I Can’t Afford Quality Dentistry, Can I?
One of the biggest reasons patients don’t come into our San Antonio dental clinic and get the dentistry they need is because they think they can’t afford it. Fear of high costs prevents a lot of patients from ever setting foot in a dental office, but it shouldn’t be this way.
Let’s start with a few things we know to be true:
1. Delaying necessary dental care always results in the eventual costs of care being higher.
2. There are financing options available for dental patients on almost any budget.
Maybe it happens in Beverly Hills, but here in my San Antonio dental clinic not many patients can walk through the door and drop a few thousand dollars in cash on the table and pay for a treatment plan up front. That’s almost unheard of, actually. Here are three ways that the average patient can pay for quality dental care.
1. CareCredit/3rd Party Financing. Many patients in our practice use CareCredit. It’s basically a health care credit card. In some cases, no interest financing can be set up. It’s also possible to finance a plan for 24 months. We have had a lot of patients apply that think they have bad credit or have recently been denied for a regular credit card qualify for CareCredit. It’s a great tool for patients to receive the care that they want and need. When it’s used responsibly, it can ease the burden of costs. Let’s say that you and your family have dental treatment needs and the out of pocket cost is $2000. If you get approved for CareCredit, that’s only $167 a month for one year, which is much easier to handle than $2000 right up front. Let’s say you have $2000, but hey, $2000 is still $2000 and you’re going to feel it a little bit. You’ve got good credit, so why not just get CareCredit and set up auto-draft on your bank account for the monthly bill. So many patients do this; it is quite common.
2. In-House Financing. Some patients just don’t want to get a new credit card. They might have good credit or bad credit or whatever, they just don’t want to get a new credit card. With all of the different credit cards and reward cards and debit cards, it’s understandable if you don’t want to have one more thing in your wallet or one more company to deal with. That’s where in house financing comes in to play. Most dental clinics have billing software that allows them to set this up for patients so that they can pay for the care that they need. A lot of times we’ll ask patients “What’s a monthly amount that you could contribute to invest in your dental health?”. Once that amount is determined, patients can start making payment toward their care, and it is auto-debited from their bank account or charged on their credit card. Once the ball is rolling, patients typically finish all of their care.
Whether you realize it or not or want to admit it or not, there is a psychological advantage for patients when payments are broken up into digestible pieces and when the entire process is automated.
Think about your smart phone bill. Let’s say you pay $120 for service. What if the phone company came up to you every January asking for $1440. You would probably try to get by without a smart phone for a few months/weeks/days until you finally ponied up the money because you need the phone. $120 each month is digestible, so it doesn’t seem like a big deal. How many people have their cell phone bill come right off their credit card or right out of their bank account? I know it’s not everyone, but it’s probably most people. Since the system is automated, doesn’t that make it easier to accept the expense? If you had to get a pen and paper out and write a check every month, it may wear you out psychologically. You might constantly second guess your decision to have the phone even though you know you can’t be without it, completely wasting your time and your thoughts.
As if it wasn’t obvious, I brought all that up to illustrate that paying for dentistry is the same way. The options and psychology of the whole thing are exactly the same. When payments are broken up and automated, we are much more able to put matters in perspective. I would imagine that if we asked 100 people what they valued more, money or health, most people would say health, if not all people. Is this how people really act? No. Many people only worry about their health when it’s too late. That is especially true with dental health. Here’s my argument, disagree if you want: financing options allow patients to take actions that match up with how they really feel.
3. Borrowing Money/Finding a Way. The uneducated patient with a neglected dentition walks around with compromised dental function, ashamed of their appearance and smile, and never does anything about it. They never seek a comprehensive examination from a dentist they trust and they never find out the true cost of the treatment they want to have. They worry that the cost will be too high to achieve what they want and they will never have any way of paying for it. Perhaps they are even embarrassed that they can’t afford what is needed. I truly feel bad for this patient. You don’t know what you don’t know! Dental phobias are another big factor that can get in the way, as well as lack of time, but those are different blog posts.
I’ve noticed something interesting over the years. Patients come in to my dental clinc needing care and the cost is more than they can handle. We offer financing options, but nothing seems to work out. Some of them disappear and never come back, which is sad. Others, however, disappear and they come back with money and get the dental treatment that they’ve always wanted. they want. When someone really wants something and they value it, they always find a way.