Updated on February 7, 2024
6 min read

Dental Help for Adults With Disabilities

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

Everyone deserves good oral health, but many people can’t afford dental care. Unfortunately, this is especially true among society’s most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities. Without access to dental care, people are at higher risk for oral health problems like tooth decay and gum disease.

This article shares oral healthcare resources for adults with disabilities. It also covers common barriers that can prevent people with disabilities from obtaining quality care. 

Programs That Provide Low-Cost Dental Care for People With Disabilities 

The U.S. government defines a person with disabilities as someone who:1

  • Is unable to do substantial, gainful work
  • Has a disability that is expected to last for up to a year or more
  • Has an impairment that is on Social Security’s list of disabling medical conditions

Some programs that may provide low-cost dental care for such people include:

1. Donated Dental Services (DDS)

Donated Dental Services (DDS) is a program by the nonprofit organization, Dental Lifeline Network. They provide free comprehensive dental treatment to adults who are permanently disabled or over 65.

This nationwide program has a network of over 15,000 volunteer dentists. It offers education and free dental services to qualified applicants.

2. Dentistry Schools 

Schools like the University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry train dentists and providers to offer specialized dental care to people with special needs. Private donations partly support the UW School of Dentistry’s DECOD clinic.

They care for people with acquired or developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy (CP) and multiple sclerosis (MS).4 Another school that offers this program is the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry.

This school dedicated its oral health center to providing support and sensitive essential care to people with disabilities. The school’s dental clinic is fully equipped to accommodate the needs of caregivers, patients, and families.

3. Community Dental Programs

Some community dental clinics offer low-cost dental services. However, these vary from state to state. Your local hospital may refer you to one, or you can search the internet for “community dental clinics.” 

Calculate your dental savings now with a DentalPlans plan. Visit DentalPlans.

Does Disability Insurance Cover Dental Work?

Disability insurance typically doesn’t offer dental coverage. It primarily protects a portion of your monthly income if a disability prevents you from working.

Government Insurance Options

The U.S. government provides people with disabilities three options for health insurance through the government. These insurance options don’t usually fully cover adult oral care services.7

Government insurance options include:

  • Medicare — Has some plans that offer partial dental insurance coverage
  • Medicaid — Covers some oral health care services for children and adults under 65 with disabilities

Some insurance, like Basic Social Security Disability Insurance, will provide dental coverage. However, most Medicare and Medicaid enrollees lack comprehensive health insurance covering routine oral care or other dental services.2

Insurance Waiting Period

Depending on the type of insurance and the insurance company, some coverage comes with a waiting period. 

In 2005, the Social Security Administration (SSA) funded MDRC, a nonprofit social policy research organization. It carried out a project called Accelerated Benefits (AB) Demonstration.

The AB Demonstration was designed to determine the benefits and costs of altering the waiting period for Medicare, particularly for disabled people.5 Its findings include:

  • Increased healthcare use
  • Reduced unmet medical needs
  • Improved health and functioning
  • Unaffected employment levels

What Is Special Care Dentistry?

Special care dentistry (SCD) is a specialized branch of dental providers that tends to the oral health of certain populations, including:3 

  • Older people in hospitals and nursing homes
  • People with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • People with medical, physical, and psychiatric issues

International organizations like the Special Care Dentistry Association (SCDA) are made up of dental professionals dedicated to promoting the oral health of people with special needs. These healthcare providers typically have advanced training beyond their dental degrees.

Tired of paying full price for dental work? Save with Discount Dental Plans. Learn more here or call (833) 704-2246

Are There Specific Dentists for People With Disabilities?

Many dentists can treat people with special needs. However, some people with certain disabilities may require specialized dental services.

Although dental professionals are trained to provide comprehensive care to anyone, there are programs designed to improve assistance for people with special needs. This includes programs like MSc in Special Care Dentistry.

There are also dental clinics that prioritize oral health care for disabled adults. These clinics work with volunteer dentists. They offer affordable dental care for adults with disabilities.

Tips for Finding a Special Care Dentist

If you’re looking for a special-care dentist, the first step is to ask around. Ask your local dentist, family members, friends, or even disability services. They might know a clinic with a dental team that provides special care to people with disabilities.

Aside from getting referrals and recommendations, here are more tips to help you find a special-care dentist:

  • Research the credentials of the dentist to whom you were referred to
  • Search for special-care dental clinics in your browser and find dental clinics near you
  • Check for a school of dentistry that offers a special needs program; they are likely to have the dentist you are looking for
  • Look beyond your locality; telemedicine makes it possible to treat people using telecommunications and minimizes trips to the dentist’s office
  • Check for the dentist’s experience; the more experience a dentist has with treating people with special needs, the better your treatment results are likely to be
  • Read reviews online, as this can provide insight into a dentist’s practice

Get the dental care you need at a price you can afford. Find your DentalPlans savings now.

Dental Care Challenges for People with Disabilities

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities tend to have more dental problems and poorer oral health than those without disabilities.6 This is due to a few reasons:


If a dentist accepts Medicaid, it usually means they make less money on the charge. This becomes a problem for many people with disabilities, who usually have dental coverage through Medicaid. 

It becomes difficult for people with disabilities or special needs to access affordable and quality dental care because dental clinics sometimes refuse their insurance.

Lack of Trained Professionals or Proper Equipment

Some dental clinics cannot provide dental care for people with disabilities because their staff lacks proper training or equipment. For example, people with mobility problems may not be able to move themselves into a regular dental chair.


Dental professionals always recommend seeing a dentist at least twice a year. But this can be hard to accomplish for people with disabilities, especially those with severe physical disabilities.

Transportation to and from the dental office can be a major challenge for people with disabilities. Additionally, the office building or parking lot may not be wheelchair accessible.


Many people with disabilities lack access to affordable dental care, which is necessary to maintain oral health. Additionally, most dentists are not trained to accommodate the unique oral health needs of people with disabilities.

Some organizations, such as the Dental Lifeline Network, promote oral health equity by providing free services for people with disabilities. Other resources may include dental schools and community clinics.

Ready for Affordable Dental Care?

DentalPlans makes finding affordable dental care simple. Compare top plans, know your exact costs, and find the perfect dentist near you.

Discover Your Dental Savings Plan Now.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram