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Understanding dental costs

Budgeting for dental care can be a challenge. After all, there is no way to tell what kind of care you’ll need beyond your twice-a-year check-ups. Since the costs are somewhat hard to predict, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the average costs for different dental services, and the amount that is covered by your dental insurance policy.

Prices can vary quite a bit. Where you live and how many dentists are in your area will likely affect the price of your dental care. Dental filling costs or dental crown costs can even differ from county to county. The cost of insurance plans and out-of-pocket expenses can also vary by your location.

Average dentistry costs in the U.S.
A 2016 report by the American Dental Association's Health Policy Institute states that people who visited a dentist at least once In 2012 had an average of $685 worth of dental care.1

If you did need dental work, your out-of-pocket costs would depend on whether or not you have dental insurance and what type of plan you have. If you have insurance or a discount plan, your cost could be reduced by anywhere from 10–100 percent. This is dependent on the type of plan and the type of service. In general, preventive services have the highest percentage covered by insurance. Major services like crowns have the lowest coverage and as a result require you to pay more out-of-pocket.

Regardless of the type of service, remember you will pay more if you go to a dentist outside of your plan’s network, or if you happen to have reached your plan’s annual or lifetime benefit limit.

Dental costs by service
Chances are, your dentist’s office doesn’t publish a price list for all of its services. So how do you know what to expect when it comes to costs for the different dental care you might need? 

While your out-of-pocket costs will ultimately depend on the amount of coverage you have and the training and experience of your dental professionals, here are some average costs for common dental procedures in the U.S.:

  • Dentist cleaning costs
  • If you have dental insurance, some preventive services like cleanings and exams may be covered 100 percent, so be sure to check with your dental office. Average prices for preventive services are:
    • Basic cleaning: $70–2002
    • X-rays: $20–2503
    • Dentist exam: $50–1504
  • Dental filling costs
  • The price for filling a cavity largely depends on two things.

    First, tooth-filling costs vary depending on the number of surfaces involved.5 Filling cavities that involve two surfaces will cost less to fill than those with three surfaces.

    Second, the type of filling used can affect the price.6 There are two types of fillings normally used to fill cavities: amalgam and resin.

    Resin composites, the tooth-colored type of material, are usually more expensive than amalgam, or silver-colored fillings.

    • Amalgam (1–2 surfaces): $50–1507
    • Resin composite (1–2 surfaces): $90–2508
  • Root canal
  • Teeth can have more than one root, so this is a factor in the cost of a root canal. The location of the tooth also makes a difference.
    • Front tooth: $300–1,5009
    • Bicuspid: $400–1,80010
    • Molar: $500–2,00011
  • These are average prices. The final root canal costs with insurance would again depend on where it was needed and how much your insurance plan covers. 
  • Dental crown costs
  • As with a filling, the cost of a crown (also called a cap) depends on the material used. So how much does a crown cost on average?
    • Porcelain fused to metal: $500–1,50012
    • Gold alloy or base metal alloys: $600–2,50013
    • All porcelain: $800–3,00014
  • Tooth extraction
  • There are a lot of factors that go into the cost of tooth extraction. If the tooth is fully erupted or above the gum line, the kind of anesthesia used, the condition of the tooth, if gum or bone also needs to be removed, and if the removal is an emergency or not all play into the cost.15

    How much does a tooth extraction cost? On average:

    • Non-surgical: $75–30016
    • Surgical: $150–65017
  • Wisdom tooth removal costs are higher.
    • Simple extraction: $75–20018
    • Impacted extraction: $225–60019

Reducing dental costs
Since costs can vary from location to location, as well as dentist to dentist, you might consider comparison shopping. By making a few phone calls you may be able to save money. Just be sure to confirm that each dental practice you consider is part of your insurance plan’s network. Otherwise you may end up paying more out-of-pocket. Don’t have dental insurance yet? You may want to read, "Six tips to choosing the best dental plan for your family".

Of course, the best way to keep your dentistry costs down is to take good care of your teeth. Brushing twice daily, flossing once a day and getting your six-month checkups are all part of what it takes to keep your mouth healthy, and your dentistry costs low.

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