5 Ways to Afford Dental Care for Your Child

team member talking with young patient in chair

Oral health is crucial for your child’s development.

Teaching your child to take care of their oral health and ensuring they get the best dental care available is incredibly important from an early age. Baby teeth are essential to the development of your child’s permanent teeth, but their thinner layer of protective enamel makes them more vulnerable to cavities. While those teeth won’t be a permanent part of their lives, most children are preteens or teenagers before they lose the last of their baby teeth.

Unfortunately, while we all want what’s best for our kids, we understand raising a child isn’t easy and can be a strain on our finances. Dental care—especially dental treatments that come from cavities and more serious decay and dental issues—can add up quickly. Juggling all your expenses and your child’s needs can make it difficult to provide your child or children with the dental care they need. If you’re searching for a way to afford good dental care for your child, we’ve put together a list of 5 ideas that may help.

1. Apply for Medicaid or CHIP.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, the federal government has programs in place that are designed to ensure the majority of children in the U.S. have access to health insurance and quality medical care. The two programs you should look into to get your kid good, low-cost care are Medicaid and its offshoot, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The programs both focus on providing comprehensive healthcare services to children who need them—including dental care. Nebraska has structured CHIP so children on Medicaid and CHIP receive the same benefits. The two programs cover slightly different income brackets, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t qualify for Medicaid; you may still be accepted into CHIP.

If you qualify for one of these income-based programs, your child will have access to preventive screenings and a wide range of treatments; covered dental treatments include regular evaluations and cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, X-rays, dental surgery, and more. Since thousands of parents across Nebraska use these programs to insure their kids, many dentists, including Pediatric Dental Specialists, accept patients with Medicaid and CHIP. Your dentist may have to get approval from Medicaid before providing some treatments, but you won’t have to worry about being denied coverage for basic dental treatments.

2. Look at the ACA’s marketplace.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), dental coverage is considered an essential health benefit; this means while you’re not required to purchase it, it must be available as an option for your children. When you’re considering insurance plans on the ACA Marketplace, you have the freedom to examine a range of plans with different benefits, copays, and premiums. You can purchase dental insurance within an overall healthcare plan or as a stand-alone plan, though in the latter case, you’ll end up paying a premium for each plan—health and dental—instead of a single premium.

The type of coverage your child receives will likely vary a little depending on the plan you choose, but many plans cover two dental exams a year, fluoride treatments, X-rays, and part of the cost of braces. Additionally, some plans might require you to go to certain dentists, so it’s important to ensure you can continue going to your current dentist—or at least make sure you like the dentists you’ll be limited to with your new plan. As a result, you need to be a smart consumer to get the most out of the ACA’s dental plans; instead of rushing into a decision, carefully consider which plan has the best value for your child’s needs.

3. Consider trying a dental savings plan.

If insurance premiums are simply too high for your budget, you may want to consider trying a dental savings plan. It’s an alternative to insurance that works a lot like a buyer’s club, with a low annual fee that gives you access to discounts that aren’t available to other people. The plans are often offered by well-known insurance companies, and just like insurance, you can shop around for plans that meet your budget and coverage needs. Depending on the plan you choose, you could save between 10% and 60% on most dental procedures.

These plans cut out time you’d otherwise spend waiting for paperwork to go through, and many don’t have annual spending caps, but it does have a few downsides. Just like when you choose insurance, you need to shop around for a plan that meets your needs and budget. While the plans usually don’t require you to go to an in-network dentist, there are added benefits if you do, so it’s a good idea to search for which dental savings plans your dentist accepts. For example, Dr. Pete Harbert at our dental office in Omaha accepts an inexpensive dental savings plan.

4. Use CareCredit.

CareCredit is a credit card that’s specifically designed to help you afford the health care you and your family need. The card is designed to be flexible, allowing you to make small monthly payments that work for your budget. When you choose a financing option between six and 24 months and complete your payment on time, you likely won’t have to pay any interest at all. This enables you to pay off expenses like copays or deductibles at a more manageable pace instead of all at once—without worrying about compounding interest.

5. Minimize and recover costs.

Regardless of the main way you choose to help pay for dental costs, you can reduce your expenses by really honing in on oral health at home. You and your kids should floss and use mouthwash at least once a day and brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day. Caring for your own dental health is just as important as caring for your kids’ is—not just for the good example it sets but because you can actually pass cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth to your child’s mouth, increasing their risk of getting cavities or gum disease. You can also adjust your family’s habits by encouraging your children to eat healthier snacks and drink water between meals. This will prevent issues, such as cavities and gum disease, saving you money from additional dental appointments and expensive treatments; even with insurance, meeting your deductible or paying the copays for multiple fillings can add up quickly.

Additionally, if you keep track of your out-of-pocket medical expenses—including dental expenses—you may be able to claim it on your taxes using Form 1040 Schedule A. You can’t claim the expenses your insurance covered or expenses from cosmetic dental procedures, but you can claim the out-of-pocket costs for preventive treatments, like regular evaluations and cleanings, fluoride treatments, and sealants, as well as X-rays, fillings, and braces. Although you’ll still need to have the money for your up-front medical expenses, this might allow you to recoup some of the costs you took on throughout the year.

Ensuring your child gets great dental care is an essential part of helping them thrive and stay healthy, but it can be expensive and stressful. Thankfully, there are ways to lower your expenses while making sure your child gets the quality dental care they need. If you still have questions about how we can help you afford quality care for your child, feel free to call our office at any time.