ORLANDO, Fla. - Since the recession, many families have eliminated trips to the dentist. Some dentists say visits are down as much as 30 percent.
Many who used to come twice a year have cut back to just once.
Skipping a trip to the dentist can be risky. Tooth decay is a progressive disease, cavities don't go away, they always get worse. The resulting treatment can be much more expensive.
Now there are discount dental "clubs" that can make regular trips to the dentist much more affordable. The "clubs" work just like those major warehouse clubs like Sam's, Costco and BJ's. Shoppers can buy things in bulk, in this case dental procedures, often at a reduced price.
You can find dental plans on websites like Dentalplans.com, Brighter.com and Dentalsave.com. You pay a yearly membership. Typically between $75 and $200.
Evelyn Ireland of the national Association of Dental Plans says discounts can range from 10-60 percent.
"The dental plan negotiates the discounts with the dentist, but the dentist gets the full fee, or their payment at the negotiated discount rate from the consumer at the time of service," said Ireland.
Jenn Stoll is with DentalPlans.com, which lets you compare the cost of more than 30 different dental savings plans.
"Dental savings plans allow people to save on typical procedures such as cleanings and x-rays, root canals, crowns and even dental implants," Stoll said.
Many also offer discounts on cosmetic procedures and orthodontics.
Steve Less was quoted around $6000 for his sons braces.
"Through DentalPlans.com we actually hooked up with a terrific orthodontist. It came in with a little under $3000," Less said.
Stoll says savings will vary considerably. She says variations can depend on everything from network, dentist, procedure even zip code. It's advised that you confirm those prices with your dentist.
Between oral exams and braces Less feels like he got a great return on his dental club membership.
"The plan paid for itself," he says, "you know I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
For those who have dental insurance, a dental club membership may still make sense. Combining the two may save you more in the long run.
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