In this day and age, with so many daily expenses, it’s easy to overlook some items that might be considered “non-essential.” Take dental insurance, for example. The fact is that dental insurance is anything but non-essential. In fact, you should have dental insurance no matter what age you might be. Dental services can be expensive, and unless you can be certain that you’ll never have an oral health issue for the rest of your life, dental insurance is worth every penny. Of course, this assumes that you can afford it. The unfortunate reality is that many people cannot. Whether you can’t afford insurance coverage, think you don’t need it, or have chosen to skip it for some other reason, it’s entirely possible that you might encounter some type of dental emergency – an urgent situation that requires immediate treatment from an emergency dentist or an emergency room. Needless to say, this type of care is never cheap. So if you’re wondering how to handle a dental emergency with no insurance, we’ve gathered the following information for you.
What You Should Know about an Emergency Dentist
An emergency dentist is an oral health care provider who has gone through the same kind of training as any other general dentist. While some emergency dentists may have gone through some type of specialized training, that’s not a requirement. The fact is that an emergency dentist is much like an emergency room doctor in a hospital: a health care professional who is capable of making quick diagnoses and recommendations for the appropriate treatment for the patient. Emergency dentists often extend their business hours into the evenings or weekends, and some are even on-call 24 hours a day. But emergency services are typically somewhat limited and are intended to resolve urgent situations in a timely manner.
Conditions that are Considered to be Emergencies
Many oral health issues can wait until your next dental appointment. Tooth decay that needs to be resolved with either a dental filling or a crown, or gum disease that requires an effective treatment regimen would be two examples. Although each of these issues shouldn’t be postponed for long, neither of them require immediate attention. Other situations, however, require the services of a dentist right away. What follows are oral health problems that are considered to be emergencies:
- Infections – Any type of infection can be dangerous if left untreated. The same holds true for an infection in a tooth or gum tissue. If you experience any sign of an infection, such as sudden and extreme sensitivity to hot and cold, swollen and tender gums, and/or gums that have developed pimple-like bumps, it is considered to be a dental emergency. An abscess tooth falls into this category. If you have a tooth that is extremely painful and sensitive to pressure and temperature, and that pain does not subside, you could have an abscess. An infection in a tooth or gums that is left untreated can easily spread and become much more dangerous.
- Injury trauma – If you suffer an injury to your mouth or jaw, it’s considered a dental emergency. This includes losing a tooth, uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth, broken bones, or whatever other injury you experience. All of these are emergency situations.
- Loose teeth – Just as losing a tooth entirely is considered to be a dental emergency, having loose teeth is as well. You could experience a loose tooth from trauma, gum disease, or some other reason.
- Losing a filling or a crown – This may not sound like an emergency situation, but most dentists consider losing either a filling or a crown to be a dental issue that needs to be treated immediately. If not, you run the risk of further damage to the underlying tooth and, even worse, an infection.
You Have a Dental Emergency but No Insurance: Now What?
Even if you don’t have dental insurance, you should never postpone seeing an emergency dentist when you need one. What follows is a list of treatment possibilities that are more affordable than other more standard forms of emergency treatment.
- Payment plans – Many dentists offer their patients the option of paying for services over a period of time, as they can afford it. This is a great choice for people with no insurance since it allows you to visit your regular dentist in an emergency situation.
- Dental colleges – Some schools offer dental services at a reduced cost, and many of them will allow you to stretch your payments out over time. If your dental emergency occurs during regular business hours and you live close to a dental college, this may be an affordable option.
- Dental clinics – A variety of organizations often host charity dental clinics, where a group of dentists gather to treat many patients in a single weekend, for example. If your emergency situation happens to take place during one of these events, you might be fortunate enough to get in as a patient.
- Dental plans through your dentist – If you have a regular dentist that you visit periodically, ask whether they offer a dental plan. Often, practices that offer this type of plan will bill their patients a small amount monthly or annually and, in exchange, the patient will enjoy a discount of a certain percentage on dental services.
Preventing Dental Emergencies
Of course, the best way to handle a dental emergency with no insurance is to avoid having one in the first place. And while some urgent situations are beyond our control, others are not. Avoid developing an infection in a tooth or gum tissue by practicing a thorough oral hygiene routine each and every day at home, and by visiting your dentist on a regular basis for exams and professional cleanings. If you engage in sports or activities that might result in injury, ask your dentist about a mouth guard that protects your teeth and gums from harm while engaging in those activities. And, if you can afford it, remember that it’s always best to be prepared by having either dental insurance or some type of dental plan in place through your dentist’s office.