Is it possible to get free or low cost dental care in the United States? I’m doing some research on this question now, and was very surprised by how much free dental work is available. It’s strange because the US is known for having one of the most expensive private healthcare systems in the world, but apparently there are many avenues that can be pursued to alleviate this problem.
Dental work can be expensive, especially when you need to have a major or complex procedure carried out. And with health-care costs rising dramatically each year, even a basic dental procedure can run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Finding a way to pay for the costs involved is never easy, and you – like many other people – may face serious challenges paying for your procedure. Luckily, there may be a few ways to help reduce or even eliminate the cost of dental work for you.
Tips for Getting Low Cost or Free Dental Work
Here are some of the ways in which you can get dental work at a more affordable or no cost:
Dental insurance plans will cover preventative (100%), basic (80%), and major (50%) procedures and provide the surest way to lower cost of treatment. So if you can, buy dental insurance. Make sure you compare various plans available to you – whether it is plans from your state’s health insurance marketplace, or Medicare advantage plans, preferred-provider-organization plans, or dental health maintenance organization (DHMO) plans – to ensure you get the best possible coverage at a price you can afford. Consider deductibles, co-pays, monthly charges, and limits of various plans, and choose the one that best suits your individual situation.
Federal and State Funded Insurance Programs
Both federal and state governments provide programs designed to help low-income and uninsured individuals receive the care they need. These programs include: Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). Medicaid will cover the entire cost of: dental braces, tooth restoration, filings, and routine checkups and cleanings. CHIP provides low-cost insurance to children whose parents don’t qualify for Medicaid.
Discount Dental Plans
Consider joining a dental plan to save on treatment costs. With a membership-based plan, you’ll be required to pay a monthly or yearly fee to receive considerable discounts on treatments. Also, keep searching for online coupons and deals on dental care services.
A number of companies offer financing for dental work. A good example is Care Credit. These companies allow you to receive treatment and make affordable monthly payments. But you may need to have a good credit score in order to qualify for the loan.
Consider choosing a cheaper alternative to the procedure you’re looking for. For example, if you cannot afford cost of dental implants, you could get bridges or partial dentures (which cost less).
If you don’t have dental insurance or your policy won’t pay for a particular procedure, carrying out comparison shopping could help you lower the costs. Get quote from several dental clinics in your area and be sure to ask for a comprehensive breakdown of the estimated total cost. While at it, try to avoid those well-established practices that are known to charge premium rates. Choose newer practices that are trying to build clientele and compare rates to find the lowest provider.
Also, many dentists provide services specifically designed for patients who don’t have insurance. These clinics typically operate on a sliding scale, which means they’ll quote you a fee depending on your income. If you don’t find such a dentist, look for a free medical clinic.
The cost of dental work can vary greatly depending on location. If you live in a large city, chances are the cost of various treatments is prohibitive. You could get low cost treatment by traveling to a rural area near you (unless you’re in a dental plan that restricts you to a network of specific clinics). Dentists in smaller towns will definitely quote you lower prices.
Schools of Dentistry
Schools of dentistry, like the Indiana University School of Dentistry , offer free or low cost dental care. These services are designed to provide students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience by performing dental procedures under the supervision of their lecturers. The treatment offered by schools of dentistry is of high quality, since experienced dentists (supervisors) are always on hand to ensure everything goes smoothly. So you don’t have to worry about anything going wrong.
Participate In Medical Studies
Many research institutes and universities run clinical trials and studies of specific dental conditions. From time to time, these organizations may require volunteers to act as “guinea pigs” in exchange for free treatment. The free treatment offered is usually in the field being studied. Check The NationalInstituteofDentalandCraniofacialResearch website and other resources online to see if there’s any clinical trial in your area that could help you get free or low cost treatment.
Some dental societies offer free or low-cost treatment designed for specific groups, such as low income individuals, single parents, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, or children. The free clinics are usually run during planned events, and you should check with your local dental association to see if there’s any such event in your area. The ADA lists all dental associations in its online directory, so be sure to check their website.
Charitable Societies/Not-For-Profit Organizations
There many charitable organizations, which can be accessed from every US state, that directly offer free or low cost dental treatments or connect patients with organizations or facilities that provide discounted services. They include organizations and programs like: United Way, Mission of Mercy, Kool Smiles, Dentistry From The Heart (DFTH), Dental Lifeline Network, Smiles Change Lives, and more. Check both online and off-line to see if there are any not-for-profit organizations that could help you get free or low cost dental care.
Engaging in some dental tourism can be a great way to get low cost treatment. You can get dental work done in some developing countries for a fraction of what you would pay in the US or other developed country. The savings can be particularly impressive if you’re going for a major procedure. But make sure you get quality treatment by researching the reputation and experience of the dentist you intend to visit.
Consider a Fundraising Campaign
If you try all of the options above and find that they are not available to you, or they don’t make your dental procedure affordable enough, then consider running a fundraising campaign for medical expenses. You could start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money from your friends, colleagues and family members. This fundraiser can be something like: a medical fundraising walk, a hospital breakfast, a charity auction, sale of coupons, competition, etc. The ideas here are endless. Alternatively, you could go online and use crowdfunding sites, such as GoFundMe.com or Indiegogo.com to raise money for your dental work. Try to make it a good cause that your friends and loved ones would want to support you. But don’t beg or pressure people to give you money.