If you don’t have insurance or enough money to fix your teeth, dental financial assistance programs may be a good option for you. In this article, we’ll explain how you can get free dental help and take a tour of the dental assistance programs you can turn to.
We must start from the following premises: the federal government does NOT grant subsidies to individuals for personal use. On the other hand, charitable organizations have limited funds and strict qualification criteria. And finally, free services are really scarce and in the end there are always costs that have to be borne by the patient.
Adults who do not have enough money or insurance to cover them will have serious difficulties in carrying out the dental treatments they require. That is why in this article we have emphasized how to find dentists for low-income people.
- Free Dental Help: Alternatives for Uninsured Adults
- Free Dental Help: Dental Assistance Programs
- Dental grants for individuals
Free Dental Help: Alternatives for Uninsured Adults
In general, most uninsured adults will have to turn to private companies to help pay for dental work. Most public and charitable options for financial assistance (free care and grants) help very few people.
Financing is one of the options that adults without resources should turn to when they need to fix their damaged, chipped or broken teeth, before the problems get worse.
If you get a loan, the institution deposits the funds directly into your checking account. In some cases, dentists are likely to offer services for virtually free or at lower prices when they realize a person has limited ability to pay.
Always remember to look for the best deal, not just limiting yourself to doctors who offer “payment plans” or “in-house financing.” The plans offered by these clinics are not usually their own, they are usually contracted with a third company.
Reversing the process gives you more control. Therefore, look for financing first and then the treating doctor.
New coverage (dental insurance with no waiting periods)
The dental insurance format with no waiting periods will likely help make oral care more affordable for adults without current coverage. However, you should read the fine print before you sign up so you won’t be surprised by “hidden costs” later on.
Plans without waiting periods often include provisions that limit their use during the first few periods of the policy.
- Graduated benefits limit amounts paid for major services
- Extractions of missing teeth means the plan will never cover replacement
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and Dental Maintenance Organization (DMO) plans include in-network negotiated rates that immediately save members money. When performing a detailed analysis of the benefit statement, several advantages are clearly perceived.
Free Dental Help: Dental Assistance Programs
Many people without insurance and without economic resources seek free dental services. However, there are many practical limitations to this possible assistance.
Professionals often offer a single service at no charge or a full treatment at a reduced cost. The patient must pay the rest, which means that she needs the financing or insurance, as stated above, to fix her decayed or broken teeth.
Breaking down services by category can help you discover ways to get free care for some treatments. Keep in mind that getting a procedure at no cost does not mean that everything will be covered by the office.
Finding a dentist who offers free consultations or exams is easy. Just like a local auto repair shop that offers a multi-point inspection at no cost. They expect to find all kinds of problems that you will need to fix. It is a marketing tool.
Consultations allow for a review of your health history and an oral exam for cavities, gum disease, cracked teeth and other problems. Then, present a treatment plan together with a budget to carry out the work.
Finding a nearby dental office that offers free cleanings is usually easy, too. As well as being a common marketing tactic, hygiene students often need to hone their craft with local residents in need of regular prophylaxis.
- Dentists frequently send out mailings to homes in their service area advertising free cleanings to bring new patients into the office. Look in your mailbox or visit online coupon sites to find similar deals.
- Dental hygiene schools train students by offering to perform prophylaxis at great discounts. The American Dental Hygiene Association maintains a web-based database of programs worth investigating.
People with limited resources can also seek free emergency dental care. Consider one of these three options when severe pain requires immediate treatment.
- Medicaid covers emergency dental work for low-income households across the country (see section below)
- Private health insurance pays for urgent oral care resulting from accidental injuries, and treatments stemming from a covered illness such as cancer
- Hospital charity programs help the uninsured pay for emergency treatment after an accident to relieve pain or clear an infection.
Free dental implant programs, which are often advertised, do not cover the entire cost of tooth replacement. Don’t be fooled by clinics, schools, or websites that promote these free jobs. Professionals and students can donate a portion of their time and services.
In reality, patients must bear significant costs. For example:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan measures the depth, width, and density of the bones
- Extractions of the remaining teeth that need to be replaced
- Oral surgery for bone grafting and placement of the body
- Third party labs that make temporary crowns for the healing phase
- Outside labs create permanent abutments, bridges and dentures
Medicaid is the leading source of free dental insurance for low-income adults. The federally and state-funded program covers emergency treatment nationwide.
Many Medicaid recipients do not contribute to premium costs and are not responsible for copays or coinsurance when they use a dentist.
Each state determines income eligibility based on the percentage of the federal poverty level for households, and the types of non-emergency services they cover.
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On the other hand, low-income parents who earn an amount of money that does not qualify them for Medicaid can purchase private health insurance through the state exchange, which must include dental coverage for children. The government provides subsidies to make the plan affordable.
Free dental discount cards are a good example of deceptive promotion. Families sign up to download or have a card mailed to their home (at no cost).
However, although they are offered as “free”, you will have to pay a monthly fee to activate the discount card and use it at a dentist in the promotion. On the other hand, on a positive note, many realize significant savings without a waiting period.
Discount cards take advantage of the bargaining power of the large organization behind them to lower prices. In return, the company promises a greater flow of patients to the consultation. Each subscribed member benefits from trading fees, although you must pay a fee to use the card.
Searching for free dental help at clinics can be a frustrating experience. Many promotions promise to take you to a specialized page, only to bombard you with advertisements and links to sites you have already visited.
We recommend you to be very clear about your ideas. It is likely that you will not find a clinic that offers all the necessary services for free. If you don’t have insurance and you don’t have money, you may have to endure a long wait.
Also, use trusted information whenever possible.
NeedyMeds is a national nonprofit organization that connects people with programs to help them pay for their medications and other health-related costs. Their website includes a database of 4,096 clinics that offer reduced-price dental care using a sliding scale based on income.
Use the NeedyMeds database to find a clinic in your local area.
Try not to spend too much time chasing down local dental schools that claim to do free work. Many online pages have headlines that suggest these promotions are real. However, when you follow the links, you realize that most clinics charge patients. Perhaps they have some consideration for your financial situation, just that.
Dental schools recruit residents for their students to practice their trade under the supervision of professors. However, each university clinic determines the rates, discounts, and eligibility criteria for any job.
The American Association for Dental Education publishes a list of accredited programs state by state. You can check this list to find a clinic near you. Below are three examples that illustrate the various ways each school interacts with the public.
The University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Dentistry offers the following free services:
The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry has a student-run clinic that offers free treatment only on Wednesday nights. Each week, UCSF students are able to treat 18 to 20 patients from a city with a population of 884,000 people.
Tufts School of Dentistry in Boston, Massachusetts, publishes a price list to show the potential savings of receiving treatment from a student, rather than a faculty member. Look at the comparison below:
|Root canal (D3320)||$464||$1,224|
Many charitable and non-profit organizations may operate through free dental clinics. Keep in mind that these entities offer free dental help, however they depend on the generosity of their donors. Therefore, your ability to support may be limited to a very small number of people. Here are two options:
- Dentistry from the Heart– Provides treatment during specialty fairs at no charge
- Charitable Smiles– Helps Indiana residents who cannot afford treatment get the care they need by connecting patients with participating dentists who volunteer their time.
Dental grants for individuals
The federal government awards grants to universities, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations, not individuals. Therefore, you will have to look very hard if you need free dental help.
Keep in mind that you may be more likely to get some kind of financial help for your dental treatment in some cases. For example, if you belong to a group of people considered disadvantaged in some way or in a vulnerable situation.
Single mothers looking for dental grants can try to get them from programs that help low-income people. Single parents often live near the poverty level because the household has only one earner. Usually, the mother needs to reduce work hours to supervise her children.
Therefore, single mothers with low incomes often find financial support from the government in other areas, which leaves part of their funds to pay for oral care.
- Medicaid pays for dental treatment in much of the country, as we discussed in the previous section.
- Housing assistance programs subsidize rent payments
- Food Stamps Lower Grocery Costs
Veterans seeking free dental help can alternatively take advantage of direct government support. In addition, citizens appreciate the sacrifice of the individuals who served in our armed forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs provides low-cost oral care for a select group of former service members with different kinds of benefits:
- Service-connected disability
- former prisoner of war
- Service-connected aggravated medical condition
- Complication of medical problem currently under treatment
- Participated in vocational rehabilitation
- Homeless and receiving benefits
- Nonprofit organizations often help veterans with their oral care needs. Donors can support these entities, and licensed professionals can offer pro bono services.
- Everybody for Veterans (E4V) supports servicemen and women (and their spouses) who have returned from combat zones and are struggling financially
Disabled adults and their guardians who are seeking free dental help,
they can sometimes find other help in the form of government support. Meanwhile, charities often lend a helping hand to people with special needs.
- Social Security Disability beneficiaries qualify for two potential health programs that could lower oral care costs.
- Medicaid pays for some dental work (see previous section) and covers all SSI recipients, and SSDI recipients for the first two years.
- Medicare doesn’t pay for dentistry (unless you’re enrolled in an Advantage Plan – Part C) and covers people with SSDI after two years.
- Charitable organizations offer dental work support to people with disabilities because they want to serve others in need.
- Dental Lifeline Network is a national nonprofit organization that provides access to treatment and education to people who cannot afford it and are permanently disabled or elderly (65 and older) or medically frail.
Uninsured seniors seeking free dental help can take advantage of a government assistance program through a nursing home. Seniors certified by their state can benefit from Programs of Comprehensive Care for the Elderly (PACE).
PACE helps senior citizens live in the safety of their community instead of a nursing home. Eligible Medicare and Medicaid recipients can receive these support services at no additional cost.
Here are some of the services PACE covers:
- Adult supervision during the day
- Emergency services
- Prescription drugs
Recovering addicts seeking free dental help
Have fewer alternatives for financial assistance. Methamphetamine damaged mouth and other oral ailments caused by drug use is a health problem that needs to be addressed. However, organizations, clinics, doctors, and students have less sympathy for people with self-inflicted illnesses such as drug use.
Increased awareness of the opioid epidemic could likely bring changes in the future.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a government agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This agency publishes a list of grant awards that allows recovering addicts to identify programs locations that received awards. However, most of this funding goes to substance abuse prevention and treatment.
- Regional charities are beginning to provide oral care support to former drug users. For example, Wally’s War Against Addiction restores smiles to affected people in the Concord, New Hampshire area.