How to find free or low-cost dental care for low-income people – To what extent is a healthy mouth essential for physical health? According to medical experts, it would be very difficult to be in optimal physical condition if your oral health is not what it is supposed to be . Indeed, you should think of your mouth as the “gateway to wellness.”
Recent studies have shown that the correlation between oral health and the general health of the body is closer than previously believed.
Good oral health is very important to your overall quality of life. You will be able to chew food correctly and without pain. You will know what you are chewing. You will reduce the probability of developing other health problems. And you’ll save money in the long run.
Cost is the #1 reason Americans don’t get regular dental care.
It is not surprising. Dentists can charge $200 or more for a routine cleaning and exam. Filling cavities can cost several hundred dollars, while the total fees for dentures and dental appliances can run into the thousands.
That’s a lot more than most people can afford. You may be retired, have a limited income, be out of work, or lack dental coverage. One in three American adults lack dental insurance, and even with insurance, expensive services can leave you with a large out-of-pocket expense.
But it is possible—with research, patience, and luck— to find free or low-cost dental care.
Every state has at least two dentistry or dental hygiene programs. Alaska has four and New York has 160. They are full of students who need hands-on training before they graduate.
Most colleges run clinics where students attend to the public at discounted prices. You may pay half or even less for root canals, fillings and other services, compared to what established dentists charge. The appointment may take longer than usual, because authorized supervisors monitor every step as the student works with you. The advantage is that the treatment will be done according to the manual.
You can search the Commission on Dental Accreditation website for a school in your state.
Public dental clinics
These are taxpayer-funded clinics run by state or local health departments or community health centers that receive grants from the federal government. Many of them charge low, fixed prices or variable rates based on what you can afford. Most clinics offer exams, cleanings, x-rays, root canals, fillings, crowns, and surgical tooth extractions. Some have dentists on call.
Some clinics charge variable fees depending on what you can afford. The nonprofit group Oral Health America has a website, Toothwisdom.org , with a national directory of affordable dental programs. Look for clinics run by health departments or federally qualified health centers.
Free dental clinics
The need for dental care dwarfs the supply. Many charities, religious organizations, and dental professionals donate dental services . But their waiting lists may be long or closed. Some have income limits or only serve people who are elderly or have disabilities or medical problems.
Some cities have dental clinics that specifically serve people who are low-income, uninsured, or cannot afford care .
The Ben Massell Dental Clinic in Atlanta, for example, is staffed by volunteer dentists and specialists who provide a wide range of services free of charge. Interfaith Dental Clinic of Nashville accepts low-income, uninsured individuals on a first-come, first-served basis. Fees are based on your ability to pay.
You can find some of these clinics through the United Way ‘s 211.org website . Others may be listed in state or local directories of free or safety net dental clinics.
Some state or national charities use donated labor and materials to offer free care . DentalLifeline operates in all 50 states and accepts people who are 65 or older or have permanent disabilities or serious illnesses . A related program matches low-income children with volunteer orthodontists for braces and other treatment.
MissionofMercy , a program run by America’s Dentists Care Foundation, hosts free, two-day dental clinics at fairgrounds, institutes and other locations across states. Some cater only to adults and others also to children. They generally don’t require proof of income and will serve as many people in line as they can. Check the website for dates and locations of upcoming clinics.
Some dentists can treat a few cases a year for free . They may accept referrals from other dentists trying to help someone who needs a lot of dental work but can’t afford it. If you’ve been seeing a dentist for a long time and need help, be honest about your financial situation and ask if you’re eligible.
Government dental coverage
If you’re unemployed or working but earning little, check to see if your family is eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) . It is possible that you can opt for them even if you are not a father or mother. In most states, Medicaid does not charge monthly premiums. It fully covers dental care for children up to 19 years of age. For adults, about a third of states offer limited dental benefits, and another third cover extensive dental treatment.
dental savings plans
It’s easy to confuse dental savings plans (also known as dental discount plans) with dental insurance, but they are very different. Whether insurance or a discount plan—or a combination of the two—is right for you will depend on how much dental work you and your family get each year and what you pay out of pocket.
How do dental savings plans work?
By belonging to one of them, you get a discount of between 10% and 60% on the services of dentists that are part of the plan’s network . You pay an annual fee (usually less than $150 per family) and there is no deductible, which means you don’t have to pay a certain amount for the discount to take effect.
Another potential advantage of dental savings plans is that you can use the discount within a few days of signing up. So you can wait to buy one until you need a job.
Who might want a dental savings plan?
It may be a good option for people who do not have access to dental insurance or who want services that are not covered by insurance . This may include older people who don’t have Medicare dental insurance or younger people who want discounts on something like teeth whitening that traditional insurance typically doesn’t cover.
You can also consider a dental savings plan if you need dental treatment that costs more than your dental insurance pays. (Many dental insurance plans limit the total payment to less than $2,000 a year.) For example, saving 50% on a pair of root canals that cost $1,000 each would add up quickly.
How can I find a dental savings plan?
Some companies offer these plans as part of their employee benefits package , and you can get them through groups and associations, as well as directly from major insurance companies.
If you have a dentist you like, ask if he participates in one and how much you could save with him. If you’re open to new providers, call a few that are on the plan you’re considering to see if the savings are worth it. Thousands of dentists participate in dental savings plans, and the plan sponsor will usually provide you with a list of members.
Although many reputable companies offer dental savings plans, the industry has attracted some scammers. Avoid scams by requesting information be mailed to you before making a payment, and say no to high-pressure salespeople. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau or insurance regulator in your state to see if a business has received complaints.
Other ways to save money at the dentist
Space out the reviews
The dental check-up twice a year has been the mainstay for decades . But there is not much evidence that everyone needs to go that often. In one study, researchers looked at 16 years of insurance claims and found that for most nonsmokers in good health, one visit a year can prevent tooth loss as well as a checkup every 6 months.
People who smoke, have diabetes, or are prone to gum disease may need to see their dentists more than twice a year. The same goes for people who naturally build up plaque and tartar quickly.
Skip what you can
Before your exam, ask about your visit plans and fees . Check if you can do without a particular service. For example, many insurers pay for bitewing X-rays – which show cavities between teeth – every 12 months. The American Dental Association says that teens and adults can wait up to 3 years between x-rays if they take good care of their teeth and don’t have any oral problems.
But if you have cavities or are likely to have cavities, you may need X-rays up to every 6 months. If you skip them, they could cost you a tooth or require an expensive root canal or crown later on.
Learn about wisdom teeth
These molars located in the back of the mouth usually erupt in the late teens or early 20s. Some people never get them, or have them with no problem . However, wisdom teeth are often impacted when they don’t have room to break through the gums.
Many dentists recommend removing them to avoid any problems. But some researchers and public health experts say extraction surgery isn’t a good idea for otherwise healthy teeth.
Ask your dentist if your wisdom teeth need to come in right away or if you can wait a few months or years. Or get a second opinion. Remember that postponing a needed extraction could make it more complicated and costly in the end.
Straightening and aligning teeth is a major expense that involves many visits to the dentist or orthodontist to adjust the braces and check on progress. Most of the time, people get braces for cosmetic reasons, not medical ones.
Sometimes a bad bite can prevent your or your child’s teeth and jaw from working painlessly. Orthodontics can correct it. Other times, you may want to get braces simply to look and feel better. In any case, check if you can pay in installments and if you can do without any services to keep costs low. Be honest about your financial situation and ask what is best for you.
Do-it-yourself clear aligners have become very popular, but they may not be a good option . Moving your teeth into the alignment you need requires precision. The one-size-fits-all approach could damage your teeth, your bite, and/or your jaw.
Put it on your side
It bears repeating: Prevention is the best – and cheapest – medicine . Brush and floss every day . Flossing prevents plaque and the cavities that follow. Brushing keeps teeth and gums healthy.
Know the signs that something minor is turning into something serious. Call your dentist if she notices:
- pain . Eating and chewing shouldn’t hurt.
- Your teeth are always sensitive , especially to hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.
- swelling . Even if it doesn’t hurt, the swelling inside your mouth could just be an irritation, but it could also be a sign of an infection.
- Bleeding . Your gums shouldn’t bleed every time you brush.
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away can also mean an infection.
10 Free and Low-Cost Dental Care Options for Seniors
For older people, maintaining oral health is doubly important. This is because, as you get older, you are more susceptible to disease. Of course, the ideal would be to undergo regular dental check-ups and treat each time an oral problem arises. But access to regular dental care is often difficult for older people. Medicare doesn’t cover it. Medicaid coverage is limited. Out-of-pocket costs can be prohibitive for those on a fixed income.
Fortunately, there are organizations that can help. Here are 10 free or low-cost dental care options for seniors:
- The first place to start is toothwisdom.org, which we’ve already outlined above, a site dedicated to health resources for older adults . Aside from the informative articles you can find on the site, you can also make use of the care locator tool, which will direct you to where you can find low-cost dental care in your area. Click on your state here and you’ll find a list of great resources. The site is run by Oral Health America (OHA) , “a national nonprofit organization based in Chicago that is dedicated to changing lives by connecting communities with resources to increase access to care, education, and advocacy.” all Americans, especially the most vulnerable.”
- With Eldercare Locator , a service of the Administration on Aging, you can search by state or by service (health, transportation, legal, etc.). Talk to an information specialist: 1-800-677-1116. If you have further questions, you can also make use of the chat window where an information specialist is available Monday through Friday between 9 AM and 8 PM EST.
- 2-1-1 Information and Referral Search is sponsored by the United Way and can connect you to services in your area. Simply dial 211. The number will connect you with a trained professional who will be happy to answer your questions or direct you to the appropriate agency or organization that can help.
- PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a Medicare and Medicaid program that “helps people meet their health care needs in the community…” This health care may include dentistry. To use PACE, you must be at least 55 years of age, a resident of the area where services are offered, and deemed eligible for nursing home care.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) supports federally funded health centers for those without insurance or with limited income. Many offer sliding scale payments (based on what you can afford). Visit the site or call 1–888–275–4772.
- The DentalLifeline (formerly the National Foundation for Dentistry for the Disabled) provides “access to comprehensive dental services for people with disabilities or who are elderly or medically at risk.” Its flagship program, Donated Dental Services, or DDS, has a national network of 17,000 volunteer dentists and 3,700 dental laboratories; all offering dental treatments for free. To find out if you qualify as a beneficiary, you can visit their website or call 303-534-5360.
- The nonprofit organization Dentistry From The Heart (DFTH) provides “free dental care to those in need.” Volunteer dentists and hygienists donate their time for events across the country. Due to the number of patients served at each event, treatments only include cleaning, filling and extraction.
- United Way , a nonprofit organization with chapters across the country and around the world, can help you find free or low-cost dental care options. You can find your local chapter on their website.
- Dental schools are an option for good, low-cost care, as many have clinics where students gain experience working on patients and with dentures. The American Student Dental Association website has a list of schools by state. Also, try dental hygiene schools for preventative care.
- The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics is a nonprofit organization that seeks to “expand access to affordable health care for the medically underserved.” In keeping with its belief that access to health care is a right and not a privilege, the NAFCC ensures that the poor and uninsured are still able to avail of medical and dental services. The organization’s lofty goal is achieved with 1,200 clinics located throughout the country. You can search for free care on their home page or by calling 1-703-647-7427.
Breakdown of dental costs
Depending on the type of dental work you need, the cost of visiting a dentist can vary greatly. Let’s break down typical out-of-pocket dental costs, from a routine visit to expensive surgery:
- Routine dental cleaning costs between $75 to $200 without insurance. With x-rays, this cost can increase to more than $300.
- Chronic periodontitis, gum disease that is more advanced than gingivitis, affects about half of all of the US. adults older than 30 years. Treatment requires scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning procedure that ranges from $ 500 to $4,000, depending on the extent of the damage.
- Dental fillings are necessary when a cavity develops, something that happens to an estimated 92% of adults. Dental fillings cost between $75 and $200, depending on the location of the tooth and the type of material used.
- A root canal and crown is a common procedure needed to repair an infected tooth at the root. The average cost of this procedure ranges from $2,050 to $2,614.
- Tooth extraction costs between $75 to $4,000, depending on whether the tooth is erupted or impacted and whether surgical anesthesia is used. This procedure is necessary for certain damaged or infected teeth.
- The total cost of a dental implant, a surgical procedure that requires an artificial root to anchor a replacement tooth, ranges from $1,750 to $ 8,270 per tooth.
- The average cost of braces is $ 5,500, though it can range from $3,000 to $10,000 depending on whether you choose metal, ceramic, or clear plastic braces.
dental discount cards
Looking for a way to save on dental expenses? No one wants to pay 100% of their dental bills out of pocket. There are many options to help you save on your dental care costs, but which option is best for you?
More and more people are turning to dental discount cards . Regardless of how you currently pay for dental care, a dental discount card is worth considering. Let’s take an in-depth look at how dental discount plans work.
What is a dental discount plan?
Do you know the American Automobile Association? A dental discount plan has the same basic structure. For an annual fee, plan members receive discounts on a number of dental procedures within a large network of participating dentists. The phrase “dental discount plan” is often used interchangeably with the phrase “dental savings plan.”
What procedures are covered?
The specific procedures covered will depend on the type of discount plan purchased and the specific procedures offered by the dentist. Dental discount plans typically allow you to save on a wide variety of procedures. Both minor and major procedures usually have significant discounts.
Unlike most dental insurance, discount dental plans typically cover a variety of cosmetic procedures like teeth whitening and gum contouring.
Discount plans also cover dental problems you had before you purchased the plan. Insurance companies do not usually cover pre-existing problems, such as current cavities or orthodontic needs. With a dental discount plan, everyone is accepted regardless of their current dental health status. You can finally have discounts for your current dental problems.
What discounts are available?
Savings range between 10% and 60%. The exact discount will depend on the type of procedure and the dentist’s usual fees.
With a dental discount plan, the savings are applied instantly at the dentist’s office. You just have to present your membership card during the visit. There is no paperwork to fill out or waiting for refunds.
In addition, dental discount plans can be used as many times a year as desired. Participating dentists will accept your dental discount card for each eligible procedure performed. This is usually in stark contrast to an insurance policy. Annual dental insurance maximums can often limit your coverage, especially for major dental work.
Who accepts dental discount plans?
Dental discount plans are accepted by more than 100,000 dental professionals nationwide. In addition to general dentistry, the network also includes many specialists, such as orthodontists, pediatric dentists, and others.
Before being accepted into the network, all dental professionals must pass an accreditation process. Each member must be duly authorized and qualified. Your current dentist may already be in the network. Your plan provider can help you determine available dentists near you. You can see as many different network providers as you want each year.
Are dental discount plans a type of insurance?
No. Dental savings plans are different from dental insurance. Dental savings plans are often described as an affordable alternative to dental insurance. Unlike dental insurance, dental savings plans have no premiums, deductibles, or copays.
Please note that insurance policy rules prevent you from using both dental insurance and a dental discount plan for the same procedure. A membership discount cannot be applied if insurance coverage is also used. However, treatments can be coordinated by your dentist for maximum savings.
When are discounts available?
Almost instantly. Once you acquire the affiliation, the processing takes about 72 hours. From that moment on, you can start using your card to get discounts. The absence of a significant waiting period means you can get the care you need right away.
Also, the plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can shop for a plan, meet with a dentist, discuss your needs, and figure out how much you’re going to save. If the plan does not meet your needs, your membership fees will be fully reimbursed.
Is a discount dental plan right for me?
If dental care costs keep you from getting the care you need, know that you have options. Although dental insurance can help you save, policies don’t always make financial sense for everyone. A dental discount plan allows you to save on many of the specific procedures you need, without complicated paperwork or long wait times.
Good oral health does not have to involve excessive spending. Regardless of how you currently pay for dental care, consider using a dental discount plan to save big at the dentist’s office.