What's the best option for urgent dental care?
April 23, 2013 10:26 AM   Subscribe

My front tooth, already decaying, has actually cracked down the middle. I know, should've taken care of it earlier blah blah blah but I'm taking care of it now and need to know my options. I am 24, uninsured and have very little in the way of expendable money.

1. Do I pull off the loose tooth knowing it'll just stay there until I weigh my options and find care.

2. What are some immediate options, perhaps there's a good OTC dental glue I can use for the time being?

And most importantly: what would you do in this situation? Is there some insurance plan I should look into? My sister says I should apply for credit cards, is that a good option? Have you experienced anything similar?

posted by dr handsome to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you near a dental school? Many have walk-in emergency dental clinics which cost much less than a private dentist. You may also want to apply for CareCredit, which is a health care credit card.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:31 AM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Where are you located? Are you anywhere near a big university that has a dental school/clinic?
posted by Katine at 10:32 AM on April 23, 2013

That is something I should've also mentioned: the NYU dental clinic is here in the city but still seems sort of pricey-- I'm looking into it though.

Going to explore that link.
posted by dr handsome at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2013

There are credit programs like Care Credit (never used it myself) specially designed for dental care. Your dentist should be able to explain what groups he works with.

Do I pull off the loose tooth knowing it'll just stay there until I weigh my options and find care.

I'm not sure what this means, but NO.

2. What are some immediate options,

Your immediate option is seeing a dentist who can stabilize things for you in whatever way is appropriate.

If you're in NYC, the NYC Human Resources Administration's "Resources for the Uninsured" page offers a list of Dental Clinics and Centers to call about reduced cost dental treatment.

They also suggest that some of the city's Community Health Centers offer dental services, but I'd start with the list of dental clinics and centers.
posted by Jahaza at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to visit a dentist first and find out what your treatment options are. Many dentists offer a pretty inexpensive first time patient exam.

There are dental loan plans that many dentists participate in. If you live in an area with a dental school, you may be able to get discounted care from a student dentist.
posted by shoesietart at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2013

Good God don't pull your own decaying split tooth. Call up a dentist, it may be less expensive than you think.
PS eponysterical
posted by nathancaswell at 10:34 AM on April 23, 2013

You should see a dentist, and take a dentist suggestions from friends who are in similar positions as you. This may involve going to a dental school for treatment for lower cost after you see a dentist who diagnoses the necessary solution which hopefully will cost in the low hundreds-of-dollars range. (IANAD, but I have had significant dental and periodontal work done at a dental school back in my uninsured grad student days)

I cannot stress how important it is to take good care of your teeth, regardless of your income level. Dental care, even out-of-pocket should be treated as a regular expense in the same way that you budget for food and rent.
posted by deanc at 10:34 AM on April 23, 2013

Oh, I see why everyone's freaking out about pulling it: it's wiggly and falling out is what I mean, like when you're about to lose one of your baby tooth. I'm not AT ALL implying I grab a pair of pliers and yank the thing.
posted by dr handsome at 10:36 AM on April 23, 2013

The NYU page with info on their Dental Clinic notes that they take emergency patients without appointments weekdays in the morning, afternoon and evenings (except not Friday evening) and on Saturdays. and that they help arrange third party financing (like Care Credit or a similar program) and that their costs are lower than normal for dental care.
posted by Jahaza at 10:38 AM on April 23, 2013

Until you have an xray and a diagnosis you really don't know what's going on, but, and this is important...it's only going to get worse if you do nothing. Your immune system has no way to correct this problem on its own (fall down, scrape your knee and it will likely heal whether you do something about it or not....but not so with a tooth).
This is not meant to frighten you, it is meant to encourage you to have it looked at so that a plan can be made to keep you out of pain and correct the problem. Until you know what is happening you can't make a plan and don't even know what your options are. there are almost always options.
Dental school and care credit are both very common routes to defray the cost of dentistry. some treatments take multiple visits and the cost can be spread out, but again you wont know til you go.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:53 AM on April 23, 2013

Of course, the plan at this point with a front tooth all but gone is to simply find the most affordable option-- there is no question if I will be going to a dentist at this point. I'm really just trying to figure out what avenue is the best, most affordable, most flexible one.

Is Care Credit a payment plan I discuss with, say, the NYU College of Dentistry or is it something I apply for beforehand?
posted by dr handsome at 11:03 AM on April 23, 2013

dr handsome: Is Care Credit a payment plan I discuss with, say, the NYU College of Dentistry or is it something I apply for beforehand?

Care Credit is an independent finance company. You can apply for Care Credit right on their website. You can probably do it from the dentist's office, too, but if you do it on your own you can walk in to the dentist knowing what you can afford and don't run the risk of getting declined after you've had the work done.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:19 AM on April 23, 2013

Yes Care Credit.

Care Credit is run through GE Money, it is a credit line for medical bills and procedures.

There is a list online of providers who take care credit. You can start with just the appointment to get the tooth taken care of, then you can discuss treatment options.

In addition most of their purchase are interest free for 6, 12, or 18 months depending on the purchase limit, so if you pay them off within that period, you don't have to pay interest.

You can apply online or on the phone for Care Credit, be approved in seconds, and use the money that day (you get your account info and that's how they bill it.) Call around to the dentists who come up as Care Credit providers to check that they take it, and check on their pricing so you know how much to apply for in Care Credit.

You can always call to increase your credit limit through Care Credit. That way you can probably afford to get an implant for you front tooth (they are expensive but for a front tooth it's worth it).

Worked out great for me. Yes I have to pay it off like a credit card but it allowed me to get my emergency basis wisdom teeth removed, pay for my husband's rotten tooth to be pulled, and get my new dental implant. I have avoided interest on 1 of my last 2 purchases, and should avoid it on this new purchase for my implant.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:05 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is the kind of thing that is worth going into a bit of debt for. To the dentist, most likely - they'll set up a payment plan where you pay $100 a month or whatever. Or to your parents, sister, to the credit card company, to care credit (if it's possible to enroll quickly).

You need to go to the dentist today so they can save as much of the tooth as possible (i.e., cap instead of root canal).
posted by amaire at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2013

Check this out on payment plans: http://www.madisonsquaredentistry.com/payment.html

Find a place that handles "dental emergencies" - they will be able to deal with folks who cannot pay until later and need a payment plan.
posted by amaire at 12:50 PM on April 23, 2013

We have done the Care Credit thing and it can be expensive if you don't pay it off soon enough, but not as expensive as long-term dental issues caused by tooth problems. Don't pull the tooth out, mostly because it may make the infection worse. That infection can cause cardiac problems, by the way. Like the kind that kill you.

Don't wait.
posted by emjaybee at 12:51 PM on April 23, 2013

You have to do something about this, and yes maybe it's going to cost a lot of money, but otherwise you're risking an infection that could permanently damage not just that tooth but your JAW or your BRAIN or your HEART. Those are important parts.

Seriously, you have to go to the dentist, even if it means straight-up credit card debt.
posted by mskyle at 1:37 PM on April 23, 2013

It can also result in an infection that can spread to your brain and kill you. You wouldn't be the first person this happened to: in 2011, Kyle Willis died when he didn't have an infected tooth pulled because he didn't have dental insurance.

I don't want to scare you, but you need to go to the dentist. If your arm was broken and you didn't have health insurance, would you go to the doctor? Gosh, I hope you would.

Your life - and less dramatically, your quality of life for the rest of your living days - depends on you getting care for this problem.
posted by k8lin at 1:37 PM on April 23, 2013

When you're calling dentists or clinics, it's okay to ask if they have payment plans. Many do.
posted by tapir-whorf at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2013

If NYU is too expensive, Columbia U also has a student dental clinic you can check into. It's in Washington Heights.
posted by choochoo at 12:15 AM on April 24, 2013

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