How to Find Free or Low-Cost Dental Care

how to find free low-cost dental care frugal dentistry

Did you know that 56 percent of Americans only receive dental treatment for serious issues? An estimated 27 percent actually lack dental insurance coverage entirely!

With the expensive cost of dental care without insurance, it's not a surprise that many struggle to get basic dental care. Unfortunately, avoiding routine care like checkups will cost you more money and pain in the long run.

It might be time for a simple checkup, or you might even need oral surgery. The good news is that there are many places where you can find affordable dental care options. You'll be able to save money and avoid debt while still getting important care.

Read on to learn about your options for getting low-cost dental care.


Check With Your State About Medicaid

If you earn a low income, are pregnant or are disabled, you might qualify for Medicaid. This can help you get dental coverage as well as medical health benefits.

While children generally have coverage, each state has its own rules for whether Medicaid provides dental assistance to adults. However, you'll likely find your state's program will at least take care of serious issues like emergency extractions. 

If you do through Medicaid, you can expect free dental care or pay a reduced fee for routine care like checkups, x-rays, fillings, and cleanings. However, orthodontic procedures and cosmetic dentistry are usually excluded.


Seek Care From Community Clinics

There's a good chance your city has at least one community dental clinic that offers treatments based on a sliding scale that depends on your family size and total income. While some are standalone dental offices, others are inside community health centers that provide other healthcare services.

While these clinics may accept insurance, you won't need it since you can pay yourself and receive a steep discount. You'll need to bring proof of your income, like your most recent pay stub, and possibly proof that you reside in the city. 

You can expect to get at least 25 percent off your dental costs covered if you qualify. You might even find a free dental clinic that covers 100 percent of your costs.


Get Treatment at a Dental School

Another way to get dental care on a budget is to check with dental schools in your state. These schools usually include dental clinics where students can get practice performing dental treatments under the guidance of licensed dental professionals.

While you may have to wait longer to get an appointment and spend more time in the dental chair, you can expect to pay around half the cost you would at a regular dental office. This can be a great option if you need expensive dental care like oral surgery, dental implants, or orthodontics, but basic services also come at a low cost.


Be Aware of Charity Events in Your Community

Charities such as the United Way, Mission of Mercy and Dentistry From the Heart hold community events where they provide dental care to people who do not have insurance or who cannot afford care even with insurance. You may be able to get a basic service like a cleaning or extraction for free.

These events are often held on limited days and on a first come, first serve basis. Since many people seek this charity care, expect to arrive early to have a better chance of getting the care you need.
Local dental offices also sometimes hold events where they offer free or low-cost dental services on a weekend day during the year. Watching your local news or reaching out to local dental offices can be a good way to find out.


Participate in Medical Studies

If you need affordable dental care for a specific oral disease, looking into clinical trials is an option. For example, you might find studies that provide you free or discounted treatment for people who suffer from advanced gum disease.

The federal government usually sponsors these studies, so you can check with the National Institutes of Health to find out what is available in your location. You'll also need to make sure you qualify based on other factors like age as well.


Sign Up for a Dental Discount Plan

If you don't qualify based on a low income but can't get insurance, you might consider a dental discount plan as an alternative.

Organizations offering such plans negotiate a discount with participating providers. This helps you save money on procedures ranging from cleanings to braces.

This plan gives you a discount on routine dental care of typically between 10 percent and 60 percent, though the range varies by provider and type or procedure. The discount usually takes effect immediately, and you don't have to worry about meeting any deductible.


Ask Your Dentist About Financing Options

There's a good chance your dental office has its own financing programs that will allow you to make installments for your dental care. These might be through a third-party provider like CareCredit or be private financing through the dental office directly. For example, an orthodontist in Calgary lists financing options on their website and shows a number of different payment plans, some for less than $130 a month.

You might negotiate a payment plan that will charge you no interest as long as you pay it off within a certain period, such as 18 months. You might also get a longer financing term with a low-interest rate. The financial coordinator at your dental office can help you find a plan right for you.

If you're interested in financing options for Invisalign, visit this page to learn more.


Now You Know Where to Get Low-Cost Dental Care

Maybe you'll decide to look for a free dental clinic or seek financing through your dentist. Either way, you have options now to stop putting off dental care and avoid future dental problems.

It helps to research online to explore all the low-cost dental care options in your community. Checking with your city's health department or state Medicaid office is a good start.

If you're interested in more posts about frugal finance, don't forget to check out our blog.

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