No Dental Insurance? Consider a Dental School Clinic

February 3, 2010

Whether or not health insurance reform is ever actually passed, the reality is that there are some kinds of coverage that often fall through the cracks. Smaller businesses may offer health insurance, but not vision or dental coverage, and some communities don’t have a low cost dental insurance option. What do you do, then, if you have a dental emergency, or are trying to avoid one?

According to an article that ran in the New York Times last autumn, one solution may be to visit your local community college, college, or university – any one that has a dental school – because almost every dental school in the country offers affordable care provided by students, and supervised by experienced, qualified teachers. The quality of care is excellent, and the cost may be as little as a third of what your actual dentist would charge.

As an example, a young mother in Portland, Maine, took two children to a pediatric dentist for checkups. After receiving a bill for $375, she realized there had to be another choice. She ended up going to the University of New England’s dental college clinic, where the bill for her children’s next round of checkups totaled only $100.

Low prices aside, there are some downsides to going to a dental clinic.

They include:

  • Time. A procedure that takes 45 minutes in a normal dentist’s office could take up to three hours at a college clinic.
  • Scope of Care. Because the practioners are students, some states don’t allow them to actually diagnose problems, or treat anything that requires anesthetic. Instead, they’ll provide you with a report listing any “suspicious areas.”

Knowing that, are dental college clinics still worth it? If you typically have clean checkups, and merely want to be sure nothings wrong, or if you just want a cleaning, college clinics are an excellent option.