Simple ways to save money on dental care

Older people tend to put off dental visits

SAN ANTONIO – With the rising cost of health care, many people -- especially seniors -- may find themselves skipping dental visits.

When people retire or don't have access to dental benefits, they often put off seeing the dentist, and Medicare doesn't cover routine dental services.     

Consumer Reports listed a number of ways for people can get the care they need without it taking a huge bite out of their budget.

“Everyday we see this happening here,” Dr. Jennifer Pichardo, DDS said. “People don't have insurance and they tend to neglect the care of the mouth."

Pichardo said without routine exams and regular cleanings, small problems quickly become big ones.

"If there is a cavity, we are going to treat it when it's still small and the expenses will be less than if you need a root canal," she said.

For those looking for a way to cover or lower the costs of dental care and treatment, Consumer Reports money editor Donna Rosato 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.

People can 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.

But the best bet for keeping hefty dental bills at bay, Pichardo said, is practicing good oral hygiene at home.

"Brushing your teeth twice a day, using soft bristles to brush, fluoride toothpaste and fluoride mouth rinse," Pachardo said.

Consumer Reports said people can also negotiate with their dentist to see if they can offer a lower price or contact a dental school to see if it offer discounted services.

Dentists also recommend cutting back on sugary food and acidic drinks, such as soda, which can erode the enamel on your teeth.