you ask the question.
If you have a dental savings plan, you don’t have to worry about annual spending limits. Work with your dentist to come up with a schedule for your appointments that suits your budget and personal needs.
Dental savings plans are an affordable alternative to dental insurance, providing plan members with discounts on most dental services. As an example, the majority of plans you’ll find on dentalplans.com offer savings of 10%-60% at the dentist.
Dental savings plan members pay a low annual membership fee for access to an extensive network of participating dentists and dental specialists that provide discounts on dental care at the time of service. Since they are not dental insurance, dental savings plans do not have co-payments, deductibles, paperwork hassles or annual spending limits.