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Do Dentist Visits Require Upfront Payment?

Most dentists do require you to make a payment upfront on the day of your treatment, at least the estimated portion that you're responsible for. That is a very common financial policy for dental offices because payment is expected on the day of service. There is rarely an exception to that rule.


Cash payment 100 dollar bill
Cash payment 100 dollar bill

Basically, you're expected to pay for the treatment before receiving it or before you leave the office. If your dentist doesn't collect the money before you leave, they may never see you again. Essentially if you don't pay, you won't receive care!


However we do wish to clarify that the expected payment may not be the full amount, which is why we said the "estimated portion." That amount will differ depending on a couple of factors.


Factors affecting estimated portion:

  • Do you have insurance or no insurance?

  • Are you seeing an in-network or out of network dentist?

Let us explain what all of that means for you.


Payment arrangements with no insurance

If you do not have dental insurance, you will be responsible for the full cost of treatment on the day of service. Customarily you will either pay for it before you receive treatment or before you leave the office. The latter is the most common financial practice for most dental practices.


Therefore what you can expect is to get your treatment first and then check out by making a payment before you leave. Ultimately, payment is expected on the day of service.


It is highly unlikely that there will be a dentist that will "send you a bill" if you have no dental insurance. That makes for some very loose financial policy because you are expected to pay on that same day.


Payment arrangements with dental insurance

The way that you pay at the dentist will differ if you have dental insurance. However the network status of your dentist will also play a role in the type and amount that you pay.


Network status of your dentist:

  • In network. Your dentist participates with your insurance and follows a set fee schedule.

  • Out of network. Your dentist does not participate with your insurance but works with them for your reimbursement. They do not follow a pre-agreed upon fee schedule.


In-network provider

If your dentist is in-network with your insurance, you will only be responsible for paying the estimated copayment upfront. You do not need to pay the full amount of treatment.


Typically for most dental treatment, the insurance will cover a portion of it while you're responsible for what they do not cover. Your responsible portion is your copayment.


For example, a cavity filling may have 80% insurance coverage which leaves you with a 20% copay. Thus, after getting your filling, you would pay just the 20% when you check out. Your insurance should reimburse your dentist directly for the rest of the 80%.


Example of copayment percentages with cigna dental insurance
Example of copayment percentages with cigna dental insurance

Out of network provider

If your dentist is out of network with your insurance, you may be responsible for paying for the full treatment upfront. Essentially you will pay everything upfront and then your insurance will send you a check later on for the amount that they may cover.


This is in stark contrast with how seeing an in network dentist works. The reason it works this way is that some insurance companies will not reimburse the dentist directly if they are out of network. Of course this creates a lot more back and forth since you're basically fronting the money and waiting for reimbursement later.


Alternative financing options

In lieu of paying for your dental treatment upfront, you can finance it instead. There are dental financing options such as carecredit which may allow you to finance the total treatment and permit you to make payments over several months.


For example, carecredit is very common for those getting orthodontic treatment like braces or invisalign. Oftentimes, the payment can be a few thousand dollars so financing can make the payments more manageable.


If your Invisalign treatment costs $3600, you can finance it with carecredit and split the payments into 6 months, 12 months, or even 24 months.


Carecredit payment plan examples:

  • 6 month financing would be $600 per month.

  • 12 month financing would be $300 per month.

  • 24 month financing would be $150 per month.


All of these options are more palatable than paying the full $3600 up front. You can probably imagine how popular dental financing is for those seeking straighter teeth. The best part about this is that there is ZERO INTEREST. Yes, you read that correctly, there is no interest.


Takeaway

Most dentists typically do have an office financial policy which requires payment in full on the day of service. That means you do have to pay upfront for what you are estimated to be responsible for.


Dentists do this because they're afraid of dine and dashers. After getting burned a few times, they've started re-enforcing stricter financial policies.


If you're interested in visiting our dental practice, you should check out our list of accepted dental insurance plans to see if you're in network with us. We do offer financing options from carecredit as well.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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