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Many dental services are expensive, so many Americans tend to neglect treatment. Even if you have insurance, most dental procedures are still costly.
Some dental insurance plans cover 100 percent of preventive treatment, which includes two dental exams and teeth cleanings per year. However, restorative treatment (e.g., fillings and crowns) may only be partially covered or not covered at all.
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Depending on your situation and income, you may qualify for the following low-income dental services:
There are a few different types of clinics that offer dental services at reduced rates. These are:
Charities, churches, and dental organizations operate free clinics by donating dental services to low-income families.
The only downside is that free dental care clinics are hard to find and typically have a long waitlist.
These dental clinics are funded by taxpayers. State or local health departments must receive grants from the federal government to run them.
At public clinics, people can expect to pay fixed, low prices on many types of dental treatments. These include:
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Many college dental programs around the U.S. offer discounted dental services. These programs include:
Dental hygiene schools (American Dental Hygienists’ Association) also offer low-cost, supervised dental care.
The general public can visit them to receive treatment from dental students, who all require hands-on training before graduation.
Some advantages to these low-cost dental services include:
The disadvantages of these low-cost dental services include:
Over 15,000 volunteer dentists and dental labs across America operate Donated Dental Services (DDS). There is one program in each U.S. state, and they provide free dental treatment to those with disabilities.
The elderly and people with chronic medical conditions are also candidates for DDS. However, people also have to meet certain criteria, including not being able to afford regular dental treatment and having no access to public aid.
The government has three financial assistance programs that provide dental care to specific individuals. You may qualify for one or more of the following programs, depending on your age and income:
This program is funded by the federal government and each U.S. state. It provides dental and health coverage to eligible low-income Americans, including:
This program provides health insurance to people 65 years of age and older and those with specific disabilities. Although, dental care coverage through Medicare is restricted. In particular, it does not cover dentures and routine dental services, including teeth cleanings, x-rays, and dental exams.
Similar to Medicaid, this program provides dental coverage to children under 19 years of age. Coverage varies from state to state. Other eligibility requirements include:
There are also dental charities and nonprofit dental clinics in each U.S. state. These oral health centers provide dental care on a sliding scale, which is a payment model for patients who can't afford dental work.
Some of these organizations have financial and residency requirements. Other centers only help certain people, including children, the homeless, and people with disabilities.
If you have been diagnosed with a dental condition or disease that is expensive to treat, you may be eligible to participate in a free clinical trial. Although, not everyone can participate in these trials. Eligibility depends on your age and your general and oral health history.
Even though clinical trials are free, they are risky. This is because many of the medications and techniques used during the trials aren’t FDA-approved, so you are more likely to develop side effects.
These effects can range from mild to severe. Therefore, they will inform you about the potential complications before beginning the trial.
If you are interested in buying dental insurance, many insurance companies offer affordable dental plans. For example, CIGNA offers three different plans.
The lowest one starts at just $19 a month per person. It covers 100 percent of preventive services twice a year, which includes dental exams and teeth cleanings. However, this plan does not cover orthodontics or restorative services.
Other popular dental insurance companies include:
These companies also offer more affordable plans. Similar to CIGNA, preventive treatments are covered in full. But you typically pay for restorative treatments, orthodontics, and oral surgeries out-of-pocket.
A routine check-up, dental exam, and teeth cleaning costs between $150 and $350 without insurance. You should visit your dentist twice a year for these services, which can cost up to $700 per person annually.
If you invest in a reduced-cost dental insurance plan (about $19 per month), you’ll save money in the long-run.
Each U.S. state has its own guidelines regarding who qualifies for free and low-income dental care.
If you do not have enough money to pay for treatment and are over 65 years of age, have a disability, or a medical condition, you may qualify for free treatment through the Donated Dental Services (DDS) program.
The Australian government does not cover most dental services. However, if you are eligible for Medicare in Australia, some essential dental care may be covered for low-income children and adults.
There are a few ways to pay for braces or Invisalign if you can't afford the total cost of treatment upfront. For example, many orthodontists allow patients to set-up payment plans.
You can also use an HSA (Health Savings Account) or FSA (Flexible Spending Account) to pay for treatment. Also, ask your orthodontist if they are offering any special discounts before beginning treatment.
If you have dental insurance, check with your provider to see if orthodontic treatment is included in your plan. Orthodontic benefits usually only pertain to children under 18 years of age.
Many companies offer stand-alone dental policies which include some coverage for braces without an age limit. However, these plans are more expensive.
Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Grants may offer free braces to eligible children and adults. If you qualify, your state government will pay for treatment.
Yes, getting dental work done at a dental school is much cheaper for select treatments, including preventive, restorative, and surgical procedures. Most clinics offer 50% discounts or more.
In the U.K., individuals may qualify for free NHS dental care if they meet certain criteria. Learn more here.
Discover how you and your family can save money on common dental procedures with a dental discount plan.
Or call DentalPlans to speak with a representative about which plan is right for you.
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