How to get affordable dental care without insurance

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Consumer Reports provides tips for getting dental care when you don't have insurance. (KTRK)

With the rising cost of healthcare, many people may find themselves skipping dental visits, especially seniors.

Medicare doesn't cover routine dental services.

But there are ways to get the care you need without taking a 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," Dr. Jennifer Pichardo said. "People don't have insurance and they tend to neglect the care of the mouth."

Pichardo says without routine exams and regular cleanings, small problems quickly become big ones.

"Cavities is number one, periodontal disease," she said.

And neglecting your dental health will eventually cost you.

"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," Pichardo said.

If you're looking for a way to cover or lower the costs of dental care and treatment, Consumer Reports money editor Donna Rosato 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," said Rosato.

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

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

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

Experts at Consumer Reports also say try negotiating with your dentist to see if he or she can offer you a lower price.

Or contact a dental school where services may cost less.

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healthdentistconsumer reportshealth insuranceinsurancesave money
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