According to the American Dental Association, the main barriers to dental care are not related to the availability of dental care resources. They are financial. That is, the majority of people who are not getting the dental care they need simply cannot afford it. Fortunately, free dental care and low-cost dental care options are often available for those who are unable to cover the costs of the general dentistry work they need.
However, because free dental care services are free, they are often hard to find. They rarely have budgets to advertise. So, you need to know where to look. If you’re putting off the dental care you need because you lack the money to pay for it, here are a few possible alternatives as well as tips about how to find them.
Of course, if you are in need of emergency help, don’t wait. Call your dentist or go to your nearest emergency room immediately.
Free Dental Care: Special Introductory Deals
Sometimes, people skip dental checkups because their teeth feel fine and they need the money for other things. Unfortunately, even when teeth feel great, they still require ongoing professional cleaning and observation. That’s the only sure way to prevent problems from developing.
When they open a new office or practice, dentists’ sometimes offer free dental care such as free or discounted dental exams and dental cleanings. It’s a great way for them to begin building their list of patients. While these types of offers rarely include additional free work, they are a good way to keep your teeth healthy and get to know a local dentist who you may want to see again in the future.
To discover these types of free dental care offers, you can search online for dentists in your area. Also, watch your mailbox for these types of offers, or try calling a new dental office that you notice along your daily commute.
Dental Clinics for Low-Income Families
Many people have access to community dental clinics that serve low-income families in their areas. These types of clinics typically provide services for free or at a reduced rate. While they may not offer free dental care, the payments may be purely voluntary (pay what you can), or the fees may be tied to a sliding fee scale based on your income.
These types of clinics often provide a wide range of health-related services in addition to dental care. Depending on the clinic, they may serve only children, only adults, both children and adults, pregnant women, or low-income adults who are 19 or older and Medicaid eligible.
To find a clinic that will meet your needs, try searching for the phrase “dental clinics for low income families near me” or near your zip code. Be sure to call ahead to learn if they will be able to help you with your specific needs, and, if so, when.
State and Local Resources for Free Dental Care
State and local health departments often know of programs that offer free dental care or care at reduced prices. They will almost certainly be able to help you find a low-income clinic. They may also be able to direct you to financial assistance programs that can help with these types of services.
To learn about the free or low-cost dental resources in your area, search for “oral health resources near me.” You can also call your local, state or regional health department.
Public Schools as Free Dental Care Resources
In many communities, school-aged children receive free dental cleanings and exams. These resources may be limited to only low-income children or only available at a certain time of the year, such as at the beginning of the school year. They may or may not include more in-depth services.
It’s generally easy to find out whether these types of resources are available in your area. Check with your school or keep an eye on your local newspaper or community website announcements area.
Dental Schools and Free Dental Care
Universities with dental schools often make free dental care available to people in their communities. They often provide these opportunities as a way for students to practice the dentistry skills they have learned or as part of a student training exercise or exam.
Highly trained instructors, who are experts in their fields, supervise all the work provided by dental students. This helps ensure the student dentists and dental assistants complete their work to the highest standards. It also means that work takes a bit longer than in a clinic, but free is free after all.
With nearly 70 dental schools in the US – and hardly a state without one – chances are you’re within a day’s drive of free help. Contact your nearest dental school to see whether they have this type of opportunity. Just be prepared to put your name on a waiting list, as these opportunities are typically only available at specific times during the academic year.
Dental Care Accessibility Organizations
In addition to state and local resources and schools, a number of other groups either provide or can help you locate free or low-cost dental care resources in your area. These include the following:
- The United Way
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
- Dentistry from the Heart
- Mission of Mercy
- Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinics
Check out their websites to learn more about their missions and the ways they can help you.
When your circumstances change, we’ll still be here to help
At DentalInsurance.com, we understand that not everyone can afford the costs of dental care. We hope these resources and ideas will help you to get the help you need anyway.
The ideas in this blog should help you find the help you need, whether you’re just skipping checkups to save for other expenses, or you’ve been putting off badly needed dental work due to the lack of funds.
So please, use these ideas to find the help you need. And some day, when you’re in a better financial position to be more proactive, come back and see us. We’ll be happy to help you find a dental insurance plan or dental discount plan that will keep a winning smile on your face for years to come.
[Editor’s Note: This article is part three of a three part series on dental care products. Don’t miss part one and part two!]
Some age-old dental care products attain the status of classics: the toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash, for instance. Others, your dentist has to beg you to use. Dental floss gets top mention there.
And then there are specialty dental care products. Teeth whitening products, products for denture wearers, and those for emergencies all fall into this final, catchall group.
Most folks want white, vibrant teeth. However, expert teeth whitening can be costly. Having your teeth whitened by a dentist is always the safe way to go. For a more affordable choice, home teeth whitening products can help.
Along with whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes, and rinses, home teeth whitening products that use trays or strips, or that you paint-on, are available. Unlike the toothpastes and rinses, trays and strips keep their key ingredients in contact with teeth longer, so the results can be far more dramatic.
- What these products do: Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the key ingredients used in most tooth whitening products. In each case, the peroxide gently bubbles away on tooth surfaces to scrub away the stains.
- Why they’re important: If getting whiter teeth at home is your goal, dentists generally agree using trays or strips delivers the most dazzling results.
- Who should use them: Using these products is generally a personal decision. Be sure to make it, if possible, with the advice of your dentist.
Just like people with real teeth, denture wearers must brush their dentures every day. Brushing dentures should be a daily part of denture care because it helps to remove food debris and stop plaque buildup on the surface. It also prevents dentures from getting permanent stains and helps the wearer’s mouth stay healthy.
Some denture wearers use hand soap or mild dish washing liquid to clean their dentures. Both are acceptable. However, you should avoid using powdered household cleansers as they may be too abrasive. Also, do not use bleach, as this could whiten the pink parts of dentures.
- What denture care products do: Special toothbrushes, toothpastes, and other products are available for cleaning dentures.
- Why they’re important: Denture care products are milder than the products used on natural teeth in order to avoid damage to dentures.
- Who should use them: Only denture wearers or their caregivers should use these products. Do not use denture care products to clean natural teeth.
Emergency Dental Care Products
Those of us who work in the insurance industry love Benjamin Franklin. After all, he was one of the early proponents of insurance. And when he said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” we think he hit the nail right on the head.
There are a number of specialty emergency dental care products available. Several retailers even offer a dental emergency first-aid kit. These generally contain most of what you’re likely to need for a dental emergency when there’s no dentist available.
- What they’re for: Depending on the type of dental emergency you have, several retailers offer dental repair kits with items to relieve tooth pain, hold loose fillings and crowns in place, or transport a knocked out tooth. The contents typically include things like tweezers, cotton, antimicrobial wipes, ibuprofen, and gauze.
- Why they’re important: These items will come in handy in the case of lost fillings, loose caps or crowns, teeth that have become dislodged, or a persistent toothache due to a cavity
- Who should use them: Everyone wants to be prepared, but it’s not always necessary to buy a specialty kit.
If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a dedicated dental emergency first-aid kit, perhaps check your regular first aid kit and see what types of additions would make it work for dental emergencies as well. To get an idea of the types of things to include, read our blog about loose teeth and other dental emergencies.
To learn more about dental care products, read part one and part two of our dental care products overview.