Can't Afford Dental Implants? What Are Your Options?

Whether you're currently dealing with a failing dental bridge, partial bridge, crown (or just missing a tooth or two), you may be investigating dental implants as an option to help permanently restore your smile and avoid the need for future dentures. However, these implants can be expensive -- running from $1,500 to $7,500 or more -- and are often not covered by dental or medical insurance. If you can't afford to pay for these implants out of pocket, what are your options? Read on to learn more about some alternative ways to pay for your dental implants.

Visit a dentist to determine whether your implants are medically necessary

The primary reason that most dental and medical insurance plans refuse to pay for dental implants is because this is considered a cosmetic or elective procedure -- and like cosmetic surgery, cosmetic dentistry is generally not covered. However, if a dentist or doctor determines that you have a medical need for the implant or implants (for example, if you have difficulty chewing nutritious food) your insurance may opt to cover at least a portion of this procedure. Dental implants may also be covered if your teeth or jaw were recently injured in an accident.

If your implants are not medically necessary, there are still some other payment options.

Look into alternate insurance plans

There are certain types of dental insurance plans that will cover dental implants. Although these plans are generally more expensive than traditional dental plans, and may require a period of continuing coverage before the implants will be covered, you should be able to defray much of the cost of these implants.

Whether you stick with your current insurance plan or purchase a new plan, invest the time in calling your insurance company to get confirmation of exactly what services will be covered (such as anesthesia, the implantation of the metal screws into your jaw, and the porcelain tooth itself) before making an appointment with your dentist.

See if nearby dental schools or hospitals are seeking "guinea pigs"

By volunteering to participate in a hospital study, or going to your local dental school, you may be able to obtain dental implants for a fraction of the cost you'd pay at a traditional dentist. Because these students are trained and supervised by licensed dentists, they provide a high caliber of service. If you're receiving the dental implants as part of a medical study, you may even be compensated for your time and participation.

Spread your costs

If you will end up spending a substantial amount out of pocket, you can check into spreading out these costs over two insurance years -- this will allow you to maximize your dental insurance benefits for each year, as well as potentially use funds that have been set aside in a health savings or flexible spending account.

Seek out charity

There are charitable organizations that focus primarily on dental services. You may wish to investigate whether any such organizations exist in your area and determine whether you would qualify for aid. Even if you can't have the full scope of services covered, every amount you can glean from other sources reduces the amount you'll need to pay out of pocket.

Check out your financing options

If none of the above options have panned out successfully, you should at a minimum be able to finance this dental work at a reasonable rate. Most dentist's offices offer financing options with a range of affordable payment plans. You can also look into taking out a home equity loan or line of credit, or even a personal loan to help pay the up front costs of your procedure.