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Tips to lower your pricy dental care costs

January 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Avoiding the dentist due to fear of pain or high costs? A Consumer Reports survey on oral health shows most people gave their dental care a thumbs up even when it came to such complex procedures like root canals.

A trip to the dentist may not be your favorite appointment, but in a Consumer Reports survey of more than 50,000 of its readers, people who put off needed dental treatment were less satisfied with the outcome than those who bit the bullet.

"Not going to your dental appointments may lead to more extensive and more costly dental treatment in the long run," said Dr. Blanca Navarro.

If the prospect of a painful procedure makes you cringe, there's good news. The survey found that serious pain is rare.

"Only 5 percent of people who had a root canal said the procedure was severely painful, and only 6 percent of people who had a tooth pulled. So if you're worried about pain, that's really not a good reason to avoid the dentist," said Nancy Metcalf with Consumer Reports.

However, the cost of care was a top concern to some. The most frequent reason for delaying dental treatment was because the procedure was too expensive. Others worried that insurance wouldn't cover the procedure.

"But our survey found that you can negotiate for a better price. Among our readers who tried it for costly procedures like an implant or a full denture, more than half were successful at getting the price reduced," said Metcalf.

It pays to do some research first. One website you can use is FairHealthConsumer.org and another one is HealthcareBlueBook.com. Both sites give the typical cost of a procedure in your area.

And there are also other ways to save.

"Many people don't realize that community health centers often provide dental care for fees based on your ability to pay," said Metcalf.

It turns out, people who brush twice a day and floss every day were more likely to be happy with their smiles than those who don't.