How to pay for dental care

Paying for dental care is a concern of many. Not everyone can afford dental insurance and not all employers offer dental benefits. Below is information about paying for dental care if you have insurance, and paying for dental care if you need financial assistance. Please visit the section on How to Access Dental Care if you are looking for low-cost or charitable dental institutions.

If you have a dental insurance plan:

What's covered by your dental plan is based on how much your employer pays into the plan. Usual, customary and reasonable charges (UCR) are the maximum amounts that your plan covers. These standards are set by your insurance company. Any portion of a dental bill not covered by your plan is your responsibility.

If you need to finance your dental costs:

Financing may involve the use of a credit card. Make sure you understand what the monthly payment requirements will be before you decide on this option. Typically there are two types of financing offers:

  • Deferred Interest: Sometimes called “No Interest” plans, these payment plans are more commonly offered by healthcare credit cards. They typically offer a promotional period, usually between six and 18 months, where you won’t be charged interest on your purchase. With these plans, you must pay at least the monthly minimum during the promotional period, if you do not interest charges will be added to your purchase. Also, if you have not paid off your balance when the promotional period expires, interest charges will be added to your purchase.
  • Reduced Interest: Sometimes called “Low Interest” plans, these payment plans are typically longer term, often between one and five years. To receive the reduced interest rate on your purchase, you must agree to make a set monthly payment. The agreed upon monthly payment is usually a fixed percentage of your original purchase. Failure to pay at least the agreed upon monthly payment will result in you being charged the full interest rate.

Make sure you understand how credit finance plans work before you decide on a specific plan. Only finance what you can afford, pay on time and make sure you read, fully understand and keep copies of anything you are asked to sign. Take the time to understand your options and obligations and you can improve your financial and oral health.

If you have questions about Medicaid:

While many states significantly limit dental coverage for adults enrolled in Medicaid, children who are enrolled are eligible to receive more comprehensive dental services through the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program (EPSDT). As the Medicaid website states, all children enrolled in Medicaid are, at a minimum, eligible for:

  • Relief of pain and infections.
  • Restoration of teeth.
  • Maintenance of dental health.

Under most circumstances, the dental benefits listed above do not require copayments. EPSDT requires that all medically necessary services be provided to enrolled children and each state makes it owns medical necessity determination.

Every state also participates in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides low-cost health care for children. CHIP is available to families who cannot afford private health insurance, but earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid assistance. Dental coverage for children is provided through CHIP; however, the amount of dental coverage, as well the cost of co-payments for dental care, is determined by your state.

If you are interested in obtaining more information about Medicaid or CHIP for your children, visit the government-sponsored Insure Kids Now website to find out:

  • What Medicaid or CHIP dental benefits your state offers for children.
  • If you can enroll your children in Medicaid.
  • If you’re eligible for CHIP in your state.

You can also call 1-877-543-7669 to speak to someone about children’s health care benefits in your state.