Asking dentist for a discount for major procedures (no dental insurance)

For years, I’ve considered the cost for doctor visits and various medical procedures negotiable. I’ve been very fortunate to have excellent insurance for the last seven years that doesn’t even require a copay for office visits. But I have negotiated on behalf of my grandmother for amounts that Medicare doesn’t care and most doctors and hospitals have allowed substantial discounts.

Unfortunately, I don’t have dental coverage and I am in need of two root canals (endodontist) followed by two crowns afterward (dentist). I also need a filling or two replaced by the dentist, but the root canal procedure and crowns are what I’m really concerned about. I’ve spent over $12,000 out-of-pocket on dental work over the last four years or so, so I have an idea of how much it will cost.

I’m really like the dentist that I’ve used for the last eight years. He has no problem with me carrying a balance on my account (interest free) because I’ve always paid it off in six months or less. But his rates have caught up to the local competition and there’s at least a two-month wait for an appointment to see him. I know of several other reputable dentists in the area (and endodontists) and plan to call around and compare ‘list’ prices for the services I need.

Once I have a quote on the price, then I’m planning to ask if they’ll do the service for 80% of the amount they quote! So if the root canal price is $700, I’ll tell them I’m uninsured and ask if they will do it for $560 if I pay cash. My rationale is that they have contracted rates with dental insurers as well as dental discount plans that are significantly lower than their ‘list’ pricing.

I’m in a position where I need to have the root canals done sooner rather than later (one tooth is broken and hurts like hell, but at least it’s not visible). So I hope to find an endodontist willing to give me a bit of a discount! Otherwise, I’ll end up putting a chunk of the cost on a credit card (not good) OR I’ll borrow the money from my parents, then they’ll refuse to let me repay them when I have the cash. I try to avoid borrowing from them because they always refuse to let me pay it back! But I know their bank routing and account number, so I just deposit it in one of their accounts anyway.

BTW, I am self-employed as an Premium Auditor for Commercial Insurance (CGL & W/C) policies. From December thru February, my workload is very light…and so is my income! I have so much work scheduled for the next three months that I’ll be working 60-hour weeks, but it will be 30-45 days before my cash flow returns to normal. I suppose it’s somewhat ironic that I’m actually a licensed insurance agent and adjuster, but I lack dental insurance….

Also, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t practice good oral hygiene and that’s why I’ve spent so much on dental work over the last several years. I’m 39, I brush 3x daily, floss 2x daily and use a ‘prescription’ toothpaste that costs $20 for a small freakin’ tube! When I was a child/teenager, I had a bastard of a dentist who filled my teeth without fully removing all of the decay first! I had quite a few cavities (and fillings) by the age of 15. When I was only 18, those fillings started to fall out or began hurting and ALL of those teeth (9 at last count) had to have root canals and crowns before I was 28!!! Two of the crowned teeth failed back in 2007 and I had to have two dental implants to replace those….and will probably have more implants in the future! =(

Anyone ever asked for discounted dental procedures and, if so, how did it go?


You can get the work done for 20% to 25% of the cost if you go to Costs Rica. Plus you get a nice vacation out of it.

You can always ask. It sounds like you’ve done your research on costs. The dentist you’ve used for years knows you pay your bills, but for those who don’t know you offer to provide financial references to reassure them you will pay. I have at times negotiated as much as 50% off the cost of medical and dental procedures. You can’t always do this, but like I said, you can always ask.

In addition to Costa Rica and other medical tourism, you might want to check out your nearest dental school. They will often provide reduced-cost care.

I plan to pay the endodontist (and dentist, if I use a different one) in full at the time of service and, at least for the root canal portion, in cash. I can swing that without touching my Emergency Fund, which I have never tapped before and don’t want to start now.

My dentist gives a 10% discount for cash automatically. I think probably it should be a higher percent but I’m happy to get a discount at all! However if I were having some hugely expensive work done I might ask if it could be higher. Asking is still free.

Does the dentist take and dental discount plans? Using those I am able to get a root canal with crown for $900 and a filling for $50. Grand total would be a thousand dollars, spread into a year that is only $85/month.

I received a discount from my dentist on crowns because I paid cash. I knew him pretty well though.

Even better - I’ve gotten the best discounts by doing that. You completely save the doc having to chase down payment, which is expensive.

When I was facing massive dental work, the front office offered a 10% discount for advance payment.
This was a very high-priced dentist; 10% off still left him with his rent and Mercedes assured.

Would the cheap guy I use when I have a buck offer such a deal? Doubt it - he doesn’t have the luxury of a huge profit margin.

Worth a try though.

If I am having multiple work (of the same type) done with the same appointment, I always ask for a discount. And it is always given. If you don’t ask, it doesn’t happen.

You are free to ask, and sometimes the dentist will help you out.

Do dentists have “book rates” that are double or triple what the insurance rate is?

I mean, if the dentist’s “book rate” is $900 and he will do the procedure for $337.45 or something from the insurance company, surely he’d accept $400 cash in advance?

Frankly, I’m having trouble seeing why the government shouldn’t make such pricing disparity illegal. Medical care isn’t a free market for a number of reasons, and the actors involved have a strong incentive to play these silly pricing games.