By Susan Braden
For a bit more of a time commitment and a pinch of extra gumption, you can save a lot of money for cheap dental procedures by partnering with a dentistry school.
These schools need patients for the dentists-in-training to practice with, and many people simply can’t afford a private dentist. These schools are great opportunities for very skilled, advanced students to complete hours of training, while offering discounted dental work to patients who need it.
The students are required to have had sufficient training before working on the public. A professional usually supervises the students, so they have backup help and instruction if something actually goes wrong.
The UT Health Science Center in San Antonio offers three separate programs where patients can get cheap dental work. Information about these programs can be found on the Center’s website.
One program is the predoctoral clinic, which has the cheapest rates of all three programs, but it requires the largest time commitment. In this clinic, the faculty directly supervises dental students as they work on patients, who must be available for appointments at least twice a month. This cheap clinic cares for basic dental needs.
Another program is the advanced education clinic, where dentists are receiving advanced or specialty training. Faculty supervision is still required, but comprehensive dental care is offered. Fees are higher than in the predoctoral clinic, but still lower than those of a private practice.
The third clinic at the UT Health Science Center is the faculty practice clinic, where general dentists as well as specialists on faculty at the Center offer comparable prices to private practices.
These clinics offer anything from cheap root canals and implants to cheap braces. This cheap dental work is usually comparable to that of private practices.
The #1 benefit of such schools is that they perform dentistry at a reduced cost. Often, dentistry schools charge about half of the normal price of procedures. Some schools may offer particular procedures for free, but usually there are small fees to cover cost of equipment, tools, and x-rays. Even with these small fees, visiting a dentistry school may save you money.
Along with lower costs, these schools usually treat their patients with the latest technologies available. The dentistry field is constantly changing, so this type of specialized school will want to train its students with current technology. In some cases, you as the patient may get more advanced results than at an older, established dentist office.
Dentistry students are usually graded by the quality of their work, rather than by the speed in which they work. Therefore, the dentistry students may be more focused on getting your work done correctly than an established dentist would, whose priority may be to get you in and out the office as fast as possible.
Dental may have a low availability of appointments. Many people have heard about the money you can save through student dentistry, but appointment times can often be full. If you are able to schedule an appointment, you may have to endure a long wait time at the school before your procedure actually begins. There are only about sixty full-functioning dentistry schools in America, so it also can be quite a drive to reach the one closest to you.
Some patients also experience difficulty obtaining certain procedures from a school of dentistry. For example, if a class is practicing root canals, but you need a filling, there may be a waiting period before you can receive that filling. The procedures you receive may be limited to whatever is being taught to the students at the specific time you need treatment.
A final drawback of student dentistry is the increased time and inconvenience of a long appointment. Students are usually graded by quality, rather than time, so a procedure that would normally take an hour at an established dentist may take three or more hours.
The main concern people have about receiving dentistry from these schools is the quality of the work which will be performed. People often assume that because the person performing the procedure is a student, the work will be of a lower standard than of an established dentist. In reality, the work performed at a school for dentists-in-training often resembles that of an established dentist office. All work should be supervised and checked by a licensed professional in the field -- the instructors are there to ensure that your procedures are performed properly.
Another factor that contributes to the quality of student dentistry is that the students are eager to make good grades. The importance of a high-quality procedure for the best grade possible is major incentive for dentistry students to perform well on all patients they treat.
At these schools, affordable care does not always cost quality. Still, you may want to investigate the disadvantages of the schools -- visiting a certified dentist with an affordable plan is usually the safest option for the highest quality care. A discount plan can save you as much or more as you would save at a school of dentistry.
For all of the programs listed above, you must go through a screening procedure before you can become a patient. You must go through this screening to determine if you are a suitable patient to teach the student what he needs to know and provide him with the specific practice he needs. If your needs match up with student training needs, you may become a patient, and you will be assigned to a student based on his specific needs and finally receive the cheap dental procedures you need.
The screening process at the Texas A&M Health Science Center costs a nonrefundable $54, and no cheap dental care will be given during this process.
Some cheap dental schools offer emergency care as well, which does not require patient screening, but also does not admit the patient to other dental care with the facility in the specific clinics. The Texas A&M Health Science Center only extracts teeth, and charges a total of $67 for one tooth pulled. Additional extractions in the same visit cost $19 each. This cheap dental work is a quick option for emergencies.
Depending on the exact procedures you need and your willingness to let a dental student do that work, a dental school may be an extremely viable and affordable for you.