I distinctly remember paying $129 for an annual dental cleaning and X-rays at the dentist in our old town.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I suppose that’s the price I pay for being self-employed.  Actually, I have never had dental insurance before- even when I worked at a regular ol’ 9-5 job.  The point is, I’m used to paying for our basic dental care out-of-pocket and I’m generally happy to do so…within reason.

But we moved this winter and needed to find a new dentist.  I hadn’t thought much about it until Greg mentioned he’d like to go and said it was time to make an appointment for our oldest daughter as well (he keeps track of all appointments).  I told Greg to ask friends at work for a recommendation and to make an appointment for both of them, but only after finding out how much it would cost for each of them to have a new patient exam, X-rays, and a dental cleaning.

A few days later, I got this phone call from Greg:

Greg: Ummm…..I made our dental appointments and it’s not looking good.

Me: What do you mean it’s not looking good?

Greg: Well, it’s expensive around here…..<awkward silence>

Me: How much?

Greg: $375 for me and $333 for Lydia…..

Me: WHAT THE &*$%…..THOSE GREEDY &%(*@$!!!!!  CANCEL THE APPOINTMENTS!!!!  CANCELLLLLLLLLLL THHHHHHEMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

<more awkward silence>

First of all, is that normal?  I’m not talking about my fit of expletives here (of course that’s not normal).   I’m talking about paying $708 for a five-year-old and an adult to get their teeth cleaned.  Have you ever heard of a dentist that charges that much?  I certainly haven’t, so we decided to shop around.

Combating the Crazy Cost of Dental Care

First of all, I’m sure most of us know someone who works in the dental industry and this post wasn’t written to disparage them.  Those who work in the dental industry work hard and likely deal with a whole lot of crap from all kinds of people.  But, $708 for two people?  Seriously.  That means that my family of four would have to pay $1416 for cleanings every six months.  That’s ridiculous.

Here’s what we did instead:

  • We looked beyond our neighborhood- We live in a pricey little pocket of suburbia, and I suspected that might have something to do with the price of dental care.  After some research, we quickly found that dentists got cheaper the further we got from home.  It’s totally worth driving twenty minutes to save hundreds (and possibly thousands) of dollars per year, am I right?
  • We shopped around- Experts say you should always shop around for the best prices on routine healthcare, and it’s true.  After calling a few dentists right outside of our immediate area, we found several who charged less than $150 for a new patient exam with X-rays and a dental cleaning.
  • We looked for coupons- After looking online for a few minutes, we found several coupons for new patient dental care.  Yes, I’m serious.  Dental coupons are a thing A few of them were for a $99 new patient exam with X-rays and a cleaning and another was the same offer but for $129.
  • We researched family deals.  After hearing of my sticker shock, a high school friend suggested I check out the family plan at the dentist she works at.  I’m so glad I did, as it gave me hope for the future.  They offer a family plan for four which includes dental cleanings and X-rays twice per year for all of us for a total of $599.  Isn’t that insane?
  • We got on Groupon- One of my friends suggested I check out Groupon for dental coupons, and I’m so glad I did.  On the Groupon site, I found a $39 Groupon for a new patient exam, dental cleaning, and X-rays.  You seriously cannot beat that.  More good news: the dentist offering this deal is only about 20 minutes away.

Other people I know have turned to short-term lenders in order to finance needed dental work.  However, I’m pretty sure you already know which option I went with.  Of course I couldn’t resist the allure of a $39 dental groupon!!!  Sue me.  However, the Groupon is just a one time deal.  After that, we’ll have to commit to a dentist with reasonable pricing or continue to shop around for coupons, or even Groupons.  As we all know, there are usually deals if you’re willing to look hard enough.  And fortunately, I’m always willing to spend time finding ways to save.

Do you have dental insurance?  If not, how much do you pay for a dental cleaning?