On Tuesday, I wrote about saving money on dental costs by checking out one of five schools for dental assistants and hygienists as well as the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (www.startribune.com/dollars). The savings on exams, cleaning, scaling, sealants and whiteners at the hygienist/assistant schools are significant -- about 75 percent compared with the cost to see a dentist in private practice. In addition to the Twin Cities schools mentioned, there are dental hygienist programs on campus at Lake Superior College in Duluth (1-218-733-5939), Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead (1-218-299-6560), Minnesota State University in Mankato (1-507-389-2147), Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester (1-507-280-3169) and St. Cloud Technical College in St. Cloud (1-320-308-5919).
Not everyone has the extra time it takes to visit a dental school. Here are more options to save on your dental bill:Online coupons
Some dentists do marketing and advertising to attract patients. Check the Valpak coupons that come in a blue envelope by mail or at www.valpak.com under "health." Last week four Twin Cities dentists offered deals, including an exam for about $75. Moneymailer.com had a $99 offer for X-rays, evaluation and cleaning under the "professional" category. Groupon.com recently had a cleaning and exam special for $59.Low-cost dentists
Go to tinyurl.com/y8un6y2 for a list of some dental clinics in Minnesota that provide services to patients on public care programs, or that offer services at reduced cost. Services, hours and costs at the clinics vary. If you're unemployed or in financial difficulty, you also can check with your regular dentist about lowering fees before calling the clinics, which might require a longer wait. Call 1-800-950-3368 for a clinic near you if you don't have a computer.Insurance
Whether you are considering insurance privately or through an employer, ask these questions: Is there a waiting period? (Some plans require you to be on the plan for a year before major work can be done.) What percentage do you pay for a specific procedure? (The policy could cover as little as 50 or as much as 100 percent of the cost of the procedure.) What's the maximum coverage in a year? (Many plans have a limit, such as $1,000 per calendar year.) What's the deductible? (You might be responsible for the first $250 or so.) What's excluded? (Orthodontia often is not covered.)Dental plans
An alternative to insurance, dental plans offer members discounted fees at a wide network of dentists, but few of us have heard of them. At www.dentalplans.com (1-888-632-5353), an individual pays about $105 per year or $160 for a family plan. Sample discounted prices, according the site, include $25 for a routine checkup (usual fee $56), four bite-wing X-rays $33 (usual fee $70), a white, one-surface filling $75 (usual fee $175) and a crown $624 (usual fee $1,190). Check to make sure your dentist participates in the plan. There is a 30-day cancellation policy and no waiting periods, deductibles or maximums. Orthodontia is included in some of the plans, including those underwritten by Cigna and Aetna. When I called earlier this week and said that I wasn't quite ready to join, I was offered a 20 percent discount if I signed up immediately.