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Ways to save money on your family's dental care

Ways most people don't know that could save them thousands

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you've skipped going to the dentist because you think you couldn't afford it, think again. It's one of the most-missed appointments when people retire or don't have access to dental benefits.

"Every day we see this happening," said demist Jennifer Pichardo. "People don't have insurance and they tend to neglect the care of the mouth."

Dr. Jeffrey Smith, program director for Florida State College Jacksonville's Dental Program, agrees.  He said that mistake can cost thousands of dollars in the long run.

One of the best ways to avoid problems is through prevention. FSCJ offers preventative services, like X-rays, a deep cleaning and an examination, for $10 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under.

"We can catch a condition when they're in the early stages and hopefully prevent them from becoming a more serious condition. That's the goal," Smith said.

If there's a problem, you'll be referred, and that followup care is most likely not going to be so cheap.  Most reduced-cost or free dental care is based on income, if you have Medicaid.

There are other ways to cover or lower the costs of dental care and treatment. Donna Rosato, of Consumer Reports, said buying private dental insurance is one option, but it can be costly and often comes with a cap.

"A lot of private insurance only covers so much and you can still be on the hook for thousands of dollars out of pocket," Rosato said.

Another insurance option is a dental HMO, which will cover things like routine cleanings and offer discounts on other procedures. You could also join a dental savings plan, which costs about $100 per year for an individual or $250 for a family.

"A dental savings plan isn't health insurance, but it does connect you to a network of dentists who have agreed to provide discounts on their services," Rosato said.

Both dentists said none of this works if you don't practice good oral hygiene at home. Brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush, use fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day. 

Consumer Reports said you can also negotiate with your dentist to see if they can offer you a lower price.

Resources for lower-cost dental care

  • Sulzbacher Health Center: 904-394-8060
  • FSCJ Dental Program: 904-766-6571
  • Community Health Outreach Emergency Dental Treatment: 904-573-1333
  • Children's Dental Center at South Jacksonville, 1722 University Boulevard South, Jacksonville: 904-253-1240
  • JU School of Orthodontics - new patients: 904-256- 7970; main number: 904-256-7846

About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.