As of 2016, around 23 percent of Americans had no form of dental insurance. Without insurance, many people find even basic dental work, like cleanings and exams, to be unaffordable. However, even with coverage, the out-of-pocket expenses for treatments might not be feasible within a person’s budget.
A root canal can be as much as $1,500 to $2,000 on average, depending on the tooth. Porcelain crowns can cost $3,000. Even a single filling can carry an expense of $150 to $200 per one to two surfaces.
The high cost of many dental treatments means people with serious conditions might not know what to do if they need treatment. In some cases, they may choose to forgo receiving any care, largely because they can’t afford it.
However, there are options for keeping the costs under control. In fact, you may be able to get free dental work.
How to Get Free Dental Work
There are a variety of resources that may provide free dental work to individuals. However, not everyone qualifies in every case.
For example, some programs focus on those who have low incomes or meet other criteria, like being a military veteran. Others may involve a level of risk.
If you are looking for free dental work, it’s important to check a few options. While you might not be eligible in one program, you may qualify in another. Here are some resources that are worth exploring.
If you have private dental insurance, specific preventative treatments, like cleanings and exams, may be 100% covered by the insurer. However, this varies depending on the insurance provider and the exact plan.
In some cases, Medicaid of CHIP dental plan may cover some treatments fully, but that isn’t always the case. These plans exist on the state-level, so each state controls what is and isn’t covered in full. It is important to note that these plans are incredibly limited for both children and adults, but they do provide basic coverage to those who qualify.
The only way to ensure an aspiring dentist or hygienist has the proper skills to work in the field is to allow them to practice on actual patients. In exchange for allowing a dentist or hygienist in-training to work on you, they lower the cost of treatment.
Typically, the prices are only reduced. However, many colleges and universities use a sliding scale. Low-income households may qualify for no-cost treatments, though this is up to the school itself.
There is a small level of risk of going to a dental school since the person primarily responsible for your care is still training. But, it’s important to note that trained dentists do check their work and monitor their activities, so they are available to intervene if the need arises.
If you are willing to participate in a clinical trial, you might be able to receive free treatments. In most cases, you have to have a highly specific dental, craniofacial, or oral condition to qualify, and being willing to be a research subject.
The National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at times seeks volunteers. You can review their current trials and see if you may be eligible.
In most cases, seeking out a clinical trial isn’t ideal if you suffer from an acute situation, like a broken tooth, or any circumstance where delaying treatment is unwise, like an infection. Those with chronic conditions may benefit, but every clinical trial comes with risk. Often, the course of treatment is unproven, so the results are not guaranteed and could even potentially be harmful. Before you take part, the researchers will disclose all of the known risks of receiving the treatment.
State and Local Health Departments
While health departments don’t provide care, they are very knowledgeable about resources in their areas. Consider contacting your health departments to see if they can refer you to a free dental care provider.
They may also be aware of financial assistance programs that can assist in covering the cost. Some charitable organizations may provide funds to individuals in need of treatment and repayment might not be necessary.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Qualifying veterans may have access to a variety of dental benefits through the VA. In some cases, the coverage is fairly comprehensive, though not every procedure will be free. Others might have access to a dental plan at a lower cost, making coverage more affordable.
However, one benefit veterans who recently served can access does allow for a one-time course of free dental care. To be eligible, veterans must apply within 180 days after they are discharged.
Some community clinics provide dental care either for free or at a reduced price. Typically, income limits apply, but that isn’t always the case. Many of the locations are independently operated, so they may have some flexibility regarding who is eligible for free treatments.
What If You are Not Eligible for Free Dental Work?
Not everyone qualifies to receive free dental work. However, there are options to help make your treatment more affordable.
For example, you can find 0% interest financing options, such as those available through CareCredit. CareCredit is a credit card that only works at eligible dental, medical and veterinary providers. You’ll need to make monthly payments but, if you are able to pay the debt in full within the specified period, you don’t pay any interest.
While financing your dental work may not be ideal, it can provide you with the means to receive important treatments without incurring interest. Plus, since you can make payments over time, sometimes as long as 24 months, it can make the cost easier to handle.
Ultimately, all of the options above are worth exploring if you need free dental care. Even if you don’t qualify for no-cost treatment, you may find a cheaper alternative to paying the prices at a regular dental office. In some cases, the lower prices can make dental care reasonably affordable, so consider that approach as well when you need treatment.
Do you know of another way to get free dental work? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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