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How to Get Affordable (and Free) Dental Care

Affordable Dental Care

Affordable dentistry is a goal for most people. If you have insurance, this isn’t a problem. But, around the world, 85 to 90% of the population does not have insurance to cover the cost of dental work.

how to get affordable dental care

Before you get into the need for expensive and costly treatments, we recommend you visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups. A minor cavity or chip costs much less to fix than a deep cavity or broken tooth. Plus, routine maintenance is far less expensive than trying to find affordable emergency dental care. In fact, we don’t think that exists.

In order to find affordable dental care without insurance and still have good service at a reasonable cost, you need to be creative and open to your needs. It’s not impossible to find affordable or free care, just more challenging.

There are several ways to go about this. First, check out some dental insurance plans. There are many affordable dental plans to choose from and if you expect high costs in the future, this is the most reasonable way to get your dental work. Cost compare the various plans, especially if you need orthodontics. Your dentist will give you advice on which plan will work best for you and your anticipated needs.

You also need to work with your dentist. This is the most likely way to find affordable dental services. A dentist has minimum costs to meet, and they know they get extra from insurances. So, they are able to cut some people a price break and many offer dental financing. In our opinion, financing is the best option for people who can afford dental work, but not all at once. The higher you go on the expertise level, the more options for financing you will find. This is the best way to get affordable cosmetic dentistry and dental surgery.

Most good, cheap dentists will offer affordable dental cleanings. My own dentist offers cleaning for $20 every six months for people who do not have insurance.

A good consistent history with a dentist is the key factor for finding affordable treatments. If you don’t already have a rapport with a dentist, start one. Be frank and honest about your goals and needs. Here’s the best part: When you have an established relationship, your dentist will help you.

Take for example not having insurance, but being able to pay normally for a couple of visits. Suddenly, you can’t pay. Your dentist now knows you take care of your teeth and are a respectable person. The chances you will get a break will be high.

Or, try this: a friend of mine faithfully took her children to the dentist and used her insurance to pay. Due to cutbacks, she lost her job and got another without dental insurance. Soon after, one of her girls needed braces. Her dentist not only cut the price in half but allowed her to pay for the braces in installments, which she could afford. And her dentist gave free cleanings to the other children.  That’s the power of an established relationship.

Discount Dentistry 

When insurance is not an option, there are dental discount plans that offer help with dental costs. These plans are not insurance. Some of them are a network of providers that agree to accept lower payments for the guarantee of work. You save money by the dentist offering lower prices. Most of these plans have a small monthly fee, such as DentalPlans.com. We have a great article on this, just click the link. The Carefree Dental Plan is another option.

dentalplans.com

Other plans are more like savings accounts. You pay a small fee each month and then the plan holder pays the bills. We don’t recommend you use companies that offer this service unless it is well verified and your dentist approves. There have been many scams over the years and many people have lost money.

On the other side of savings account route, larger dental providers will do this for you. One of the larger conglomerations near me offers both financing and dental savings accounts. Generally, if a dentist offers the savings plan through their own facility, it is safer.

Most of these plans you can use immediately, unlike insurances that can make you wait up to 2 years before fully becoming active.

Free or Low-Cost Dental Care

We want to start off by saying consistent, free dental care is a myth. Even for the lowest income families, the time frames for free care is limited, as are the procedures. What we will cover are short-term or one time use free services.

There are many free dental care programs for the poor all over the world. They are designed to help people in times of need in order to keep long-term problems from happening. In most larger cities, affordable dental clinics for low-income families are run by state and federal programs. They have strict standards for helping low-income families with dental concerns.

You will need to check with local agencies to know what services are available. Generally, there are limits on income and family size. There are firm standards on who qualifies for free dental care.

Most dental facilities will offer free dental checks in order to know what services are needed. They are then able to offer affordable dental extractions and affordable dental fillings, but rarely more than that. Most of the free dental clinics will not do work beyond this level. Cosmetic dentistry and braces are often banned services because of the extra costs.

There are a few groups that have an easier time with gaining free services. Veterans can get free dental care through the Veteran’s Administration (VA), however, waiting times tend to be long. Many dentists offer large discounts to active and retired military.

low cost dental care for veterans

Various government programs offer free dental care for kids. The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is one of the top ones and many families qualify for the program. Even if the adults have insurance, kids can be covered if the insurance is not extended to them. Many countries have similar programs.

The elderly can have free dental care through Medicare. Free is a misnomer because there is no charge to the person, but a large charge to the government. Check with your local government to know if you qualify. Many dentists will also be able to check for you as well. Medicaid also offers free dental care for the disabled, in most cases.

As strange as it sounds, many cancer patients qualify for free dental care. Part of the treatment program in many facilities is dental care. Radiation and chemotherapy do damage to the whole body. The teeth are very sensitive. Preventing problems and catching new problems early is far less expensive and more conducive to patient recovery. From an insurance standpoint, it is a cost-saving measure.

If you normally visit a dentist, many will make special considerations for newly unemployed people. The free dental care for the unemployed is a choice undertaken by most dentists to help people stay on track with their dental care and prevent future problems. For example, my clinic has a poster on the wall and a free handout concerning this topic. My dentist offers 1 free cleaning while unemployed and discounts, financing, and help with government aid for different procedures.

There is a more special class of dentistry that is rarely used. Most hospitals will have free emergency dental services, but only in the most extreme situations. Generally, a hospital will refer a person to a regular dentist for most problems. The only emergency procedures they will cover are life-threatening deformities of the mouth. This often means a broken jaw, shattered (not just broken) teeth, severe bleeding, and severe lacerations to gums and tongue. When these type of injury occurs, there are often more serious injuries to deal with. Cases of chipped and broken teeth, knocked out teeth, minor bleeding, and cuts, and normal dental problems, like cavities, will not be treated by a hospital. There are rare dentists that have emergency hours, but they are only found in the largest cities and are rarely free.

dental school dentist treatment

There are dental colleges and dental hygiene schools that do free dental work. In order for the student dentists to learn their trade, they require practice. Many dental schools will offer free and low-cost dental care in order to attract people for the dental students to practice with. The students are near graduating and under the supervision of trained dentists and their teachers. This is becoming more popular in Asia as more school open.

Using a dental school is a good way to find advanced dental work for low cost. The free and low cost cosmetic dental work by students can include periodontal care, dental implants, dental surgery, and dental fillings. Some schools will even offer free dentures for the poor.

You can also inquire with various dentists in your area about free dental work. Some will work with you, some may not. It never hurts to ask.

There are many countries that offer free dental care for their citizens. We aren’t covering much of that because those people already pay their taxes for free care and don’t need this blog.

Special Considerations

In some special cases, you may or may not be able to find free services. For example, when you become pregnant, dental care may not be free. Many dentists take extra precautions for pregnant women and the need for more specialized equipment may be required. Free dental programs may not be able to handle the extra cost. The free dental care can you get when pregnant may be limited to cleanings.

dental precautions for pregnant patients

Some dentists are also limiting the free services to those who show ‘upstanding’ qualities. One such case is the question of free dental care for recovering drug and alcohol addicts. On one side, these people need help, including dental help, and want to make things right again. However, the dentists see a person who had money to waste on drugs and alcohol, both substances that do great damage to teeth. Why should they help someone who didn’t care about their bodies before when an upstanding citizen needs help? Both sides have valid points and there isn’t an easy answer.

There are certain groups that will not receive free dental care. Diabetics, immigrants, and most adults don’t qualify. Even at 18 years old, you do not qualify for free dental care. Most places will not offer free dental care just because you are without insurance, but will offer lower prices and financing options.

Those who are under the legal age of decision making (18 in the US) will not even be addressed or seen by a dentist without parental permission.

There are a few ways to lower costs. Some special medical and health care cards will confer discounts and free dental care. Caregivers allowances will allow free dental care under special circumstances. Working tax credits will reimburse you for work done, so it is almost like getting free dental care.

Affordable Dental Care Near Me

In the US, there are 1,645 people for every dentist. It seems like a big number, but it only translates to 8 people per day per dentist (taking holidays and weekends into account, plus only 60% of the population sees a dentist). This means the competition to get a patient is high. My dentists say they could use an addition 15-20 patients a month.

dentists per population usa

In Europe, most countries have better statistics than the US. Greece has nearly 1 dentist per 1,000 people. But, Slovakia has only 1 dentist per 2,000 people. In India and Asia, the statistics are harder to pin down. In urban areas, there is about 1 dentist per 500 people. But, some rural areas have never heard of a dentist (these areas also don’t have the internet, so they won’t be reading this).

So, finding an affordable dentist near you should not be too hard. All industrialized countries have affordable dental care. The options for free, low cost, and affordable family dentistry remains the same: ask your dentist and see what they offer.

Affordable Dental Care for Seniors

The good news is many dentists offer discounts for seniors. The bad news is most seniors need extensive work. Unfortunately, even with Medicare, dental care is not free for over 60 year-olds.

With more seniors in the market and more procedures being performed, dentists are looking for new ways to save seniors money and keep them healthy.

Many of the options dentists once turned to are being phased out. For example, root canals are being reduced. The implementation of realistic implants is removing the need for extensive root canals that often fail. Cracks in teeth are being fixed with affordable dental crowns. Even dentures are more affordable.

As we have been saying repeatedly, talk to your dentist. They will recommend the more affordable and pain-free way to fix oral problems. Low-cost dentures for seniors may be a better and more permanent option than visiting the dentists every 2-3 months to fix yet another problem.

Insurances will offer certain plans to seniors, but that may be the most expensive route. Dental discount plans will offer a better range of services at better prices. Financing is also another option.

When deciding on a route, as a senior you must take into account your health. Anesthesia becomes more costly and dangerous with advancing age. Your gums will also take longer to heal and infection more likely to set in. Your teeth are almost as old as you and have been under stress for a long time. Small cracks and chips could become larger with more work. Please weigh your options for long-term affordability and health repercussions.

Affordable Dental Care for College Students

Can students get free dental care? Yes and no. Many schools will have a dentist stop in occasionally to see students who do not have insurance. But, most students are required to have insurance just to attend classes. In addition, the dentist who comes in often will refer the student to outside dentists for any work to be done. Only emergency cases are handled by the university appointment.

We recommend you talk to your healthcare office to determine if a dentist is available and the options for taking care of problems.

Affordable Dental Care for Kids

In many places, for low-income families, kids get free dental. In the US, this is part of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) (although this is changing). There is also the Give Kids A Smile program offered through the American Dental Association in partnership with government agencies. Because of the Affordable Health Care Act in the US, many insurances have reduced and eliminated family plans or simply made them unaffordable.

The European Academy of Paediatric Dentistry in Europe helps guide regulations in Europe and help provide low cost and free dentistry to children. Unfortunately, because of economic collapses, like in Greece, and Brexit, the state of oral health in Europe is declining. Although, at 11% of the population underserved, Europe still has better attendance at the dentist than the US, which sits at barely 60% who actually use the dentist.

We recommend you use your local government to seek out options for aid in local dentistry. Also, talk to a dentist about payment options.

If you liked our article, please share it and use the comment section below to tell us about your experiences or ask any questions. Thanks!

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Jacqueline Aguilera

    I’m a 46-year-old woman who was in a horrible accident when a public toilet in a city exploded on me at my then 9 yr old state softball tournament causing me a disease called RSD. I never received any kind of settlement even though the city maintenance workers stated they were at fault. Long story short since my accident my teeth have broken, chipped, buckled or have had to be pulled. I am in constant pain and can barely chew, drink anything too hot or cold and now barely able to eat. I have maybe 12 teeth left if that. Been to dentists that stated I need implants which I can’t afford because of the fixed income I get to take care of my children which one is special needs. I which I could find a dentist who would care enough to help me out. Before my accident, I worked FT and was going to school to become an RN. My life was stolen. I can’t even bear to look in a mirror any longer. My self-esteem is very low, I feel I don’t even have one any longer. Please Help me so I can eat and have the energy to take care of my children. Thank u for listening.

    • Susan

      Hey Jacqueline!

      This is a very tough situation. We’re very sorry for you and wish you fast healing and returning back to your regular life! We recommend looking into local and Federal government programs that help with dental work. You can usually find this information by calling the office and explaining the situation. We also recommend talking to a dentist at one of the state-sponsored free clinics. They would be able to suggest how to treat what’s going on in your mouth.

      Also, we have an article on affordable and free dental care here.

      But first, you need to raise your self-esteem and thank God that you stayed alive after such a horrible accident. You need to gather all your strengths to move forward despite all the obstacles. You have your children and that’s a reason to fight, move and solve all the problems.

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