Dental experts all agree that you should have an annual dental checkup as a part of maintaining your dental health. Without a checkup, your dentist won’t be able to find problems that need to be taken care of until it’s too late.

Like many aspects of the American healthcare system, people are terrified of having to go to the dentist because the average cost can be pretty pricey…or can it be? You might be surprised to find out how much the cost of an oral health exam really is. Let’s talk about it.

How much does a dental checkup cost?

How much does a dental checkup cost

The price of a dental checkup can vary greatly based on what’s included, where you live, and whether you have insurance that covers dental care. The basic answer to this question, though, is that it can be anywhere from $0 to $500.

The vast majority of dentist offices will charge around $200 to $300 for a basic dental checkup if you do not have insurance.

What does a dental checkup consist of?

Dental checkups are fairly routine procedures with several main elements. These include:

  • A basic oral examination. This would include the dentist looking for plaque, examining your gums, and doing a quick visual examination to see if any immediate work needs to be done.
  • X-rays. To take a look at more difficult-to-see problems, dentists will take a set of X-rays. These can diagnose issues such as the need for a root canal or gum disease.
  • A basic dental cleaning. This is usually included as part of an annual wellness exam, but it’s not always a given. It’s best to ask ahead of time to find out what’s included. If it is, that’s a great thing.

PRO TIP – You can ask for an itemized bill if you are worried about the prices. Most dental offices will be happy to tell you how much a checkup and cleaning are before you book anything.

What does a dental checkup cost if you have dental insurance?

What does a dental checkup cost if you have dental insurance

Dental insurance is absolutely awesome for people who want to keep their teeth healthy, and it’s not just because it can help cover major dental procedures like a root canal or filling up cavities.

Most dental insurance companies will give you one free dental checkup per year. The reason why is simple: it’s part of preventative care and will help them reduce the chances of having to pay out for larger, costlier procedures later on.

PRO TIP – Most dental insurance companies also will offer a free cleaning as part of their annual routine dental care package.

What should you know about dental insurance coverage before you book a checkup?

It’s important to note that getting insured is just part of the plan. There are a couple of things you need to know before you go to the dentist for an oral exam:

  • Most dental coverage will have a year-long waiting period for expenses related to tooth decay or major dental work. A handful will also have a waiting period for dental exams. If you haven’t passed the dental exam waiting period, you will have to pay the full price of your checkup.
  • You need to make sure that the dentist’s office that you booked accepts your insurance. Not all offices accept insurance. Some only accept certain plans. Ask the receptionist which plans are accepted before you book.
  • You may have other fees included for a checkup. This may include a new patient fee if you’re at a new office.
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What should you know if you’re shopping for dental insurance plans?

Dental insurance is not a main part of health insurance, so you are going to have to pay for it separately. When buying dental insurance, make sure that you check to see what is covered for your annual dental exam.

Another important thing to look for is the coverage that insurance can offer on standard procedures. Insurance coverage will handle a set percentage of your work cost after the deductible is met.

Finally, you’re going to want to know the maximum annual benefit you can get from dental insurance. Most insurers will allow, at most, about $2,000 in coverage each year. You should plan your dental care around that number.

Is a dental checkup really that necessary?

Dental care takes a lot of different forms, including getting cavities filled and brushing your teeth. It’s important to recognize that a general tooth brushing and mouthwash routine is not enough to keep your teeth healthy.

Even the healthiest of people can have dental issues pop up. When they do, you are going to have to get a checkup to see what the issue is. Regardless, you don’t want to get to the point where an exam is the start of a filling.

The bottom line is simple: yes, annual exams really are necessary.

Does Medicare and Medicaid cover dental checkups?

The main portion of both Medicare and Medicaid generally do not cover dental work. However, many states do offer supplementary programs that can help you get a dental checkup at a discounted rate.

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In the case of Medicare insurance, you may be able to find better options by talking to a Medicare supplement provider. In the case of Medicaid, you may need to book an appointment at your local benefits office or talk to your local reps.

How can you reduce the cost of routine dental checkups?

How can you reduce the cost of routine dental checkups

Let’s face it. Getting a checkup isn’t as pricey as getting root canals or getting some porcelain dental implants, but it’s still a hit to the wallet. You still need to get that periodic exam in, though! Here’s how you can potentially shave some dollars off the price of a checkup:

  • Get insurance that covers your preventative care. Most plans do include a dental check-up every six months. You can get a good plan for as little as $20 a month in some states. So, if you can, get one.
  • Shop around in your area. If you do not have health insurance that covers your preventative care, or if you just want to get your teeth fixed on the cheap, shop around. Ask offices what they charge for cleaning. Try to get at least five quotes before you choose one.
  • Ask others how they get cheap dentistry. You would be shocked at how many people just know the right place to go.
  • Consider going to a dental school for a cleaning and checkup. To be a dental hygienist or a dentist, you need to have real-time experience. Dental schools make it happen by hosting a dental clinic where students can practice what they learn. You can book an appointment at a huge discount.
  • If you are a veteran, ask about VA Dental Care or VA insurance discounts. You may be able to get a discount that you didn’t even know you had access to! The same can be said for beneficiaries like your family.
  • Get a dental discount plan. Dental discount plans are often touted as a great alternative to dental insurance. They offer discounts and do not have a maximum coverage amount, unlike insurance. They cost less, but they won’t get you stuff for free. It’s still nice to have.
  • Consider going onto Groupon or similar discount sites. Most people don’t know this, but a lot of dentist offices will use a low-cost dental exam and cleaning coupon to get new patients to their door. Groupon can help you slash that cost, especially in urban areas.
  • Ask the dentist for a discount or a payment plan. Dentists often can make their own prices, especially if they don’t do insurance. You might be able to talk down the price if you’re lucky. If not, well, there’s always the chance of a payment plan.
  • Consider going to a dental clinic that does charity care. Many communities have taxpayer-funded clinics that work as a route for discounted healthcare. If you are low-income (or just moderate-income), then you may be able to get discounted care.
  • Reach out to a hospital or social worker group for advice. If you do not have a standalone clinic, you may still be able to get information by calling your local hospital. Many offer charity care and have a dentist on staff. Asking never hurts!
  • Head out of state for your care. If you are in Texas or California, you can save hundreds by getting dental work done in Mexico. While this is not an option for most of us, it’s still something you may want to consider.
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In conclusion…

Getting an affordable dental checkup isn’t just important. It’s vital to care for your body and can help curb additional costs later on down the road. In most cases, getting insurance will drop the price of a checkup down to zero.

Don’t have insurance? No problem. A dental discount service can help you reduce the cost of your dental exam immensely so that you don’t have to spend $500 on a simple procedure.

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