No Dental Health Insurance? Get Free, Low-Cost Care
While approximately 45 million Americans do not have health insurance, about 2.5 times that number do not have dental health insurance. If you are among the latter group, you may be eligible for free or low-cost dental care.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), a part of the National Institutes of Health, more than 131 million children and adults in the United States do not have dental health insurance. Fortunately, some of these individuals may qualify for one or more of several different programs offered by both public and private entities.
For example, although the NIDCR does not provide financial assistance for people who need dental care, they do sometimes seek volunteers who have specific dental, oral, or craniofacial conditions to participate in clinical trials. These are federally funded studies in which participants typically receive free or low-cost dental treatment for the particular condition being studied. A list of NIDCR clinical trials can be accessed through the NIDCR website.
Dental schools are another source of low-cost dental care for people who do not have dental health insurance. These teaching facilities usually have clinics where dental students can get hands-on experience by treating patients. Going to a dentist is a stressful experience for many people, but be assured that licensed dentists supervise the students while they work. See a list of dental schools in the United States to determine if there is one near you. You can also call your state dental society for more information.
Dentistry from the Heart is a national nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to provide much-needed dental care for people who do not dental health insurance or who are underinsured. The organization was founded in 2001 by Dr. Vincent Monticciolo, a dentist in New Port Richey, Florida. Every year, dozens of dental offices and clinics across the country host a day of free dental care. Since 2001, Dentistry from the Heart participants have donated $2.5 million worth of dental care and helped more than 10,000 people. Twenty-nine states had free dental days in 2008. A list of free dental events can be seen on the Dentistry from the Heart website.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administers three federally funded programs. Medicare is a health insurance program for people age 65 years and older or for people with specific disabilities. Medicaid is a state-run program that provides medical benefits to eligible individuals and families. Medicare does not cover most dental care, while Medicaid offers more, although they are limited in many cases. A program called SCHIP (State Children Health Insurance Program) provides dental coverage to children up to age 19 who do not have health insurance. Information about all of these programs can be accessed at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Although these dental care programs will not cover everyone who does not have dental health insurance, they are viable options for many who may desperately need dental treatment. Another option is the National Association of Free Clinics. This nonprofit’s website lists more than 400 free clinics across the United States, some of which offer dental services.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Dentistry from the Heart
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research