If you have a dental emergency and don’t have dental insurance, you still have options. Equipping yourself with the right information can help lower your costs and reduce stress.
Know how to prepare for any dental emergency—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 can wait.
- 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 as soon as possible.
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 important to schedule an appointment with a professional as soon as you can to prevent issues from worsening. Waiting to address dental issues can make them more painful and costly to fix down the line.
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. If flossing does not alleviate the pain, you’ll need to schedule a visit to a dentist to determine the cause.
For more help determining if you should see a dental professional, find out 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 an adult tooth has come out, place it in a glass of cold milk to keep it moist as you travel to a dentist. You must act quickly. If you can get help within 10 minutes, there is a fair chance that the tooth will take root again.1
Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients. After you’ve taken care of your immediate needs, call your dentist right away and provide as much detail as possible about your condition. They can instruct you on what to do next.
If you don’t have a dentist, there are several options to get affordable dental care in your area.
Tip #3: Familiarize yourself with available options
Not having dental insurance doesn’t mean that you don’t have options. When a dental emergency strikes, try:
- Dental schools: 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 dental professionals volunteer throughout the year to provide their services at no cost to those in need.
- Payment plans: Many dentists offer payment plans to provide an affordable method for obtaining dental care, or to help supplement existing dental plans. Usually these plans do not include interest and have many easy ways to make payments. Ask your dentist what options they have available. You may even get a discounted rate for paying your dentist directly.
- Charity or community events: Many cities hold healthcare events to provide affordable dental care. Look out for community events that provide dental care to those who need it.
When to visit the emergency room
If you have general health insurance and are experiencing a dental emergency, you may consider a visit to your nearest emergency room (ER). However, many ERs aren’t equipped with in-facility dentists which could make your trip to the ER fruitless. ER visits can be costly, so it’s best to avoid visiting an ER for dental issues if possible.
There are a few exceptions to this. Seek immediate medical attention if:
- You have severe facial or oral trauma
- You have broken your jaw
- You have symptoms of a severe dental infection such as a high fever, chills, and swelling
Otherwise, for typical dental emergencies, call a local dentist’s office to determine your options. If it’s after hours, there may be an emergency line you can call. Many offices also offer discounted prices to uninsured customers willing to pay directly to the dental office.
Tip #4: Take important preventive measures
While dental insurance may be viewed by some as expensive or unnecessary, insurance reduces the financial burden 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 $1702 can skyrocket up to $900 if you need a root canal.3
Next, take preventive measures at home. Make sure to brush twice a day for two to three minutes, floss regularly, and use mouthwash. Most importantly, if you feel symptoms of a dental issue don’t delay in getting proper care.