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Here's the Deal: Save money on dental by brushing, then finding helpful programs

Going to the dentist can be painful — and we're not just talking about what happens to your teeth. • If you've ever had to get anything more extensive than a basic cleaning, you know this. Dental care can get expensive, especially if you have little or no insurance. So we set out see if dentists had tips for people trying to save money on dental care. • Here's what they had to say.

Prevention

Every dentist we spoke to about this issue started out with the same speech. The best way to save money, they said, is prevention.

That means brushing twice a day for at least two minutes each time and flossing once a day, said Dr. Amy Anderson, head of the Pinellas Dental Association.

It also helps to limit sweets, which can cause teeth to break down. Also, Anderson said, when you know you have a dental problem, don't ignore it.

"Prevention is really what's going to save you," she said. "Just not going to the dentist is only going to make things worse."

Free Programs

Every year, usually in February, dentists around the area participate in the annual Give Kids a Smile event.

Children from qualified low-income households can get free dental care. Local dentists say they have enough volunteers to treat hundreds of kids.

Visit these links for more information about the nearest one to you.

Pinellas: www.gkaspinellas.com

Hillsborough: www.hcdafla.com/gkas.htm

Hernando/Pasco: http://phcc.edu/academics/health/gkas.php

Insurance alternatives

A quick Google search reveals tons of websites aimed at helping people find dental insurance if they don't have it or if their job doesn't offer it.

The first place to check may be smileflorida.org, the website by the Florida Dental Association. The site not only offers educational resources, but also a search tool for low-cost providers.

Other sites, like Plantation-based Dentalplans.com, lets you search and compare by ZIP code to find plans in your area. Jamie Szwiec, a spokesman for the company, says many of the discounts can be used with or without insurance.

Prioritize

Many people are scared that a pile of bills will accumulate after a dental visit, Anderson said, particularly if they suspect they need extensive work.

But it may not always be imperative to do everything at once.

"Have your dentists give you a priority list," Anderson said. "Do what's only necessary right now."

Dental Schools

Ever heard of going to a cosmetology school to get discounts on beauty services performed by students?

The same thing happens at dental schools, which sometimes offer basic services for less than private doctors.

At St. Petersburg College, you can get general cleanings and X-rays at the school's dental hygiene clinic in Pinellas Park. Call (727) 341-3668 for more information.

At the college's Seminole campus, the University of Florida runs an advance education program that offers an emergency clinic run by students. It can be reached at (727) 394-6064.

Negotiate

As awkward as it might be, dentists we spoke to said it may not hurt to ask for a discount if money is really tight. They said they would be willing to work with patients at reducing prices — if you have an established history with them.

So this probably won't work if you walk into a random dental office and demand a payment plan. But if you've been seeing your dentist for a while and have built up trust and a relationship, negotiating on services may not be that far fetched.

Other resources

Many local health departments not only provide limited care for low-income residents but can also refer you to other programs in your community.

Here's a list of local county health departments.

Pasco: (727) 861-5260, www.doh.state.fl.us/chdpasco/default.html

Pinellas: (727) 824-6900, www.pinellashealth.com/

Hernando: (352) 540-6800, www.hernandohealth.org/

Hillsborough: (813) 307-8000, www.hillscountyhealth.org/

>>weekly feature

Share your

tips for saving

What tips do you have for saving money in this awful economy? Share your secrets for publication in a forthcoming feature. Send an email to heresthedeal@tampabay.com, check us out on Facebook at Here's the Deal Tampa Bay, or follow us on Twitter at @HerestheDealFL.

Here's the Deal: Save money on dental by brushing, then finding helpful programs 03/25/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 26, 2012 1:06pm]

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