September 24, 2023


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Dental Loans: What You Need To Know Before Financing Dental Work – Forbes Advisor

Trips to the dentist can be scary—and that’s before you have to worry about paying for the bill. Even if you have dental insurance, most plans come with an annual benefit maximum that the carrier will pay out (often $1,000 to $2,000), so you still may have to cover some costs out of pocket.

If you need any significant dental work done—especially if it’s been a while—it’s quite common to blow past these limits and have to pay the remainder. Unfortunately, this high cost is what keeps a lot of people from getting care in the first place.

But the bill doesn’t have to give you a toothache, too. Dental loans can help you bridge that gap so you can get the care you need—if you know how to use them.

What Are Dental Loans?

Dental loans are a special type of personal loan. They’re cousins to medical loans, which are also a type of personal loan that can be used to pay for healthcare.

You can get a generic personal loan that you can use for just about anything, although many lenders offer loans that are specifically meant for dental work. These dental loans sometimes come with lower interest rates or different term lengths and borrowing amounts, so they may work better for you than just a generic personal loan.

Dental loans are unsecured loans, which means they aren’t backed by any collateral that the lender can take back if you default on the loan. For example, a lender can repossess your car if you don’t pay because auto loans are secured loans, backed by your car as collateral—but they can’t take back your fillings.

In general, unsecured loans tend to be more expensive than secured loans because they pose a greater risk to the lender. But as we discussed above, dental loans may still be cheaper than other types of unsecured personal loans.

What Can I Use a Dental Loan For?

You can use a dental loan to pay for just about any type of dental work, including cosmetic dental procedures. This is especially handy because cosmetic procedures can be very expensive. Here’s an example of the costs of some common dental work that you can use dental loans for:

  • Cleaning, with X-rays and a dental exam: $140 to $600
  • Resin composite fillings: $90 to $250
  • Root canal on a molar tooth: $500 to $2,000
  • Porcelain crown: $800 to $3,000
  • Porcelain veneers: $925 to $2,500 per tooth
  • Teeth whitening: $500

How to Get a Dental Loan

There are a few ways you can apply for a dental loan. Most dentists actually offer financing plans, especially those who offer cosmetic dentistry. This may be an in-house financing plan from the dentist herself, or through a lender the dentist is partnered with. Check with your dentist’s office to see what financing plans they offer.

You also can apply for a dental loan with a third-party lender elsewhere. You can find loans for dental work in many of the same places as personal loans, including online lenders, banks and credit unions. Even if your dentist office offers its own financing, it’s still a good idea to shop around and see if you can get better rates elsewhere.

When you’re shopping around, it’s fine to check your rate by entering your Social Security number, name, address and other personal information. Just be sure that the lender is doing a soft credit check, so that it doesn’t affect your credit score. This prequalification process will enable them to give you a more customized rate.

When you are ready to choose a lender, you can complete the application, which will require a hard credit check and show up as a mark on your credit report. You may need to provide extra documents like past tax returns, pay stubs and bank account statements to finish the application.

What to Consider When Choosing a Dental Loan

Choosing the best dental loan is similar to choosing any other type of personal loan. Generally, it’s best to choose the loan with the lowest interest rate and fees, which are expressed together as the annual percentage rate—or APR. Here are some other things you may consider taking into account, too:

  • Funding time. Do you need the money within a certain time frame?
  • Customer service. How good of a reputation does the lender have?
  • Term lengths. Do they offer term lengths that allow you to pay off the debt as quickly as possible while still keeping your monthly payment manageable?

Dental Loans for Bad Credit

It’s usually much easier to qualify for dental loans if you have good or excellent credit, usually defined as 670 or above. But people with bad credit need dental work done, too.

It’s usually still possible to find dental loans for bad credit or even dental loans with no credit check, but you may need to work harder to find these lenders. You also may need to pay higher rates to qualify.

Payday loans can seem like a good option for no credit check dental loans, but we always advise against them. If you have bad credit, getting a dental loan and making all of your payments on time can be an important way to build your credit score, so you can qualify for better loans and credit later.

Payday loans, however, don’t report to credit bureaus so you get no benefit from the loan. In addition, they’re so expensive that many states have outlawed them entirely.

Alternatives to Dental Loans

If you need dental work and can’t pay for it out of pocket, dental loans aren’t your only option. Here are a few other things to consider:

0{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} APR Credit Cards

Many credit cards offer an introductory 0{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} APR period on purchases after you sign up for the card. For a certain number of months (usually between six and 20 months), you won’t pay any interest on the charges that you make.

You can actually use this to your advantage and open the card right before you need dental work. Then, charge your procedure to the card and pay it off before the end of the 0{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} APR period. If you divide the charge by the length of the intro offer, you can set up automatic payments for that amount so that it’s entirely paid off by the end. That way, you can essentially get an interest-free loan.

Save Up

If you’re planning to schedule cosmetic work, it might be best to save up in a high-yield savings account first. That way you can earn interest on your savings, rather than paying interest to a lender.

We wouldn’t recommend putting off necessary dental care like fillings and routine cleanings, however, as doing that can lead to even more expensive (and painful) problems down the road. But if you can afford to wait for voluntary procedures, that’s usually the best option.

Shop Around

The cost of dental care can vary widely even among dentists in the same area. If you’re going in for a routine cleaning and exam, it can make sense to call around town and see what different dentists are charging.

If you’ve already gone in for an exam and you know you need more expensive dental work, you can still shop around—but you may need to have your records transferred from your old dentist to your new dentist. And besides, getting a second opinion is always a good option, especially for expensive procedures like braces or root canals.

Use a Medical Credit Card

There aren’t really any dental-specific credit cards available, but you can usually use medical credit cards to pay for dental work too. These credit cards are only accepted by specific offices, so be sure to confirm with your dentist that they take the credit card you’re considering before you apply.

Many medical credit cards offer “deferred interest” financing, which is similar to 0{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} APR financing, except that you need to pay it off before the end of the interest-free period. If you don’t, you’ll be charged interest retroactively from the very first charge, so you won’t actually be saving any money at all.

This is often a good option if you know you’ll need several procedures in the near future, such as multiple appointments to get fillings done. Rather than taking out one lump-sum dental loan, you can pay for the charges as they come up so you’re not paying interest on money you don’t yet need. As a bonus, you may also be able to use it for healthcare costs.