No one likes going to the dentist — especially when it involves an expensive procedure that you can’t afford. But if you’re in pain or you need to replace a tooth to keep your smile intact, you’ll have to find a way to finance dental work.
You can offset some of the costs if you have dental insurance. But according to the National Association of Dental Plans, 114 million Americans don’t have dental coverage. And even if you do have insurance, your provider will usually only cover 50% of more expensive procedures, like crowns.
Here’s a look at the main types of dental procedures and their costs, the financing options for dental work and tips for choosing the best dental financing for you.
Costs of dental procedures
Be aware prices vary by region and dentist office. The amount you pay will also vary, if you have dental insurance. To check the average going rate for a procedure in your area, use a dental cost calculator, such as this one.
Here are the average costs for some of the most common dental procedures, according to the American Dental Association.
Teeth cleaning – $82 adult, $61 child
Sealant application – $44 per tooth
Cavity filling – $147 to $197 per filling
Root canal – $919
Dental crown (porcelain) – $1,026 per crown
Extracted tooth – $147 per tooth
Orthodontic work – $1,440
Financing options for dental work
Even with dental insurance, these costs can add up. To afford your dental care, consider the following options.
Set up a dental payment plan
Some dentists will accept partial payment up front and then monthly payments, usually with no interest. Such in-house payment plans are common when you will be returning over a period of several weeks or months for treatment. For instance, orthodontists often give payment plans for braces.
If it is a one-time treatment, such as for a filling, the dentist is less likely to give you an installment payment plan. While you can still request one — being proactive and communicative will help your odds — if your dentist is unwilling, you will need to find the money elsewhere.
Try a credit card
You may find that paying with a credit card is your best bet. Most dentists take credit cards. If you use a card that pays points or gives cashback, at you’ll also get something in return for your pain.
If you have good credit, you can apply for a new credit card with a 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR). As long as you pay the balance within the introductory period (usually six to 18 months) you won’t owe any interest. Just make sure that you’ll be able to pay off the credit card in time, because after the grace period ends, your interest rate will jump into double digits.
The Citi Double Cash Card, for example, offers an 18-month, 0% interest rate, which is most likely enough time to pay off your dental bill. You also get 1% cashback when you buy something and 1% back whenever you pay for items.
Many 0% cards are hard to get unless you have good credit. If your credit isn’t poor, it’s still possible to find a credit card. There are cards for people with less than ideal credit, such as the Indigo Platinum Mastercard. If you don’t know your credit score, this is a great place to check it.
Use a medical credit card
As their name suggests, medical credit cards help you to finance medical expenses, including dental work. These cards usually have an introductory 0% rate for six to 18 months, depending on how much you borrow.
But with medical credit cards, it is twice as essential to pay off your balance during the grace period. If you fail to do so, you’ll owe interest on the entire amount you originally borrowed, not just on the remaining balance.
Personal loans for dental work
An unsecured personal loan may be your best option. You can get one from a credit union or your local bank, or apply for one online. You’ll find competitive lenders online and the application process is quick and easy.
Unsecured loans for dental work usually have a fixed interest rate. This is helpful for your budgeting because your payment stays the same every month.
Chances are you’ll need excellent credit to get an unsecured personal loan. If your credit isn’t good, see whether you can get a co-signer with good credit to help you. Or consider a secured loan, one which is backed by collateral. Just be sure to make your payments on time — if you default on a secured loan, your assets are on the line.
Taking out a personal loan allows you to pay up front while stretching out the expense over an extended period. This is a good way to cushion your budget against the blow of a big dental bill.
Borrow from your 401(k)
If you have a 401(k) retirement savings account, you can borrow from money from it. You’re essentially borrowing money from yourself, so you don’t need a credit check, and you also won’t have to pay interest. However, keep in mind that you miss accruing interest on the money when it’s not in your account. Also, that money will be filed as taxable income, which means you’ll have to pay taxes on it twice.
As long as you stay working for the employer who facilitates your 401(k), you can take your time in paying it back. But if you lose or leave your job, you must pay it back within 60 days.
Finding the right financing for your dental work will put a smile on your face in more ways than one. Check out SuperMoney’s Best Personal Loans Reviews and Comparison for the perfect loan for your financial situation. Or if you’d rather reap the rewards of a credit card, you can compare reviews and recommendations for personal credit cards here.