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Blueroses's avatar

How do the middle class poor afford dental care?

Asked by Blueroses (18191points) November 18th, 2011

A good friend has severe dental issues. Loose and fracturing teeth.
She’s in a lot of constant pain but she says she just learns to live with it. She has a good income. Most of it goes to mortgage and bills and she pays over $500/month for health insurance that is only catastrophic.

Her dental coverage doesn’t cover anything, unless she were to get into an accident. I’m afraid of losing her to an infection but she simply can’t afford to go to the dentist. All of her money goes to insurance and it seems that none of it comes back to her in the form of benefits. She doesn’t qualify for charity and she can’t afford co-payments. What the hell do people do?

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15 Answers

Aethelwine's avatar

Cross your fingers and hope someone will offer a payment plan. :(

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Seriously, in this situation, if she is under 30, I would advise her to cash any 401k to pay for it if she has any money saved up.

Blueroses's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought She is 45 and unfortunately cashed in her retirement and profit sharing when her house insurance didn’t cover tornado damage. Roof won over teeth.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Payment plans, dental schools, sliding scale pricing.

Blueroses's avatar

Yes. thank you @Imadethisupwithnoforethought Small city in Montana and those funds are gone. there is no dental school here. She could get her remaining teeth cleaned by a technician student but that isn’t going to help. I’m so frustrated with our insurance system.

I pay into it too, and (knock wood) I have never had a claim. I hate that someone who spends so much time fighting for the rights of others can’t do anything for herself. Payment plans are also out of the question. She can’t qualify for CareCredit and that is all that is accepted anywhere here.

augustlan's avatar

Generally, we don’t. If it becomes a medical problem (infection that could lead to death), it may be covered by her health insurance. I don’t even have that, so I’m shit out of luck.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t think there is a real solution for this. In my experience, vision coverage can be just as difficult to come by… and no less necessary. I went 7 years without dental, and I’m going on 8 years without vision… and I have yet to find a feasible solution.
I don’t know if it is the same everywhere, but I did recently see a person being interviewed on the local news. They have just moved here within the last year, and said that they were stunned at how it is nearly impossible to find a doctor or dentist who will help you if you’re uninsured, which makes them regret moving here. I don’t know how common that is, though. Maybe she can find a dentist with a payment plan. I know I never could, though.

FutureMemory's avatar

There isn’t a solution.

I’ve had 2 teeth pulled, and need another one pulled soon, because I don’t have 2 grand to spend on each one.

It’s all about the bucks.

MissAusten's avatar

We don’t have dental insurance, and it is awful. For one kid to have a cleaning and x-rays is almost $300. Three kids, twice a year (well, x-rays are only once a year) and it adds up fast. One of my kids had problems with the enamel on this baby teeth and needed several expensive procedures. We were lucky enough to find a small dental office with an extremely nice husband and wife dental team. Sometimes they don’t charge us for x-rays. My son needed a spacer, which usually costs several hundred dollars, and he charged us $60. I do admit to bribing him with cookies. We thank him by referring everyone we know to his practice.

But still, they can’t give us breaks on everything. Right now two of the kids need cleanings. My son’s spacer fell out because the tooth it was attached to is loose. My other son’s baby teeth are really close together and I know he is going to need teeth pulled and work done to make room for his grownup teeth. I am going to have to make appointments for them soon but I am dreading the ridiculous cost. :( My husband and I haven’t been to a dentist in ages.

Your friend can look for a dentist that accepts CareCredit. We don’t use it and I can’t comment on their service or anything, but it might be an option. The only other thing I can suggest is seeing if she has anything to work out a “trade” with a small local dental office. Someone independent. Also ask if they have a cash discount (we get a percentage off for paying in full at the time of the visit).

I’m curious why your friend’s catastrophic insurance is so expensive? Does she have a preexisting condition or other risk factors? If not, she should get another quote or shop around. Last time I looked into that for our family of five, I got a quote of less than $300 a month.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

For several years, my mother and I have been lower income earners but enough not to qualify for any type of medical assistance. What we’ve done is make payments to the dental offices for any surgeries or expensive procedures. For cleanings, we take advantage of the coupons mailers where dentists will offer cleanings and x-rays for $50.00

We now have dental insurance but are shocked to see the price of procedures are often 3 times or more of when we were cash customers. I actually added up our co pays and monthly paycheck deductions to see if going back to paying cash would be less expensive. It’s not so we keep the insurance.

dabbler's avatar

“Middle-class poor” what a sad phrase and a sad reality. Face it folks, the middle class is being eroded by political policies that favor income/wealth disparity. No room for the middle in that direction.

EmptyNest's avatar

We don’t. We’re toothless.

Blueroses's avatar

Sad. There is nothing. My friend has a wonderful sense of humor and can never smile fully because of the dead tooth she superglues into place every day. She pays taxes, works for a great company, is super-extended on credit, mortgaged to the hilt. Can’t get a fix for that tooth. She’s quoted $4000 for an implant or $3000 to pull all teeth and fit for dentures. The dentures would be an additional $3500.

So, she half-smiles, buys superglue and takes vitamins to stave off infection. American healthcare is terrible for the middle income group.

Bellatrix's avatar

It is a disgrace but the US is not alone. Dental care is not covered by Medicare in Australia. People on low incomes here have access to limited dental health.

A new report finds millions of Australian’s can’t afford dental care. The report releasd by the Brotherhood of St Laurence finds 17 per cent of Australian’s on the lowest income bracket have no teeth.Health economists put the cost to the economy of poor dental health at more than one billion dollars. ABC News.

A Monash report cited in the ABC news report shows in Australia 40% of people on incomes less than $20,000, 50% of Aboriginal people, 35% in rural areas have untreated tooth decay and 17% of people on low incomes have no teeth.

Yet proper health care would lead to reduced costs on our broader health care systems. I hope the Australian government implement a universal dental care system. Most people here have to pay at least 60% of the cost of dental care, even if you have private health cover.

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