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Break the cycle of delayed treatment with Care Now, Pay Later

May 26, 2023
With many reasons for Americans to avoid or delay dental care, why not ease the financial burden? It's possible with new "pay later" options on the market.

The dental industry has been forced to embrace a new economic climate, which requires practices across the country to be flexible and adapt to meet patients where they are today. Almost half of Americans say they have delayed or gone without medical care in the last year due to cost, with dental services being the most common.1 And 77 million Americans do not have dental health coverage, making restorative and emergency treatment difficult to afford out of pocket.2

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Even if your dental practice deploys common tactics such as simplifying jargon, building an emotional connection with patients, or enhancing patient experience, the fact remains that many patients avoid treatment because they can’t afford it.3

Enter Care Now, Pay Later

Patients need alternative payment options outside of traditional credit cards or cash. And it’s on dental practices to ultimately meet patients where they are by embracing modern payment options, like pay-over-time financing. Offering flexibility to your patients can save your practice millions in deferred treatments and inspire more patients to say yes to essential treatments.

There is now a viable option for the dental industry coined Care Now, Pay Later (CNPL) by those covering the space. CNPL is a financial lending product that practices can offer patients, which gives them the option to pay for their treatment in installments, while the practice gets paid in full as soon as treatment starts—a true win-win. The financing mechanism embeds directly into practice management software, so all you need to do is opt in.

CNPL offers a seamless and easy user experience for patients as well. Rather than discussing payment options with a member of the dental staff, patients will be met with the option of paying for the service in full or opting for pay-over-time financing in the office or from their smartphone. With a few clicks, they can opt to pay over time and get approved on the spot without risking hidden fees or hard credit checks.

Preferences are shifting away from credit cards

Historically, the leading option for patient lending has been medical credit cards. Medical credit cards helped patients who needed to pay for treatments in installments, which was a good alternative at the time. However, the rise of fintech and changes in patient expectations have caused this option to lose its luster.

There is also a generational shift away from credit cards, and toward pay-over-time products such as Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL). BNPL has boomed in the e-commerce space, essentially priming the market for increased adoption outside of retail and travel. We’ve seen the rate of adoption grow 80% from 2020 to 2021, led largely by millennials and Gen Z.4 The adoption rate is not slowing either, signaling a larger shift in consumer behavior. More Americans trust nontraditional payment options and actually prefer these options due to ease of use.

Patient experience matters

In order to decrease the likelihood of deferred treatment, dental practices need to evaluate their financing options and put life-changing dental care within patients’ reach. By offering CNPL financing, practices can retain patients who may have declined treatment due to upfront cost or inaccessible financing options, simply by offering a better experience. Now, more than ever, dental practices should consider financing as a staple of the overall patient experience. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the May 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.


  1. Montero A, Kearney A, Hamel L, Brodie M. Americans’ challenges with health care costs. Kaiser Family Foundation. July 14, 2022.
  2. Quest C. A snapshot of the 76.5 million Americans without dental insurance. Care Quest. 2022.
  3. Dental P. The 3 E’s to dental patient retention and treatment acceptance. Off The Cusp. September 28, 2022.
  4. Staff. Millennials, Gen Z fueling BNPL use? PYMNTS. March 7, 2022.
About the Author

Steve Jensen

Steve Jensen is an economics/data nerd who helps dental practices improve profitability and performance. He has more than 11 years of experience as an educator, a love and passion for the dental industry, and is well versed in sound principles of business growth. He has an MBA from the Huntsman School of Business and is currently the VP of Business Development at Dental Intelligence.

Updated April 7, 2023

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