And because many don’t prioritize dental health like basic healthcare, that can turn preventable problems into long-term—and sometimes permanent—issues.
Without basic dental care, you’re more likely to suffer from extractions, gum disease and even other complications like heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
While dental insurance can be expensive, treating a dental emergency without insurance can be even more costly. And if you don’t have coverage during an emergency, you still have options and should be equipped with the right info for when you experience an urgent dental issue.
Know how to prepare for any dental issue—insured or not—with the help of these four tips:
Tip #1: Know What’s Urgent and What Isn’t
If you don’t have dental insurance, it’s vital to know what needs immediate attention and what doesn’t. Examples of dental emergencies include:
- A loose or knocked-out permanent tooth
- Painful swelling or aches
- An injured jaw
- Incessant bleeding
If you experience any of these, visit a dental professional immediately.
Less urgent dental issues include:
- Lost fillings, crowns or bridges
- Broken or cracked teeth
- Damaged retainers
- Dull toothaches
While these issues may be less urgent, it’s still important to schedule an appointment with a professional as soon as you can to prevent issues from worsening.
For more help figuring out whether you should see a dentist, get advice on when you need to go to the dentist about your tooth pain.
Tip #2: Determine an Action Plan for Emergencies
Determining a plan of action in case of dental emergencies will help alleviate the stress when you aren’t insured.
First thing’s first: Remember to stay calm. Anxiety may increase the pain in your body, so remain calm throughout a dental emergency in order not to make the situation worse.
Next, use a salt and warm water mixture as a mouthwash to reduce irritation and swelling. Cold compresses may also be used to reduce swelling, irritation and bleeding.
If a tooth has come out, place it in a glass of milk to keep it moist until you can visit a dentist. You’ll need to do this as soon as possible because knocked-out teeth need to be re-implanted sooner than later.
If you feel pain around one tooth, floss. Flossing will help you determine if you have something stuck between your teeth or in the gum tissue. A hydrogen peroxide mouthwash will also help remove any bacteria and irritation.
Ready to take the next step?
Tip #3: Familiarize Yourself With Available Options
Not having dental insurance doesn’t mean that you don’t have options or that you must shell out hundreds of dollars. Try these four affordable options:
Dental schools provide quality work by students at little to no cost, under the supervision of licensed dentists. Many clinics in your area will partner with these schools to provide affordable dental care to those who are uninsured.
Free or governmental clinics
Do an online search to see what free or governmental clinics are near you. Many dentists and oral professionals volunteer throughout the year to provide their services at no cost to those in need.
Many dentists offer payment plans to provide an affordable method for obtaining dental care or to even help supplement an existing dental plan. Usually, these plans do not include interest and are easy to pay back. Ask your dentist if they’re open to such an arrangement.
Charity or community events
Many cities hold healthcare events to provide affordable dental care. So if you’re uninsured, look out for a community event that provides dental care that you wouldn’t have received otherwise.
Pro tip: If you have general health insurance or are simply experiencing a dental emergency, you may be prone to visit an emergency room. However, in some cases, emergency rooms aren’t equipped with in-facility dentists, making your trip to the ER rather unhelpful. Additionally, ER visits can be very expensive.
Instead, call a local dentist office to determine your options. If it’s after hours, there may be an emergency line to call. Many offices also offer discounted prices to uninsured customers willing to pay on the spot.
Tip #4: Take Important Preventive Measures
While dental insurance may be viewed as expensive or even unnecessary, it’s less of a financial burden to be insured in case of an emergency. The first preventive measure is to obtain dental insurance.
When you go uninsured, dental issues that you may not be able to see or feel can go untreated. For example, an untreated filling that has an average cost of $170 can skyrocket up to $900, if you need a root canal.
Next, take preventive measures at home. Simply brush twice a day for two to three minutes, preferably with an electric toothbrush, floss regularly, and use mouthwash. And most importantly, if you feel a dental issue coming on, don’t wait—take care of it now.