If you have dental insurance through your employer then you are part of the lucky few. Private dental insurance is expensive and probably not worth the monthly fee just for routine cleanings. Millions of Americans don't have dental insurance and many find themselves in a situation where they wish they did. While routine cleanings and even getting the occasional cavity filled are relatively affordable without insurance, many procedures are not. Emergencies wait for no one and toothaches don't care whether you have the money to fix them or not. Leaving an aching tooth to fend for itself in hopes that it will heal on it's own is a terrible idea. This can cause the problem to continue getting worse, causing more and more problems until you lose the tooth or are forced to spend an exorbitant amount of money fixing the problem in an effort to save your smile.
When you don't have dental insurance, here are a few ways you can get the care you need without going broke:
Financing Credit Cards. If you can't afford to pay a large sum all at once to fix your toothache then financing credit cards, like CareCredit, can help you pay it over the course of a few months. If you choose a 6, 12, or 24 month plan you will qualify for interest free financing. These are great because as long as you keep up with payments and pay within a certain time frame you basically borrow the money for free!
Colleges of Dentistry. Many dental assisting schools and colleges of dentistry offer services that are much cheaper and teacher-supervised. This is very popular among people trying to keep their dental bills down and so there is usually a pretty long waiting list.
Mission of Mercy. Mission of Mercy is a nonprofit organization that provides free dental care to those without access or financial means. Events are held usually yearly in certain cities where people can sign up or show up to receive free care.
Discount Dental Plans. Many private practices offer sliding scale fees or discount dental plans for patients without dental insurance. For example, my practice offers a plan called the Family Plan. For $99/year patients receive two free cleanings, X-rays, and exams and a significant discount on most of our other services. A lot of other private practices offer similar plans and often have them showcased on their website.
Coupons. Not sure what could be wrong with your aching tooth? Or maybe you broke a tooth and just want to know your options? Check the websites of your local dental offices, many have coupons for free or discounted emergency exams and X-rays. This can save you a couple dollars and give you a peace of mind.