Have you been holding off on getting dental care due to a lack of funds? Maybe you are faced with a dental emergency but lack the insurance or cash to be able to pay out of pocket to get treatment.
Finding free dental services is difficult, especially as you grow older. When you have children, they can be covered under a CHIP program. These programs and Medicaid generally cover children under 21 for many services. However, as people age, the number of resources available for free dental services changes. So, researching the available options is critical at any age. Only 45 percent of Americans have access to dental insurance. While free dentist offices are hard to find, several free emergency dental care options are available and can provide you with the help you need.
State Medicaid and CHIP Programs
All states must provide dental services to children covered by Medicaid. In some cases, those benefits will extend to adults. In most states, limited free emergency dental services are available to adults over age 21. In others, comprehensive services are available. A CHIP program run by your state may help minors whose parents earn too much for them to qualify for Medicaid.
If you are in a lot of pain or have an oral infection, you should consider visiting a nearby emergency room. While emergency rooms are not ideal sources of free dental care, they can provide you with prescriptions for antibiotics to help you deal with an infection. They may also provide you with pain medication to help you get through the next few days. In other words, they will be able to treat your symptoms but not the dental problem. If the emergency room has a dentist available, they may perform an extraction but this is rarely the case; most are not equipped to provide dental services. This means that if you do not follow up with appropriate dental care, you are likely to wind up in the emergency room again before too long. You probably will not get free dental emergency care in an emergency room; rather, it can be very expensive. Even so, it is a better option than leaving an infection untreated. If you have multiple emergency rooms to choose from, look for one that is connected to a community dental clinic. This allows you to make an appointment with the dental clinic before leaving the emergency room. Community dental clinics tend to be understaffed, but you may be able to get in faster if the emergency room refers you.
A Community Dental Clinic
While you may not be able to find free dentist offices, you can find community dental clinics in every state. Note that it may be necessary to travel to get to free dental care and clinics if you live in a rural area since many are in cities. Check with a public hospital for information on free dental care and clinics in your area. Another option is to check the website of the American Dental Association, which provides a page that lists low-cost dental care providers in each state.
Dental School Clinics
If your dental health problems are extensive, dental school clinics can be a great option for local free dental care. These clinics provide dental students with on-the-job experience so that they can be licensed. You may not always be able to get free care from a dental school clinic, but it is usually affordable. Many of them charge based on a sliding scale, which means that you pay only what you are able to afford. The only drawback is that as a part of a school, you will be treated by students. These students will need to have their work checked by a licensed dentist. But it may also mean that treatment may take longer than it would at a regular dentist’s office.
There are various organizations that may assist you to find low-cost or free emergency dental care, including United Way and Dentistry From the Heart. In addition, you can check the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) website. The HRSA is a resource for people without insurance who need local free dental and medical assistance. The Mission of Mercy is a charity that can provide you with free dental emergency care if you live in one of four states. Care is available in Arizona and Texas as well as in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) sometimes needs volunteers for dental conditions that they are studying. They will often provide low-cost or free dental treatment for participants. Visit the NIDCR website to find out about clinical trials near you and to learn whether any of them might meet your needs. You should note that the type of care that you receive will usually be limited to the scope of the study. Make sure that a clinical trial is going to provide the care that you need.
Enroll in Dental Discount Plan
A dental discount plan can provide you with a discount of up to 60% of the cost for dental care. Of course, you will need to have your dental care provided by a dentist who accepts these plans.
Get a Part-Time Job That Provides Dental Insurance
Employers often reserve access to dental insurance benefits for full-time employees; however, some do provide them to part-time workers. As long as you meet the minimum number of hours that you need to work each month, you can get dental insurance.
With so many people who are now veterans, there are resources for them as well. You should check to see if you can get free dental examinations through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA has a schedule of what services are covered compared with injuries and service. Evaluation of your dental issue must be done to determine if you are eligible. Services may be available through both inpatient and outpatient programs.
Sliding Scale Clinics
Clinics that take your income into account when deciding the fee you pay are considered sliding scale clinics. This is important because sometimes, if your income is low enough, you can qualify for free dental services, including free dental exams. You must be careful though. Sometimes these clinics are linked to a medical office and require that you make that office your primary care physician. This can be frustrating when you already have an established doctor, but the only way to get into the dental clinic is to change doctors. Some of these clinics also have free emergency dental services for things that happen outside of normal business hours.
Donated Dental Services (DDS)
DDS is a network of dentists and labs across the country through the Dental Lifeline Network that helps mainly with those who are disabled and the elderly. It helps people who do not qualify for state aid but still cannot afford the dental services they need. Unfortunately, the popularity of this program means that sometimes they are not taking applications, so you are forced to wait. But, make sure you keep checking back for an opening in accepting applications. This can be a precious resource. There is even a program offered through Donated Orthodontic Services (DOS) that provides orthodontic treatment to low-income children. This is important because many state programs and Medicaid do not cover orthodontic treatment. Some children have issues that cannot be fixed with orthodontics.
Free Dental Clinics
Some free dental clinics are linked up with hospitals. So, if you find you need free emergency dental services, you may find yourself in the local emergency room. However, they can’t provide things like free dental exams. If the hospital has a relationship with a free dental clinic they can refer you over and you can get on the road to dental health.
The Internet is undoubtedly a crucial component of researching free dental care in your area. However, you need to be careful. You should not be forced to sign up for a website to get free information. Steer away from these websites and focus on reputable companies, like AARP or The United Way.
Dental Discount Plans
Many companies, like Aetna, offer discounted dental plans. While it will not get your services for free, it can drastically reduce the fees for some of the basic dental services that are needed. For instance, the fee for a complete set of x-rays may be cut in half. You also need to make sure you call around for a dentist who participates in the discount plan. When you find a dentist that participates in one discount program, they will probably participate in others. Therefore, you should shop around for the most affordable discount program with the best discounts. Additionally, unlike insurance, discount programs are unlimited. Insurance plans cap their reimbursement for services usually around $1000. Conversely, discount programs will continue offering the discounted prices as many times as you need. So, if you have 12 cavities, you can get the discount on all 12, but insurance may only pay for a few before you are out of coverage. Some discounted plans are available on a monthly fee, while others require payment for a year up front (renewing every year).
The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics
The association can help you search for a local clinic. It also provides a wealth of other information regarding medical, dental, pharmacy, behavioral health, and vision services to low-income people. The clinics connected with the association generally reserve their services for people who are underinsured, uninsured or have limited access to these resources.