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Dental care financing options

Dentistry can do so much these days to improve a person’s health, appearance and self-confidence. From barely noticeable braces that straighten crooked smiles to dental implants that replace missing teeth, there is a state-of-the-art solution to virtually any dental problem. Of course, like anything that involves the time and resources of skilled professionals, highly technical and sophisticated dental treatment doesn’t come inexpensively; indeed, the phrase “you get what you pay for” probably applies doubly to dentistry. Also, the types of treatment mentioned above, as well as many others, are often considered elective and therefore may not be covered (or only partially covered) by dental insurance. This can be the case even when a given procedure offers proven health benefits.

It’s important to keep in mind that dental insurance isn’t really insurance — meaning, it doesn’t protect you from large, unforeseen expenses. It functions more like an annual discount coupon that pays a maximum of $1,000–1,500 a year. Therefore, it can only help a little for a big-ticket item provided that a particular treatment procedure meets various criteria for coverage (decided upon by your employer and the insurance company).

In the case of orthodontic treatment, dentists, generally orthodontists in this case, traditionally will accept partial payment up front and then monthly payments to cover the balance over an extended period of time. It’s an arrangement that makes sense because you, as a patient, have to visit the dental office regularly over a course of months or even a couple of years to complete the treatment. But if you’re having treatment that takes only a few visits over a short period of time, your dentist is less likely to offer an extended payment plan because it could be a riskier financial proposition for the practice.

Therefore, it may be that financing (in essence borrowing) or using credit to pay for the care you need is the best option for you. And there are various ways people go about doing this; some are described below. If you are contemplating one of these methods, it’s important to figure out exactly what size monthly payment will fit your budget. Equally essential is to understand — thoroughly — all the terms of the specific credit offer you are contemplating.

Borrowing Opportunities For The Healthcare Consumer

General-Use Credit Cards

There’s a good chance your dentist accepts payment by a credit card you already have. If you use it, you won’t have to apply for a new loan. The downside is that you might tie up credit you routinely rely on for other needs; plus, credit card interest rates can be higher than other types of loans. Here’s a good tip from one consumer advocate: If you want to charge dental expenses to your credit card, look for a good deal on transferring that balance to a new card. Some credit card companies offer a single-digit interest rate for the life of the transferred balance, along with a transfer fee, but always make sure to read the fine print.

Healthcare Credit Cards

In recent years, credit cards designed specifically for charging medical/dental expenses have emerged. The largest is CareCredit™, offered by GE Capital and accepted by thousands of healthcare providers nationwide. CareCredit allows you to charge as many dental treatment procedures as you want until you reach your credit limit. Typically, consumers who are approved for this card will pay an interest rate of 0%, though a few may qualify for a promotional period in which no interest is charged.

If you have more questions about Care credit and would like to know if your local dentist that accepts care credit, then call us at 781-648-0279.

It’s Your Finances — And Your Decision

All of these options have advantages and disadvantages, which may not be so obvious at first glance. The important thing is to take your time and make sure you ask all of the questions you have. Said one healthcare finance expert, this decision is akin to the one you are making about undergoing treatment in the first place: You wouldn’t want to have a dental procedure for which you did not clearly understand the risks and benefits, or if you did not completely trust the doctor. 


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