With high unemployment, a lot of people have lost their health/dental benefits. Others have never had dental insurance and badly need affordable dental care.
The cost of even routine dental care has become very expensive, and even simple fillings can run over $100, to say nothing of fixing complex dental problems.
However, I recently found an inexpensive and high quality alternative that some people may be able to use.
Dental schools have students who need patients to practice on. If you live near one of these schools, you can apply to be a patient and pay prices much lower than you'd pay at a regular dentist's office.
Here in San Antonio, the dental school's web site is at: http://www.dental.uthscsa.edu/becomeapatient.php
Yes, I know, having of an inexperienced person drilling into your teeth doesn't sound like a good idea to most people. That's what I thought at first, too.
However, I found the care, if anything, to be better than what I experienced on the outside. For one thing, the students are being supervised and graded by experienced instructors. They work very hard to make sure they do the job right, and are very closely watched- they have to check with an instructor at every stage of treatment.
Also, they are a lot more thorough and spend a lot more time with you than a commercial dentist will. I've been to some commercial dentists where it felt like I was on an assembly line- then dentist spent as little time as possible with each patient to maximize profits.
The web site says dental students charge about 60% less than commercial dentists, which seems to be about right. I paid $39 for a very thourough exam (by both the student and an instructor), $19 for the most complete set of x-rays I've ever had, and about $40 to have a cavity filled (this varies depending on the size of the cavity and difficulty in repairing it).
However, there are some drawbacks. First, you have to have a dental problem for students to work on- if you have perfect teeth and just want a cleaning, you probably won't be accepted as a patient.
The biggest negative is that going to the dental school is time consuming. As I said, the work is very thorough, the students spend a lot of time with you, and everything must be approved by an instructor. This means that a session to have a filling done that might take half an hour with a commercial dentist might take an hour and a half at the Dental school.
Lastly, payment is expected at the time of service. As far as I could tell, there were no options for payment plans- it was cash, check, or credit card only.
Bottom line: if you want high quality dental care, and aren't pressed for time, your local dental school may be your best option.