33 | STICK WITH THE PLAN These days most dental insurance works much like the typical health insurance plan, in which you pay a lot less if you use providers in the insurer's network than if you go outside the plan. If you haven't yet switched from your out-of-network family dentist to a practitioner who's on your plan, what are you waiting for? Your savings: 15% to 35% on the cost of most routine dental procedures, according to Mercer, a human-resources consulting firm.
34 | JOIN A DISCOUNT CLUB No dental coverage? Enroll in a discount dental plan, offered through major insurance companies like Aetna, Cigna and WellPoint. You'll pay about $100 a year ($150 for families) and save 20% to 30% on the cost of treatment by participating dentists. Just make sure that the network has practitioners in your area before you enroll and that the plan itself is legit (there have been a few cases of fraud) by checking to see if it's registered with your state insurance commissioner (naic.org).
35 | GO TO DENTAL SCHOOL If you're looking for bigger savings than the discount plans offer, try going to a clinic at a major dental school, staffed by closely supervised students in their final two years of training. (For a school near you, search for DDS/DMD programs at ADA.org.) These clinics charge about 50% less than dentists in private practice. One caveat: You could end up spending twice as long in the dentist's chair (hey, they're still learning).
36 | CHOOSE CHEAPER FILLINGS Many consumers opt for the aesthetic appeal of resin-based fillings, which are tooth-colored, instead of the old metallic (a.k.a. amalgam) variety. But amalgam fillings are 20% cheaper, and they last longer too.
37 | DON'T PAY RETAIL Depending on the brand and the number of boxes you buy, discount stores like Costco and online lens discounters often offer lower prices than optical retailers or your doctor's office. For two boxes of Acuvue Advance contacts, for example, you'd pay about $60 at Pearle Vision vs. $46 at online retailer AC Lens and just $38 at Costco.
38 | FORGO PRICEY EXTRAS Unless you're frequently in the water or snow, ditch the anti-reflective coating on your lenses and save $40. And pass up ultralightweight titanium frames too; plastic or metal frames are plenty strong and often cost hundreds less, says Richard Bensinger of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Need reading glasses? Head to your local drugstore, where you can find perfectly good reading glasses for $10 or less.