Trips to the dentist can be expensive. A basic cleaning and polish can range from $75 to $200, and a root canal can be in the neighborhood of $1,500, according to insurance giant Humana.
Given the high costs of dental care, it’s no surprise that 59% of American adults claim they avoid dental care because of the expense, according to a study by the American Dental Association.
Even if you have dental insurance, it likely won’t cover everything. In fact, private health insurance picked up a $62 billion tab for dental services in 2019, while consumers paid more than $60 billion out of pocket, the nonprofit California Health Care Foundation reports.
When you don’t have dental insurance, or your insurance won’t cover all your costs, dental financing can be a way to pay for expensive but necessary dental care.
What is dental financing?
Dental financing is a way to pay for high-cost dental procedures and cosmetic dentistry that your dental insurance may not cover, or that you can’t fund on your own. Most dental insurance plans come with an annual maximum benefit amount, so even if you have dental insurance, you may still have to cover some out-of-pocket costs.
Many dental offices offer payment plans for dental procedures not covered by your insurance or that exceed the maximum benefit amount allowed on your insurance. Some procedures may not be covered at all. In that case, you might consider a dental loan.
This article will focus on dental loans, which are personal loans that you can take out to pay for dental expenses that aren’t covered by your insurance.
If you need a personal loan to help pay for a dental procedure, you can compare personal loan rates using Credible.
What is a dental loan?
Dental loans are a type of unsecured personal loan that you use specifically to pay for dental work. Like traditional unsecured loans, you don’t have to provide collateral for the loan. But dental loans often come with a lower interest rate, low monthly payments, and better loan terms than many traditional personal loans, making them a good choice when you need help paying your dental bill.
While the amount you can borrow will vary depending on the lender and your credit, you can typically find dental financing ranging from from $1,000 up to $50,000. But remember that even if you’re approved for a dental loan, if you’re also filing dental insurance you’ll still need to pay the deductible on your dental insurance plan before the loan kicks in.
What can I pay for with a dental loan?
You can generally use a dental loan to pay for a variety of procedures, including many cosmetic dental procedures.
- Dental implants
- Chipped tooth repair
- Dental cleaning
- Tooth extraction
- Filling cavities
- Emergency dental procedures
Your dental loan may not cover every dental procedure, though. For example, some loans may only allow for standard dental work but not cosmetic procedures. You’ll want to verify with the lender what procedures it covers before visiting your dentist’s office.
What are the pros and cons of dental financing?
As with most financing options, dental financing has some pros and cons that you’ll want to consider.
- Can be used for a variety of procedures
- Provides funding when your insurance benefit amount is maxed out
- Lower interest rates than some general personal loans
- Fixed payment amounts
- Flexible repayment terms
- Must be paid back with interest
- Qualifying may be challenging if you have poor credit
- Will require a credit check, which can affect your credit score
- Some loans come with fees, like application and origination fees
- You take on additional debt
How to apply for a dental loan
You can find dental loans online and through some dental offices — although these are usually third-party loans. Repayment terms, interest rates, and prequalification can differ from one lender to the next. To apply for a dental loan, you’ll follow the same steps as for a general personal loan.
- Check your credit score. Loan approval, rates, and loan terms are typically based on your credit score and debt-to-income ratio. Because dental loans are unsecured, the lender takes on all the risk for repayment, so your credit score plays a big part in whether you’ll qualify. If your credit score is less than stellar and you have some time, try to improve your score by making payments on time and paying down your overall debt.
- Get prequalified. Prequalifying gives you a better idea of what annual percentage rate, or APR, you might qualify for. Prequalifying also won't affect your credit score because the lender only does a soft pull of your credit. To apply for prequalification, you’ll need to provide your lender with some basic personal information, like your annual income and bank statements.
- Compare lenders. Not all banks, online lenders, or credit unions offer dental loans. When you find a few that do, look at the APR, loan amounts, and repayment terms to find the dental loan that works best for you.
- Pull together the necessary documents. Your lender will ask for several documents, like recent pay stubs and tax documents. Having these on hand makes the process of applying for your dental loan much easier.
- Apply for your dental loan. When you apply for a dental loan, the lender will perform a hard credit inquiry to determine your eligibility, which will temporarily lower your credit score by a few points. If you’re approved for a loan, you might receive your funds in as little as a few business days, though it could take longer depending on the lender.
Can I get a dental loan for bad credit?
You can often get a dental loan with bad credit, but your interest rate and terms may not be as favorable as if you had good to excellent credit. Since dental loans are unsecured, the lender takes on all the risk for repayment. If you have bad credit, the lender views you as a riskier borrower. The higher your credit score, the better rates and loan terms you’ll receive.
Credible lets you compare personal loan rates from various lenders in minutes.
Alternatives to dental loans
Dental loans aren’t the only way to finance procedures not covered by dental insurance. Here are a few more payment options to consider.
Medical credit cards
Medical credit cards are specifically designed to finance medical procedures. You’ll begin paying interest from the day you add charges to the card. Before applying for a medical credit card, make sure it covers dental procedures.
0% APR credit cards
Some credit cards offer 0% APR for a specific time period. If you can pay off the balance within that time period, you pay no interest. If you pay off the balance after the promotional period ends, you’ll pay interest on the remaining balance at the card’s regular rate. And read the fine print carefully: Sometimes you’ll pay accrued interest from the day you made the first purchase.
Many dental offices offer financing, which often comes from third-party patient and consumer-financing services. Specific to dental offices, these provider-financing options can offer flexible terms and reasonable rates. Your credit score will play a part in what rates and terms you qualify for.
But before you sign up, be sure to check the APR and fine print: Repayment terms may be lengthy, which means you’ll pay more interest, or short, which could mean higher monthly payments.