Paying for dental treatment out-of-pocket:
Cash discounts / Payment plans / Prioritizing dental work.
When trying to figure out a way to pay for your dental treatment, don't overlook the possibility of making some type of financial arrangement directly with your dentist.
A) Ask your dentist if they give cash discounts.
If you're faced with a relatively costly dental treatment plan, you might ask your dentist if they give a discount if dental work is paid for in a lump sum in advance.
Your offer may be turned down. But besides the obvious benefit this arrangement has for you, it can provide a number of advantages for your dentist too, so there's no reason not to ask.
1) Advance payments make less work for your dentist's staff.
With up-front payments, the workload for your dentist's office staff is minimized. Each time you are in they won't have to ask you for a payment nor will your account need any mailed statements or accounts-receivable monitoring. And, of course, there is no chance that your completed dental treatment will go unpaid.
2) Lump-sum payments may help to increase your dentist's productivity.
Patients who have already paid for their dental treatment in advance tend to have fewer broken appointments. And during any one appointment, if extra time presents itself the dentist can feel free to go ahead and complete additional treatment rather than having to stay within the patient's budget.
3) Offering a cash discount might actually save your dentist money.
As we explain here, the costs a dentist incurs with some third-party in-office financing programs can be substantial. And when compared to having a patient use one of these services, offering a cash discount may save them money in the long run.
B) Ask your dentist if they offer payment plans.
Some dentists may consider making a payment-plan option available to their patients. You'd have to assume that this type of arrangement is only offered to people with whom the dentist has had a long-standing patient-doctor relationship and whose payment history has shown credit worthiness.
Here's how this type of plan might work.
The dentist will probably ask for some portion of the dental treatment's total cost to be paid up front as a down payment. This amount might be between one-third and one-half of the patient's total treatment expense. The idea is that this down payment will cover a significant portion of the dentist's fixed expenses such as the procedure's dental laboratory bill and office overhead expenses.
The remainder of the patient's treatment costs is then budgeted out in monthly payments. Especially in those cases where no interest is being charged, you would have to expect that the repayment time frame offered would be relatively short.
As whimsical as the idea of this type of arrangement may seem, when compared to those expenses imposed on a dentist by some types of in-office financing programs (see the link above), this arrangement may prove to be relatively cost-effective.
C) If the total cost of your dental needs is prohibitive, ask your dentist about prioritizing your treatment.
A dentist initiates every patient's treatment process by developing a treatment plan. The ordering of the individual procedures listed within this plan reflects the urgency with which they need to be addressed.
Some procedures will need to be completed promptly, so to prevent further deterioration of the patient's teeth and gums. Others will have a nature where they can be scheduled at a more leisurely pace.
Any dentist should be able to identify a general breakpoint in a patient's treatment plan where the procedures listed begin a transformation from a state of urgency to one of more moderate, less pressing need. The idea is, once this point has been reached, the patient's dental visits can be scheduled less frequently, possibly even significantly so, thus spreading their expenses out over a longer, more-affordable time frame.
Keep your dentist posted about your financial situation.
With some types of dental work, more than one treatment option might exist. Often one is the preferred approach but, unfortunately, also the more expensive one. Let your dentist know what you financial time frame is. If funds will be available relatively soon, they may be able to place an inexpensive temporary restoration that can adequately stabilize your tooth for the needed duration.
If a moderately longer time frame is needed, the dentist may be able to place the "second choice" restoration, with the understanding that the superior restoration should be placed as soon as it can be afforded.