Consumer Reports: How to see the dentist without insurance

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With the rising cost of health care, many people may find themselves skipping dental visits, especially seniors. (WLS)

With the rising cost of health care, many people may find themselves skipping dental visits, especially seniors. And Medicare doesn't cover routine dental services.

However, Consumer Reports says there are a number of ways for you to get the care you need without it taking a huge bite out of your budget.

When people retire or don't have access to dental benefits, they often put off seeing the dentist.

"Every day we see this happening here. People don't have insurance and they tend to neglect the care of the mouth," said Dr. Jennifer Pichardo.

Dr. Jennifer Pichardo says without routine exams and regular cleanings, small problems quickly become big ones, both in your mouth, such as cavities and periodontal disease, and in your wallet.

"If there is a cavity, we are going to treat it when it's still small and the expenses will be less than if you need a root canal," Dr. Pichardo said.

If you're looking for a way to cover or lower the costs of dental care and treatment, Donna Rosato of Consumer Reports says buying private dental insurance is one option, but it can be costly and often comes with a cap.

"A lot of private insurance only covers so much and you can still be on the hook for thousands of dollars out of pocket," Rosato said.

Another insurance option is a Dental HMO which will cover things like routine cleanings and offer discounts on other procedures.

You could also join a dental savings plan which costs about $100 per-year for an individual or $250 for a family.

"A dental savings plan isn't health insurance, but it does connect you to a network of dentists who have agreed to provide discounts on their services," Rosato said.

But your best bet for keeping hefty dental bills at bay, Dr. Pichardo says, is practicing good oral hygiene at home.

"Brushing your teeth twice a day, using soft bristles to brush, fluoride toothpaste, fluoride mouth rinse," said Dr. Pichardo.

Consumer Reports says you can also negotiate with your dentist to see if they can offer you a lower price. Or contact a dental schools to see if they offer discounted services.

Dentists also recommend cutting back on sugary food and acidic drinks like soda that can erode the enamel on your teeth.

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