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Guide to Dental Loans and Dental Work Financing

What Are Dental Loans & How Do They Work?
Nancy Bilyeau
Nancy BilyeauUpdated March 2, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Paying for expensive dental work can cause major stress. According to WebMD, about 77% of Americans are covered by some form of dental insurance. But even if you’re a part of that percentage, the annual maximum for dental insurance ranges between $1,000 and $2,000.So, what if you need a root canal or implant and it costs more than what your insurance will pay? Or, what if you need a cosmetic dental bonding procedure because of a broken, chipped, or discolored tooth and your insurance plan doesn't cover it at all? In instances like these, many people turn to dental loans. We will cover the various options for paying for dental work and their pros and cons.

What Is a Dental Loan?

A loan for dental work is an unsecured loan, which means there’s no collateral tied to the loan, like your car or your house. Therefore, because the lender assumes more risk, interest rates generally run higher when compared with a secured loan. The money comes in a lump sum, often arriving pretty quickly. You will be required to make fixed payments with interest until your loan is paid off.

Are Dental Loans Personal Loans?

Yes, a dental loan is a form of personal loan. Dental loans are sometimes referred to as the “cousin” of medical loans. Both are a type of personal loan used to pay for health care.  There are many ways to use a personal loan, including for dental work. You can go out and get a standard personal loan to pay for your dentist bills, no question. It’s important to know, however, that some lenders do offer personal loans intended specifically for dental work. These loans could have lower interest rates or different lengths of loan repayment, so look out for them.In the marketplace, special loans for dental work exist in the same space as the other kinds of personal loans, which means you get them from online lenders, banks, and credit unions.

What Can I Use a Dental Loan for? 

You can use a dental loan to pay for many different kinds of dental work, including:
  • Bonding and other cosmetic procedures
  • Orthodonture
  • Resin composite fillings
  • Cleaning and X-rays
  • Root canal 
  • Porcelain crown
  • Porcelain veneers
  • Dentures

Typical Dental Loan Requirements

You need to qualify for a dental loan. If you meet the eligibility requirements, the lender will provide you with an estimate of the loan amount and the interest rate. You’ll fill out an application, giving your financial and personal information, including your employer and income, a tax statement, and perhaps pay stubs. The lender will look at your credit rating and your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

Can You Get Loans for Dental Work With Bad Credit?

It’s possible to obtain a dental loan with bad credit, but it’s not that easy. The interest rate and terms of loans for dental work with bad credit will not be as favorable as they’d be for applicants possessing good credit.

Dental Loan Considerations

Consider the personal loan impact on your credit. When you formally apply for a personal loan, it triggers a hard credit check, which is a thorough evaluation of your credit history. The inquiry usually reduces up to five points from your FICO credit score. A hard inquiry typically stays on your credit report for two years.There are also personal loans with no credit check, which is an installment loan from a lender who doesn’t necessarily look at your credit history as part of the application process. The lender will likely consider other factors, like your income and perhaps any personal assets you could use as collateral. No-credit check personal loans have high interest rates and fees.

Personal Loan Options

It’s a good idea to understand how personal loans work, so that you can be sure the time is right for getting a loan.

Rates 

Personal loan interest rates are calculated by looking at several factors, including the requested amount, the applicant’s income history, and the reasons for borrowing. In general, the higher a borrower’s credit score, the lower the interest rate offered to the borrower may be. With an excellent credit score, you might be able to get a very low rate. A “fair” or a "poor" credit score will make it more challenging to get a good rate.

Terms 

Personal loan terms usually range from 12 months to 60 months. A longer loan term will result in lower monthly payments, but could carry higher interest rates.

Other Options to Help Pay for Dental Work

A dental loan isn’t the only way to fund your dental work. There are several other paths to explore:

Dental Insurance

People can purchase group dental insurance plans through an employer or individual coverage to help pay for both preventative and unexpected visits to the dentist. About 90% of employers with 500 or more employees offer dental benefits, according to WebMD. Unfortunately, the coverage sometimes just doesn’t go far enough. Most insurance plans follow the 100-80-50 coverage structure. That means they cover preventive care at 100%, basic procedures at 80%, and major procedures at 50%, or a larger co-payment, says WebMD.

Credit Cards 

Some people turn to medical credit cards to cover dental expenses. However, these types of cards are only accepted by some dental practices. Another route to take is getting a credit card with an introductory 0% APR period on purchases after you sign up. You can open the card right before your dental work, pay for your procedure with it, and then pay it off your balance before the end of the 0% APR period. You must be on top of your finances to execute this correctly.

Dental Schools 

Many dental schools offer services to the public at a reduced rate. Insurance may cover these schools’ procedures, but often through reimbursement. Payment without insurance is of course accepted, and the fees will be lower than those charged by practicing dentists. The appointments usually take longer because the students need more time (under supervision of a licensed dentist). There is often a sizable wait for dental school appointments.

Emergency Savings 

Delaying a dentist visit for dental pain could turn a nagging issue into a health crisis, so it could be better to dig into emergency savings, if you have them. However, If this is a non-critical procedure like cosmetic work, you could consider saving for it separately using a high-yield savings account.

In-House Financing 

Some dental practices may offer their own loans. It depends on your circumstances, so ask your dentist if they offer in-house financing for expensive procedures. These types of installment loans can carry low interest if you can work that out with your dentist.

Explore Personal Loans for Dental Work With Lantern by SoFi

If you need a lump sum for a procedure, a loan for dental work could make up the shortfall in your insurance plan or your bank account. This makes the most sense if you qualify for a competitive rate and can make the payments on time. Compare personal loan rates with Lantern to see which options work for you.
Photo credit: iStock/aquaArts studio
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.SOLC1221031

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get a loan for dental work?
How to get a dental loan with bad credit?
What can I use a dental loan for?

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau writes about student loans, mortgages, car insurance, medical debt and many other finance topics for Lantern. A veteran of the magazine business, she has edited stories on personal finance for Good Housekeeping and DuJour magazines and has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Readers' Digest, Parade, Town & Country and Lifetime/A&E, among others. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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