When I got divorced six years ago, dental insurance was the last thing on my mind. Not that it would have changed anything, but I had no idea how expensive it would be! More than $100 for a cleaning? What? And I don’t even want to talk about how much a crown or filling costs.

To make matters worse, every time you turn around, they want you to come more often. Used to be once a year for a cleaning, but now they tell you every six months. I’ve even heard of some dentists who want you to come in three or four times every year.

Dentist Visits Get Expensive Without Dental Insurance!

According to the American Dental Association, “Approximately two-thirds of Americans seek care from a dentist regularly.” That leaves one-third of us without regular dental care. There are a variety of reasons people forgo dental care, including the most common: no dental insurance.

When it comes to getting dental care, one of the biggest hurdles is the cost.

This is particularly the case if you don’t have dental insurance. One solution? Dental hygiene schools.

Cheap Dental Care at Your Local College

Many community colleges and universities have dental hygiene programs whose students provide cheap dental care. Making a simple phone call to the schools in your area or doing a Google search will help you determine if there are any nearby.

As luck would have it, there is a dental hygiene school near my house. It provides a number of services for incredibly low prices, including:

  • Scaling, root planing, and tooth polishing
  • Oral examination and oral cancer screening
  • Dental X-rays
  • Application of preventive fluorides
  • Individualized oral health care instruction
  • Nutritional counseling for the prevention of dental disease
  • Pit and fissure sealants (for an additional fee)

What does all of this cost? Ten bucks for adults and $6 for children 12 and under!

I couldn’t believe it when I first heard about it from a friend. That’s almost a 90-percent savings over regular prices. Of course, a student will do the cleaning, but no worries — a professor will supervise them the entire time.

For customers that are looking for utilize a dentist of their choosing, some dental insurance plans allow you to get coverage with a larger variety of local dentists. For example, SpiritDental.com is a company we’ve seen that offers some dental coverage plans that cover all members of the family (including some orthodontia) and may allow you to meet with a few dentists before choosing the one that is right for your family needs.

A Win-Win Solution

Even better? It’s a huge help to those students because they need the practice. At the school near me, you also get sealants for an additional charge of only $3 per tooth — another bargain.

My friend Elexa Richard is a recently graduated dental hygienist. “Throughout my entire education as a hygienist, it was my personal responsibility to fill my chair,” she says. “My school would schedule appointments, but it was difficult for them to find volunteers. Ultimately, it fell to the students to make sure the patients they saw helped them meet each semester’s requirements.”

During the first year of school, the students learn how to clean the teeth of someone who’s had regular dental care. “As the semesters progress, so do the requirements for complexity and diversity,” Richard says. “Therefore, a wide variety of patients are needed and welcome.”

It took a lot of time and effort for Richard to come up with the right types of patients week in and week out. She couldn’t have just anyone come in. The patient had to have specific problems so that she could demonstrate proficiency in that area.

The Bottom Line

The next time you’re due for a cleaning but don’t have the extra cash lying around, do yourself and a dental hygiene student a favor and book an appointment at your local school. The students will thank you, and so will your wallet!