College can be an overwhelming experience for students, who face heavy workloads, new social situations and all the challenges that come with taking care of themselves. Unfortunately, dental issues can complicate things, especially when they occur unexpectedly. Here’s what you should know about dealing with a dental emergency at school, along with some information about potential costs.
What Is a Dental Emergency?
Any dental problem requiring immediate treatment to alleviate pain, stop bleeding or save a tooth is considered an emergency. If you’re not sure whether your dental issue demands quick attention, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you experiencing bleeding or severe pain?
- Have you lost a tooth or tooth fragment?
- Are your teeth loose?
- Are there signs of an infection, including fever, swelling, pus, a foul smell or discoloration of oral tissue?
If you answered yes to any of these, you probably have a dental emergency. It’s important to seek treatment from a dental professional as soon as possible to avoid complications.
What You Should Know About Costs
If you don’t have dental insurance, you will want to find an emergency dental provider that offers flexible financing or discounts for uninsured patients. If you have dental insurance, it should cover a portion of your emergency treatment. That said, there are a few things that will impact how much you have to pay out-of-pocket. These include:
- Waiting periods: Many dental insurance plans have waiting periods that last from six to 12 months before any standard work can be done. This may not apply to emergency dental work, however.
- Deductibles, Coinsurance and Copays: An insurance deductible is the minimum amount you must pay out-of-pocket before your insurance policy kicks in. For example, if your deductible is $200, and the treatment is $300; even if your coverage is 100%, insurance will only pay for $100 of the treatment. Once you meet your deductible, most insurance policies will only cover a set percentage of the remaining costs. You will be responsible for the remaining balance, which is called co-insurance. You may also be subject to co-pays, which are smaller set dollar amounts you must pay any time you visit a dentist.
- Yearly Maximums: The majority of dental policies limit the total amount of annual coverage. Once you reach this cap on a given year, you are responsible for 100 percent of any remaining charges. Since the cap resets every year, you may wish to put off elective procedures. That said, this isn’t typically possible with emergency dental treatments.
Avoiding Dental Emergencies at School
The best way to avoid emergency problems is to practice good dental hygiene and schedule regular checkups with a dentist. It’s a lot easier – and cheaper – to deal with a small cavity; if it goes unnoticed, however, you could find yourself in a painful, costly emergency that could disrupt your school schedule. If you do suffer a dental emergency while on campus, don’t put off treatment, or you may end up with serious functional and cosmetic problems that could reduce the quality of your life now, and well into the future.