Do All Dentists Make You Pay Upfront?

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

Most dentists do require you to make payment upfront, at least the estimated portion that you’re responsible for. That is a very common financial policy for most dental offices because payment is expected on the day of service. There is rarely an exception to the rule.

Basically, you’re expected to pay for the treatment before receiving it or before you leave the office. If your dentist doesn’t collect the money before you leave, they may never see you again. Essentially if you don’t pay, you won’t receive care!

100 dollar bill

However we do wish to clarify that the expected payment may not be the full amount, which is why we said the estimated portion. The amount that you are responsible for will differ depending on a couple of factors.

  • Do you have insurance or no insurance?
  • Are you seeing an in-network or out of network dentist?

Let us explain what all of that means for you.

Payment arrangements with no insurance

If you do not have dental insurance, you will be responsible for the full cost of treatment on the day of service. Customarily you will either pay for it before you sit down in the dental chair or after you finish but before you leave. The latter is the most common financial practice for most dental offices.

Therefore what you can expect is to get your treatment first and then check out to make a payment before you leave. Ultimately, payment is expected on the day of service.

It is highly unlikely that there will be a dentist that will “send you a bill” if you have no dental insurance. That makes for some very loose financial policy. You are expected to pay on that same day.

Payment arrangements with dental insurance

The way that you pay at the dentist will differ if you have dental insurance. However the network status of your dentist will also play a role in the type and amount that you pay.

  • Your dentist could participate with your insurance and be an in-network provider.
  • They could also be a non-participating dentist and be out of network with the insurance.

In-network provider

If your dentist is in-network with your insurance, you will only be responsible for paying the estimated copayment upfront. You do not need to pay the full amount of treatment. Typically for most dental treatment, the insurance will cover a portion of it while you’re responsible for what they do not cover.

For example, a cavity filling may have 80% insurance coverage which leaves you with a 20% copay. Thus, after getting your filling, you would pay just the 20% when you check out. Your insurance should reimburse your dentist directly for the rest of the 80%.

Out of network provider

If your dentist is out of network with your insurance, you may be responsible for paying for the full treatment upfront. Essentially you will pay everything upfront and then your insurance will send you a check later on for the amount that they may cover.

This is in stark contrast with how seeing an in network dentist works. The reason it works this way is that some insurance companies will not reimburse the dentist directly if they are out of network. Of course this creates a lot more back and forth since you’re basically fronting the money and waiting for reimbursement later.

Alternative financing options

In lieu of paying for your dental treatment upfront, you can finance it instead. There are dental financing options such as carecredit which may allow you to finance the total treatment and permit you to make payments over several months.

For example, carecredit is very common for those getting orthodontic treatment like braces or invisalign. Oftentimes, the payment can be a few thousand dollars so financing can make the payments more manageable.

If your invisalign treatment costs $3600, you can finance it with carecredit and split the payments into 6 months, 12 months, or even 24 months.

  • 6 month financing would be $600 per month.
  • 12 month financing would be $300 per month.
  • 24 month financing would be $150 per month.

All of these options are more palatable than paying the full $3600 up front. You can probably imagine how popular dental financing is for those seeking straighter teeth. The best part about this is that there is ZERO INTEREST. Yes, you read that correctly, there is no interest.


Most dentists typically do have an office financial policy which requires payment in full on the day of service. That means you do have to pay upfront for what you are estimated to be responsible for.

Dentists do this because they’re afraid of dine and dashers. After getting burned a few times, they’ve started re-enforcing stricter financial policies.

Last but not least, there are a couple of other quirks you should watch out for as well. We’ve prepared a full checklist of what to bring to the dentist so that you can be fully prepared. Yes, bringing your wallet is a part of it.


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Long Island City, NY 11101

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If you're in NYC and in need of a dentist, our clinical dental practice, 1311 Jackson Ave Dental is accepting new patients.

Our purpose at afterva, is to encourage you to seek in person care with a doctor. It's not meant to be a substitute for medical advice.

A lot of nuances cannot be detected without an in-person clinical exam, which means it is near impossible to diagnose and treat virtually.

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