Free Dental Services For Low Income Families - Good oral hygiene is vital for both physical health and self-esteem. However, especially in the absence of insurance, dental care can seem prohibitively expensive. There are many resources available to make oral health accessible to people with limited resources.
Free or low-cost dental care is widely available. In most cases, it only takes a little guidance to find a good match for your needs.
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The best place to start to find free, high-quality dental care is usually your state dental association. A map of state initiatives and their websites is available on the American Dental Association's Dental Health Action page. The Mission of Mercy program, in particular, is to provide free clinics with volunteer dentists. Local programs may also be available through your state dental association's website.
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Free health clinics and other independent organizations also offer free or low-cost dental care. FreeDental.org offers a searchable database by state or zip code for free dental care services in your area. The National Association of Free Clinics also provides listings of free clinics on its website, including contact information for programs that may not have a web presence. Not all free clinics offer dental services, but even those that don't can provide a referral or contact information for a service in the area that does.
Community health centers often offer free or low-cost oral care services. These federally funded centers are located in rural and urban areas throughout the United States. Use the US Department of Health and Human Services' Find a Health Center page to locate a community health center near you.
Your local United Way chapter tracks social services available in your community. If there are free or low-cost dental services programs, they can direct you to them. You can find your local chapter on the United Way website or by calling 2-1-1 or visiting 211.org.
Several non-profit organizations and foundations offer free dental services to children, the elderly, people with special needs, or other special groups.
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Donated Dental Services (DDS) is a program that provides oral care to people with permanent disabilities or the elderly. Patients visit a volunteer dentist in a dental office. Every state has some type of DDS program, usually organized through the state dental association. Dental Lifeline Network maintains a state-by-state database of free dental service options.
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) also sponsors the Restore Smile program dedicated to providing free dental services to people with oral needs due to a domestic violence situation. Applications and additional information are available on the program website.
Veterans can get free dental work or discounted services through the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Eligibility requirements for this program must be met. Otherwise, the VA has its own dental insurance program that offers comprehensive coverage at low prices. There is also an opportunity to get a one-time free dental care program if you are a veteran who has recently served 90 days or more and you apply within 180 days of your discharge.
If none of the programs listed meet your needs, don't give up. Even in places without widely available dental services, there are other organizations that offer low-cost oral health options.
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Colleges and universities often offer clinics where qualified students provide low-cost treatments. Both four-year universities and community colleges offer dentistry and dental hygienist programs, and many of these programs offer low-cost dental services so their students can gain hands-on experience. Each school has different requirements and schedules. For a list of accredited colleges and universities and their websites, see the ADA website for participating dental schools and the ADHA website for dental hygiene programs.
Many dental clinics have free or low-cost options available. Talk to local dentists and explain your situation. Ask if services can be provided at a reduced cost or if they are willing to perform pro bono dental work. Be patient, as it may take several calls to find a dentist willing to work for a reduced price, but there are several such options available.
Check with your local government health and human services office. They may have programs or lists of dentists that will provide you with the care you need. HHS may also refer you to charities, churches, and other organizations in your community that provide dental services or help with medical expenses. Charities can also be found in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet.
If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may get some of your dental services covered by Medicaid. Treatment options vary by state, and while most cover emergency services, less than 50% of states offer a full set of dental services under Medicaid for adults. Most states will cover comprehensive dental care for people under 21. Medicare has very limited coverage options for dental care, but it will cover it if it's related to a medical procedure, such as tooth extractions that are necessary for jaw surgery or radiation treatments.
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If you have a specific dental condition, you can sometimes find clinical trials that require participants to try new treatments, medications, and surgical interventions. These surveys are used to conduct further research and offer participants free or low-cost services in exchange for volunteering. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research lists clinical trials seeking volunteers on the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
Another option if you don't have dental insurance is to purchase a discount dental plan. These are not insurance plans, but instead give you access to services at a reduced cost in exchange for a monthly membership fee. You can locate providers of these membership plans through DentalPlans.com and Aflac.
There are many opportunities to find free dental work to provide oral care. Finding a place where you can get your teeth fixed for free can take persistence, but good dental care is vital to your lifelong health. Volunteer dentist Dr. Shazia Malik examines the mouth of new patient Roosevelt Jones Thursday at Clearwater Community Dental Clinic. Low-income adult patients are not billed for services. The non-profit organization is only asking for one donation. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
The pain made it difficult to eat or sleep or concentrate on work. But Lee, 54, didn't have dental insurance. His job as a delivery truck driver only offered a supplemental policy that was too expensive. I was afraid I would need a root canal, which I knew could cost hundreds of dollars even with insurance.
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The Pinellas County Health Department referred Lee to a free dental clinic in Clearwater, a few blocks from her home, where a volunteer dentist found the cause of her problem and replaced two fillings for the cost of a donation.
"I had nowhere to go. I had no affordable health care. I went into Walgreens to see what they could do and I walked out with my tooth still killing me because they wanted $119 just to see me," said Lee, one of 27 percent of American adults 20 to 64 years that, according to Kaiser. Family Foundation, living with untreated dental problems.
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Most adults who do not have dental insurance end up in emergency rooms for dental or gum problems. The number of emergency room patients with dental-related problems rose from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010 and continues to rise, according to the American Dental Association. The organization says up to 1.65 million emergency room visits a year could be better managed in dental clinics.
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Although the Affordable Care Act and low-income insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid have improved Americans' access to health care, barriers to dental care for adults remain.
Local health departments, including those in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, offer some low-income dental plans to residents who qualify. And children's dental care is covered almost entirely through Medicaid, the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, and the ACA.
But Florida's Medicaid plans for adults offer dental-related benefits only to participants who need emergency services to relieve pain or infection or procedures related to dentures, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.
At Clearwater Community Dental Clinic, dentists and hygienists convinced Charles Lee to return for several follow-up appointments, which helped him get his dental care back on track. And Lee didn't have to worry about what he was paying for the ongoing service.
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"I was really impressed with what they did," he said. "The fact that a dentist would volunteer his time to help someone like me when he could make money, that really touched me."
"A lot of our patients come from underprivileged areas of Clearwater. When they get out of the hugging chair. Those are the people who really appreciate it," said Dr. George Kostakis, who has his own dental office in Palm. Port since 1989. He volunteers at the Community Dental Clinic and is on the board of directors of the non-profit organization.
The number of untreated dental cases in adults is highest among adults living in or
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