Cost is the main reason why people in the United States do not get regular dental care. Some people cannot afford the out-of-pocket payments required for dental care or do not have public or private dental insurance.
Dental services are expensive. A routine visit for cleaning and an exam can set you back $200. If you have cavities that need to be filled, that'll cost you several hundred dollars. Braces and dentures can cost thousands.
For the average worker, this is a lot of money. For someone on a limited income, retired, out of work, or has no dental coverage, dental care takes the backseat.
However, cheap or free dental care is available. With thorough research, patience, and a bit of luck, low-cost or free dental work is possible.
Dental schools are good sources of quality, low-cost dental treatment. Most dental schools run clinics where dental students provide dental services at reduced prices. This allows students to gain experience in treating patients.
Dental schools offer dental treatment at half the price — or even less. Experienced and licensed dentists closely supervise the treatments, so appointments take longer than usual. This is because the supervisors have to check every step as the dental student works on you.
There are advantages and disadvantages associated with low-cost dental services. It's important to know what you're getting into so you get to make an informed decision.
Pros of dental schools:
Cons of dental schools:
To become a patient at a dental school, you must first undergo a screening procedure. This is to determine your suitability as a patient and if you will be able to teach dental students what they need to know for their practice.
Your needs should match with the student's training needs. If you are qualified, then you become a patient. You will be assigned to a dental student, where you'll receive the low-cost (or free) dental procedure that you need.
Some dental schools charge a non-refundable fee for the screening process. Not all dental schools do this, so it's best for you to check beforehand if there are pre-treatment fees that you need to settle.
There are a lot of dental schools that offer dental services at reduced rates. The following groups of people qualify for cheap services at dental schools:
Most states offer low-cost dental services via dental schools. These programs are full of dental students who need hands-on training before graduation.
The cost usually depends on the type of program that you choose. Most programs offer pre-doctoral, advanced, and allied dental education programs.
The following is a list of dental schools that offer low-cost dental work, organized by state. These are all accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA):
1530 3rd Avenue S.
5850 East Still Circle
19555 North 59th Avenue
9700 West Taron Drive
925 W. 34th Street
11092 Anderson St.
Center for Health Science
10833 Le Conte Ave
513 Parnassus Ave
155 5th Street
College of Dental Medicine
Western University of Health Sciences
309 E. Second Street
School of Dental Medicine; Lazzara Center for Oral-Facial Health
13065 E. 17th Avenue
Mail Stop F831
263 Farmington Avenue
4800 Lakewood Ranch Boulevard
3200 S. University Drive
1600 SW Archer Rd.
P.O. Box 100405
1430 John Wesley Gilbert Drive
Rm AD 5202
555 31st Street
2800 College Avenue
801 South Paulina Street
Suite # 102
500 West University Blvd., UH-3145
100 Dental Science Bldg.
800 Rose Street
D 136 UKMC
501 S. Preston Street
1100 Florida Avenue
Westbrook College Campus
716 Stevens Avenue
650 W. Baltimore Street
100 East Newton Street
188 Longwood Avenue
One Kneeland Street
2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
1011 N. University Ave.
Room 15-209 Moos Tower
515 S.E. Delaware Street
2500 North State Street
Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health
800 W. Jefferson St.
650 East 25th Street
2109 Cuming Street
40th & Holdrege Streets
Shadow Lane Campus
1001 Shadow Lane
110 Bergen St.;
630 West 168th Street
PH7 East Room 122
345 East 24th Street
Health Sciences Center;
154 Rockland Hall
19 Skyline Drive
325 Squire Hall;
3435 Main Street
1851 MacGregor Downs Road, Mail Stop 701
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Koury Oral Health Sciences, Suite 1611
3/8 S. Columbia Street, Campus Box 7450
10900 Euclid Avenue
305 West 12th Avenue
1201 N. Stonewall Avenue
2730 SW Moody Avenue
3223 North Broad Street
240 South 40th Street;
Robert Shattner Center
3501 Terrace Street
173 Ashley Ave. MSC 507
PO Box 250507
1005 D.B. Todd Blvd.
University of Tennessee Health Science Ctr;
875 Union Avenue
3302 Gaston Avenue
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso
5001 El Paso Dr.
7500 Cambridge Street
7703 Floyd Curl Drive
Mail Code 7914
10920 S. Riverfront Park
530 South Wakara Way
Salt Lake City
P.O. Box 980566
520 North 12th Street
450 Lyons Building
1959 NE Pacific Street, B-530
Robert C. Byrd Health Sci Ctr.;
1150 HSC North/Medical Center Drive;
PO Box 9400
1801 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Aside from dental school clinics, there are other ways to get free or low-cost dental care:
These are clinics run by community health centers or by local or state health departments and are funded by taxpayers. They usually charge low, fixed prices or sliding fees depending on how much the patient can afford to pay.
These clinics provide dental services such as cleaning, exams, root canals, x-rays, crowns, fillings, and surgical tooth extraction.
Many faith-based groups, charities, and professional dental organizations organize free dental clinics. However, the waitlist can be quite long.
Also, they usually have requirements as to who can qualify for free dental services. They either have income cutoffs or are exclusive to people with disabilities or the elderly.
There are three federally-funded programs where you can get free or low-cost dental care: Medicaid, Medicare, and CHIP.
These are less expensive alternatives to dental insurance and are available for individuals and families.
Also called dental discount plans, dental savings plans offer discounted rates for dental treatments and services provided by orthodontists, oral surgeons, and dentists within their network.
A monthly or annual fee (about $100 to $200 per year) is required to receive a 10 to 60 percent discount on dental care.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. “Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General.” National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2000.
"Disparities in Oral Health." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Where Can I Find Low-Cost Dental Care?.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Search for Dental Programs.” Commission on Dental Accreditation.
“Finding Dental Care.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
“Low-Cost Dental Care.” New Hampshire Dental Society.