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Affordable Dental Care Tips from a Dental Hygiene Student (+ Share Your Tips)

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Dental Care

If you’re looking for affordable dental care, check out the email I recently received from Hip2Save reader Alma…

I am a dental hygiene student in the Seattle area and wanted to let your readers know about low cost dental care that’s available in most cities. Dental schools are a very good option. Some might be opposed to going to a school for their dental treatment but there are actually a lot of benefits, such as:

1.) VERY low prices. I have worked at multiple offices for the past 8 years as a dental assistant and these are the lowest prices I have seen.

2.) We work for a grade and have high grading criteria so they can be sure they will be getting great care. We also have A LOT of requirements to meet and are in need of as many patients as possible.

3.) Patients need to get checked by our instructors as well as our dentist on site so they are getting very thorough treatment.

This may not be an option for everyone because it does take longer and multiple appointments because we need to get everything checked off by both the instructor and the dentist. But for others, it might be something to look into.

Have you been to a dental school for oral care? Share your experience below!

(Thanks, Alma!)

Join The Discussion

Comments 83

  1. 4Ella

    We have that here in VA also and many of my friends been using that for years.

    • Michelle

      where is it in VA?

      • Dollbaby's mom

        I am pretty sure VCU have one in Richmond, VA.

  2. growingbhoomi

    How can I check if my city has that or not?

    • Lexi

      I would just use google to search local dental hygiene clinics🙂

      • growingbhoomi

        Thank you, i was looking for that keyword to search “Dental hygiene clinics”. Found it for my area! thanks a bunch everyone

    • ToriSC

      Look to see if one of your local colleges has a dental school program also. They often know where the clinics are.

    • AA

      Find out if there is a dental hygiene program or dental school in your area and then contact them directly. I am a hygienist also and we were always in need of patients!

    • Tres

      There is a dental hygiene School in flagstaff, Az at Northern Arizona University that is great! Also AT Still University in Mesa, AZ offers dental services and you can look them up online.

  3. Allie

    I’m a hygienist, and when I was in school it cost $25 for a cleaning, X-rays, and a fluoride treatment. We had a ton of patients that came to the school every 6 months and just visited a dentist once yearly, with X-rays in hand, for an exam. A dental exam is usually around $50 in a MCOL area as long as you have current X-rays.

    • Guest 24

      ALLIE, RDH… I, too am a Hygienist… Just retiring with 46 years… I was sooo blessed to have some great patients in DH school… , and still enjoy their friendship… I am a BIG believer in ” school” based healthcare.. I also went to the Optometry school, massage therapy school and others… Just a “pay back” for all the patient’s confidence in me, as a student…

  4. Jen

    I used a dental school to have my wisdom teeth removed because it was cheaper than my dental insurance. The service was great.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Glad to hear that Jen! Thanks so much for your review!

  5. Kate

    We don’t have one in our area but I’ve always wanted to try it out. I was told by a hygienist that it was “the most thorough cleaning you’ll ever have.”

  6. Momof2

    Great option and you do get optimal care…everything is checked and rechecked!!! Search for dental hygiene schools near you and make a call…

  7. Brittany

    I am a dental hygienist as well! Where I went to college we did not charge for cleanings or radiographs. Definitely worth a try if you have the time.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      That’s great! Thanks so much for your feedback Brittany!

  8. Amy

    Agreed! We have one here and it’s the only one i go to. Such a great cost saving thing!

  9. laurel allain

    I have been to a few schools when I do not have dental insurance. I took my children as well. We received great dental care (cleanings, x-rays and follow up supervision from the dentist on site.). Yes it will not be as quick in a dental office. Typically it can run up to 3 hours. And we were also given a dental “goody bag” once finished. All at a super low fee. Not to mention it really helps the students get in their much needed hours towards graduation. I highly recommend utilizing this service.

  10. Jessica

    Can anyone comment on orthodontics from a dental school? I have severe crowding and TMJ. I am kind of afraid to let a student work on me since my case is more complex.

    • Lindsay

      You have multiple doctors who will oversee the students. Students are never left on their own to figure things out.

    • Elizabeth

      I had my TMJ corrected by a chiropractor. He adjusted my jaw and gave me a jaw exercise to do. I fixed my TMJ in less than a week!

      • Jessica

        Well, I have really crooked teeth with severe crowding and a crossbite so my teeth need correcting anyways. My x-rays show that my jaws are healthy, my bad bite is the culprit.

        • Elizabeth

          Mine was because of a cavity. I was mainly chewing on one side of my mouth for awhile. When I got the cavity fixed I got TMJ. My chiropractor said it was because one side of my mouth had weaker muscles because of only using one side to chew. Hope you can get it all fixed and find relief soon!

    • Lindsay

      You have to be accepted into dental schools. Usually if you go to the dental schools website there will be an application. I personally had to go to my dentist, and have him fill my application out, then you can mail it in. They will either accept your case or not. Not everyone who applies gets accepted in.

  11. Mary

    My daughter is a hygiene student in Rock Hill, SC. I have been in and it is a great experience. It is $30 for adults $25 for kids. This includes everything… A cleaning, exam(by a dentist), x-rays, fluoride treatment, sealants & a free tooth brush. The students are always looking for good reliable patients. They do a great job!

  12. Kiwi

    Just look at the local colleges (university and community) to see if they have a program. The one by me does and has all their hours and coat information on the site. I agreed to be a students model for a grade once, it took a long time but worth it. Also I was a model for the ultrasound program and made a lot of money from it (paid by the hour). I was able to go to the beach for a few days with my husband from it. Pays to look at colleges for all sorts of things!

  13. Nana Donna 2 5

    The University of Iowa has an excellent dental college. Now that I don’t have dental insurance through former employment, my husband and I will most likely seek treatment there. We are both retired so the length of time for the care isn’t a huge factor… But saving our teeth at a low cost is huge and the dental college has to be thorough. The students are always monitored by highly ranked, published, experienced dentists. Our family dentist graduated from there and is an adjunct prof. His father and son also graduated from there. Well worth program to look into.

    • Cole

      I tried to look into this for wisdom teeth at Iowa and was told it would be pretty much the same cost??

  14. Oshea

    I had a root canal done at a Phila. Dental school. The dentist completing the work was monitored throughout the procedure.

  15. Susie

    It’s not just dental hygiene services available, check for dental schools that produce actual dentists too. They do fillings, caps, and other services at a greatly reduced price. I’ve never used their services because the closest one is about 4 hours from home, but my nephew is a dentist and I’ve heard him talk about it when he was in school. I think a cap was $400, which is cheaper than the co pay with dental insurance.

  16. Lindak

    Baylor dental school in Dallas has this. My coworker said he filled out an application lastJune and finally got called for an appointment this month so they are busy. Cost is about half what he would have paid with our insurance.

    • Nora

      Thank you…this was the most helpful information in the entire post.

  17. rn30032

    The only dental school in Ga located in Augusta participates in this

    • Sammi🌻

      Sad ….that was three hours away for me .Are there Any near Atlanta ?

  18. Alma

    Hello everyone, this was my email to Collin. I am in the Seattle WA area, please email me for more information. I am in need of patients – Cornelio_alma @ thank you 😀

  19. T

    Wish dentists could come to your house when your unable to go to them. I’ve been unable to leave my house for a few years and I know my teeth are gonna suffer for it eventually :/

    • Kur

      There are dentists who do house calls. Call your state dental board and they may be able to help.
      They even go to nursing homes, adult day cares etc. also some have a mobile dental van. (I’m in New Jersey)

      • T

        I will try that thanks! I’ve seen things about the mobil dentists but always read that they only do it for the elderly. I’m 32 and no insurance either so I’m sure I’m screwed but I will try. Thanks 🙂

        • Anna

          Sorry to hear. Is it health related as to why you’re unable to leave?

          • TS

            Panic disorder that led to agoraphobia. Now I can’t get out to get help for anything. It’s scary and it sucks.

            • Kim

              *Hugs* I developed agoraphobia after I was on vacation and had a seizure in New York City. I panicked everytime I was in a big open area i.e. Mall, freeway, etc. It lasted for a couple years then I saw a counselor and 6 sessions later, I was free of my panic. I pray that you get through these tough times.

              • TS

                Thank you 🙂 I saw a counselor for 6 weeks after the panic attacks started but it didnt help and then the agoraphobia started and I couldn’t go back. Just wish it was easy to get a doctor or counselor to come to me but so far no luck. Glad you beat it though! *hugs back*

  20. Swathi

    Do we get a bill when we go to dental school am asking because can I pay through my FSA(flexible spending account) this is pre tax money that every year we keep $2500 bucks to pay with this for copays, school fee………anybody having any idea.

    • Alma

      Your flexible spending account works as of it was a debit card for health things so you should be able to use it. Check with your local school but as far as I know it should work just like at a regular dental office.

  21. broadway96

    I use UPenn Dental School and it is not always good. It takes 4 hours to do anything from a cleaning to a filling. The students dont always know what they are doing. Had a girl not know how to use novocaine correctly my mouth was un-numb in 30 mins i told her i needed more she thought I was lying. It was ridiculous.

    • cherryluva

      that’s what CAN happen when you go to a SCHOOL…. My mom is 57 and went to Marquette university here in WI and had braces on as a teenager, it took her TWICE as long as my sister and I who had braces put on as teenagers at a regular dentist….I had my eyebrow area burned from a cosmetology student… get what you pay for

  22. Erica

    I am a new dentist.. Treatment at a dental school is very affordable for those who have or don’t have dental insurance. The first few appointments may seem long and unproductive but it might go like one three hour appointment for an exam and X-rays, and maybe a cleaning if you’re lucky. Otherwise, it will be another three hour appointment for a cleaning. However, after that you can get your fillings or other restorative work done. Everything is done by the books. Students are students, they are still learning. As with any classroom, there are students who learn faster or slower than other students. However, all students have worked on typodonts and simulations of teeth. And every step is checked by a professor which is why appointments are long. I would recommend it if you have the time.

  23. Wendy

    My husband and I have been going to a local school here in Ut. It is $10 for cleaning, xrays, flouride, etc. It usually takes 2 visits of 2 hours each, but they are very thorough and careful. My husband recently had teeth filled and a crown down by a dental student associated with the hygiene school for half the price and thought the dentist in training was excellent. We have been affected by the economy and can afford to take care of our teeth this way. Our hygiene school is so busy that we can only get in every 9 months or so, but we are grateful for this service.

    • Marcie

      Where in Utah? I am interested in this. Thanks!

  24. Mika

    Haven’t tried a dental school but I did go to my local health department and was able to get my wisdom tooth removed for $5.

  25. Sarah

    I used the dental school orthodontist for both my boys, partly to save time coordinating care and also to save on costs for both boys in braces at the same time. Each had a student assigned to them on the same day to give consistency to care, and we kept that same day (mostly)and student through the 2 years, the students were very closely followed by the dentist. It was an excellent experience and would highly recommend.

    • Jessica

      How long did visits take and how much did you save? Were your children’s cases mild or severe?

      • Sarah

        They were typical cases, no teeth had to be removed. The costs were about $1500 less per child than a regular orthodontist, and actually some of our local orthodontists taught at the school. They took our HSA funds on a monthly basis with no extra fees or charges. Hope this helps!

      • Sarah

        Oh, visits were anywhere from 15 minutes for quick check to 45 min. Not longer than regular orthodontist office. My daughter braces before we looked at the dental school, so it was easy to compare, dental school was a better option for us.

  26. chris Dunn

    Very true. I’m a dental hygienist and when I was in school we charged $20 for full exam and x-rays. We took four hours an appointment as we were learning and kinda slow but we were monitored the entire time and double checked on everything we did to ensure care was excellent.

  27. Acouponer

    Does this have to be a dental school or a technical college that offers dental hygiene?

    • Alma


      • Acouponer

        So only a dental hygiene school would not offer these services?

        • Alma

          Both dental schools and dental hygiene schools offer these services.

  28. Samantha

    I’m so happy to see this post! As a dental hygiene student in AZ it’s sometimes hard to find our own patients. Thank you so much Collin for posting this.
    Btw, If anyone is in the Tucson area, Pima Community College has a dental hygiene school and we are always looking for patients.

    • Alma


  29. Swathi

    Alma thanks for reply

  30. Maile

    I do not want to be negative but I had a terrible experience at my local dental school. Many people that I know had received dental treatment and we’re happy with the results. My case must’ve been too difficult I guess. The teachers came around at first but come lunch time nobody was around to check on us. I left worse than I was. Idk what to do now because I know my molar is totally messed up. The student himself told me it was a terrible job and I shouldn’t floss or the filling would fall out.

  31. Betsy

    I tried a dental school once and had some really good students. Then, I got this one girl who spent the whole time that she was working on my teeth telling me that maybe she didn’t want to be a dentist after all and what she really wanted to do was to work at Macy’s. Not instilling confidence in her dental abilities as I sat there with my teeth in her hands!!

  32. LauraL

    I didn’t have a good experience at the University of Illinois. They gave me a root canal and I wasn’t numb. The worst part was that once they started they couldn’t stop. So I had to just endure the torture until they were done.

    I can’t describe the pain – even thinking about it makes me cry.

    Then they pulled a tooth and damaged the one next to it so bad I lost that one too.

    Cleanings and x-rays are probably safe but I wouldn’t have a root canal.

    I’ve been thinking about going down to Mexico – don’t think anything could be worse than what I endured.

    • B

      That’s so odd. Whenever I’ve had a root canal they tell me “If you ever start hurting, tell me so we can stop and apply more novocaine. You should never be in pain.” and they have always stopped when I tell them. That shouldn’t happen, I’m sorry you went though that. 🙁

  33. becky

    I took my son to orthodontic school for his braces. They did a great job. The price was about half of a regular orthodontist (about $2500 vs. about 5k). However, I didn’t realize that there would be so many appointments for adjustments. It’s a great option if you have a school closeby.

    • Jessica

      How long and how often were the appointments? Was your son a mild or severe case?

      • Becky

        His was a more severe case. He had to go for adjustments at least once a month, sometimes twice. He wore them for about 2.5 years. That fee included everything, from initial x-rays and molds to the retainer he wears now.

  34. Holly

    My college (Chaffey College) has a free dental program for the students. Free exam and full digital xrays. Then its $10 for each visit. I had to have a cap put on and it was $250. They also do free cleanings! I have had great experiences with the program and was even paid $50 to fill a small cavity for an exam. Im a single mom with no dental insurance. My daughter is covered through the state but not me. Im the type who gets cavities very easily. Programs like these save me money and my teeth! They take their time and have to go through lots of training first. They also have a certified dentist sitting and supervising. Then he takes over to check all the work to make sure it was done right. The students have never been left alone at any point. Im a natural red head and I need extra numbing for the shots because the regular amount isnt enough. When I had insurance, my dentist never gave me enough so I just had to endure the pain. At the dental school office, they make sure I feel nothing and am comfortable. My college also has a full free medical wing. I recently had strep throat and was seen by a doctor and given a free full round of antibiotics. We also have an optometrist wing. I wear glasses and to get an exam is $88 at Walmart. I cant really afford that so I learned to wear outdated prescription glasses. The last time I had an eye exam was 2010. I was thrilled to have a full exam done for FREE and finally get new glasses. I also get my haircut at a school. Ive loved my hair every time. My daughter has fine short hair. It seemed stupid to pay so much at those stupid childrens specialty salons with the car seats. It took THREE women to hold my fiver year old down just to cut an inch off her hair. Nothing fancy. Then to fork out over $20 for that?! I took her to the salon school I go to. They had tablets with Sophia the First on to distract my daughter. She sat happily while getting her hair fashionably styled with the big girls by a hip young girl with rainbow hair. Which my daughter was in awe over and wanted, lol. Then the teacher checked it and gave my daughter a king size Butterfinger. Which clearly was way better in my daughters eyes than the sad little lolly pop she got at the kids place. No tears, no holding her down, its free, and both her and I get our hair done together. Its a win, win! We’ve been going to the salon school for years now and she loves going and getting her hair done. Then for the rest of the day shes flipping her new do around asking people if they like it lol. As a single mom, these schools are lifesavers!

  35. B

    I spoke with my dentist recently about going to a dental school (he is very kind and always looking for ways to help us save money in dental care) to get veneers, he mentioned it will be either very very cheap or free. I look forward to going in someday

  36. Ashleah

    The best option is to stay away from the dental corporations. They pay hygienist around $20 a hour in some areas. My mother has been a hygienist for 35 years and sees nothing but botch work from these places that are chain dental companies. Going out of network or to a dental college is better and I promise the out of network bill is not much higher.

  37. Nancy G

    UAB in Birmingham, AL is a great dental school! We used them for our daughter’s orthodontics years ago, and about 3 years ago, our personal dentist suggested I go there for a root canal and crown. It was WAY cheaper than she would have charged. A routine checkup and cleaning is $48. They also have a great optometry school, where you can get inexpensive eye exams and glasses.

  38. Meg

    I went to college near Harvard dental school and needed a small gum graft (sounds worse than it was) on my bottom teeth due to having braces when I was younger and and eating too many apples (lol). I saw a dentist who was going back to school to get training to be an oral surgeon. He did an awesome job, and my dentist now even compliments his work. Even though it took a little longer as he would need his professor to check certain things throughout the procedure, I felt he gave me superior care due to him wanting to excel during his training, not to mention at a much better price. Definitely a great tip if you are able to sacrifice a little extra time. Now, I just have to find myself one of these massage therapy schools- never thought of that one! Thanks!

  39. Brenda

    I have using for long time here in Oregon at OHSU Dental School

  40. drmindyclark

    I am a general dentist in TX and graduated in 2014.
    I will say that the treatment itself is very high quality, and all of my patients were very happy with their work.
    It is though an extensive process to get accepted as a patient, assigned to a dental student, and then have a general “work-up” or full exam done prior to any treatment. It takes A LOT of time and patience on the patient’s end just because of how the system at the schools work. Appointment time slots are also long (about 3 hours each). My school required patients to come in a minimum of once every 2 weeks, and appointment times were either 8:30am to 12:00pm, or 1:00pm to 4:00pm. You may or may not be there the entire appontment time based on the procedure, or it may take more than one appointment for certain procedures (a root canal may take 2 or 3 visits just for the root canal, and then you still have to get a build-up and crown done for the tooth which required more appointments). It also depends on what grade level the student is in (4th year students will work somewhat faster/more efficient than 3rd year students). Pricing will vary from school to school, but typically the patient’s that are attracted by school pricing are those with NO insurance who need A LOT of work. Fillings are typically less than $100 each. While I was in school, the price of crowns increased from $370 to $550, which I thought was pricey for patients considering the $550 was all out of pocket, and also because now I work at an office which accepts PPOs and some of the crowns I do are $600, with the patient portion being considerably less than that.

  41. Hkai

    I’ve been going to the dental school at UW in Seattle for over two years. I had a great student and excellent work, including two fillings and one crown. I was sad for myself, although happy for him, to see him graduate. This school is not super cheap, like some of the others described, but costs were about 40 % of typical dentists in town. I don’t have dental insurance. After looking at insurance plans, paying for the work was cheaper than premiums.

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