Around a third of the people living in the United States have no form of dental insurance. This is a pretty staggering statistic considering that we are talking about well over 100 million people. And even for the majority that do have dental insurance, there are plenty of dental procedures that are simply not covered by insurance companies. This leaves both the uninsured and underinsured in quite a predicament when it comes to their oral health. Having an unsightly smile can cause a great deal of embarrassment, but dental problems can lead to serious medical conditions that can have far worse consequences. Dental pain caused by an oral condition can be tremendous and literally shut down your way of life until you are able to have it taken care of. Having a serious oral health issue can not only be a sign of other related health problems but can also cause them as well.
Free dental clinics are here to help and they are pretty numerous as well. In fact, I was pretty surprised by just how much support there actually was when first looking into this topic. There is a rather astounding program offered coast to coast by state dental associations and volunteer dentists who hold large two-day free dental care events. There is a program offered by the ADA that provides dental care to children in every single state. And for those that cannot find free care, there are several places to turn that offer reduced or low-cost dental care. These include HRSA health centers, local dentists and dental school clinics. If you have a problem with your teeth that you’ve been putting off getting something done about due to your inability to pay for it, take a moment and look into these options that might provide you with free dental care.
Mission of Mercy Free Dental Care Events
What started as one weekend long event in Virginia in 2000 has become a concept that has spread like wildfire across the country ever since. Mission of Mercy or MOM events are hosted by state dental associations and bring together dentists and volunteers to provide 100% free dental care. Events usually last for two days and are held in rotating locations around each state. Some of the larger states have multiple events each year. MOM events are now offered in 30 states. Events typically see 1,000 to 2,000 dental patients. Dentists and hygienists volunteer their time and conduct cleanings, extractions and restorations. Click on the state nearest you to find out when the next Mission of Mercy Event is being held in your area.
Alaska – Arizona – Arkansas – California – Colorado
Connecticut – Florida – Georgia – Illinois – Indiana
Iowa – Kansas – Louisiana – Maryland – Michigan
Minnesota – Mississippi – Missouri – Nebraska – New Mexico
New York – North Carolina – North Dakota – Oklahoma – Oregon
Pennsylvania – Rhode Island – Texas – Virginia – Wisconsin
If you don’t live in one of the above states, you can choose to travel out-of-state to a MOM Event to receive free dental care. But if you don’t see your state listed here, you should first give your state dental association a call to find out if they are currently planning on bringing a free dental clinic to your area. Many of these state dental associations also support other programs to help folks struggling with dental expenses in their state. It may be possible that they already have a similar program being offered.
Give Kids a Smile
The American Dental Association in partnership with state dental associations provides the Give Kids a Smile Program to increase access to dental care for America’s children. Care is either offered for free or for a small fee depending on your ability to pay and what state you live in. Visit the link above and use the drop down menu of state dental associations to find local contact information for the Give Kids a Smile Program. To find a local dentist enrolled in the program, call 1-877-KIDS-NOW.
HRSA Health Centers
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a network of health centers nationwide through its Health Resources and Services Administration. Services they offer include dental care, medical checkups, treatments, immunizations and prescriptions. You do not have to have health or dental insurance to visit this network of centers and care is always offered at very low-cost based on your ability to pay. To find a HRSA health center, click the link above and enter your address to find the center nearest you.
NeedyMeds Clinic Listing
NeedyMeds is what is called a clearinghouse for patient assistance programs and other resources that help those that cannot afford medical care find access to it. They help patients find free prescriptions through pharmaceutical company programs and provide information to people in need. They maintain a listing of free, low-cost and sliding-scale clinics inside the United States. There are currently around 13,500 clinics listed that provide medical, dental, vision and mental health care. Some clinics listed do not charge and others charge small fees depending on your income. To find out what is available in your area, visit the link above and click on your state on the interactive map or you can also search by ZIP code. I live in a fairly small city and still found four clinics here in my area.
Dental School Clinics
Almost every dental school in the United States runs its own full service dental clinic. These exist to give students completing residencies much-needed experience working with patients while pursuing their degrees. Students in these clinics work one on one with patients and are overseen by faculty and staff dentists who participate in the care provided through each clinic. Simply because this care is provided largely by students does not in any way mean that the care provided here is not as good as what you would receive at a dentist office. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Due to the nature of any type of teaching environment, dental school care is often state of the art involving the latest techniques in dentistry. It also costs far less. But be aware of the fact that dental school clinic hours and availability are dictated by school schedules and that having a complicated procedure accomplished through one of these clinics can take more time than having it done elsewhere.