And unlike medical procedures, insurance doesn’t provide as much of a cushion as many patients would like. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, for every adult who lacks health insurance, you can find three adults who lack dental insurance.
And even those with insurance aren’t out of the woods. Most dental plans not only require a 50% copay for expensive procedures, but also limit their coverage to only $1,500 per year.
So patients are placed between a rock and a hard place: get the dental help they know they need but know they also can’t afford, or try to tough it out and risk even more expensive emergency procedures down the road.
While that may be a great solution once the patient is in the office and ready to hear options, the high cost of dental procedures can often keep people from even walking through the door.
Jake Winebaum, founder of the online service Brighter.com, seeks to alleviate exactly that kind of uncertainty in dental care costs. His site seeks to let patients know, up front, what dentists in their area charge for regular checkups to complicated procedures, so patients have not only a better idea of what to expect, but also a little bit of bargaining power.
Winebaum’s research found that similar procedures in the same city at different dentists’ offices could vary up to 700% in price.
“I found that dental patients lack price transparency and negotiating leverage,” says Winebaum, “and that impacts their willingness and ability to get the dental care they needed.”
What about the people who still balk at treatment, even when they know what price to expect?
“I always educate my patients on what is happening in their mouths. I believe education helps them understand their health. At Summit Family Dentistry, we offer a 5% cash discount, and a 5% discount for senior citizens. You can always use CareCredit, which is like a credit card without any interest throughout the year. Also, we can provide a split payment where the first half is paid in the beginning of the procedure and the remaining balance is due by the end of the treatment. ” Dr. Anibal Lopez, DDS at Summit Family Dentistry.