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Should You Pay Cash or Use Insurance at the Dentist?

Pay Cash or Use InsuranceThe average composite filling is $155 for a front tooth and $170 for a back tooth.

A root canal will cost you somewhere between $300 to $2,500.

And if you’d like to get a dental implant to replace a missing tooth, that’ll run you $1,000 to $3,000.

In other words, going to the dentist can be quite expensive. What’s the best way to pay? Should you get dental insurance, or would it be better to use cash?

Let’s take a look:

The Case for Cash

For one thing, cash is just easier. You don’t have to deal with the bureaucracy of an insurance agency deciding what they will and won’t pay for. Some basic things like having a filling done in tooth-colored composite resin rather than shiny and noticeable metal amalgam aren’t covered by a lot of providers because they’re deemed to be unnecessary, cosmetic procedures.

Individual dental plans cost about $360 a year (it could be significantly higher or lower than that depending on your location, employment situation, and other factors, though, for the purpose of this article, we’ll stick with the $360 figure). It’s pretty frustrating to pay a few hundred dollars for something and then find out you can’t even use it because someone says what you want to do is “unnecessary.”

Also, most plans cover a lot of procedures but not the full cost of many of those procedures, and having to share the cost makes patients further question why they bother to pay for insurance in the first place.

If you only expect to go to the dentist for a couple of regular checkups throughout the year, you’ll save money by just using cash to pay the dentist yourself rather than investing $360 a year in an insurance plan.

Having no Insurance is a Gamble, Though

On the other hand, it doesn’t take all that much for a trip to the dentist to cost more than $360. As stated above, a root canal can cost as much as $2,500 – if you have insurance in that scenario, you might save thousands of dollars.

Maybe you only expect to go to the dentist for a couple of checkups in a year – but life is complicated. The unexpected might happen. In a few months’ time, you may find yourself with an infected nerve and four-digit dentist bill.

That’s what insurance is for.

If you have any questions about what your payment options are at the dentist, feel free to contact us and ask.

Dr. Benjamin Greene
Dr. Greene has been providing high-quality dental care to Kirkland residents for over 25 years. The Kirkland area is Dr. Greene’s home. He grew up in Bellevue and graduated from the University of Washington before attending dental school in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his D.D.S. at Case Western Reserve University and then returned to practice dentistry in Kirkland, where he has become part of the community.
Dr. Benjamin Greene
Dr. Benjamin Greene

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