Health conditions Medicaid Medicare

How to get free or low-cost dental care

Written by Diane Archer

Because dental care can be so expensive and most insurance—including Medicare—does not cover it, it is the number one health care service people skimp on. As a result, people put themselves at serious risk of gum disease, infections, dental pain and tooth loss. Dentists can remove plaque that builds up to reduce your likelihood of cavities and gum decay. Here are a few ways you may be able to get free or low-cost dental care.

  • In some states, Medicaid covers some dental care. And, even if you are not enrolled in Medicaid, you may be eligible, depending upon your income, health care expenses and where you live. The Kaiser Family Foundation web site lists dental services Medicaid covers in each state.
  • PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly). PACE programs generally provides dental care to program participants, along with an array of other important services. For more information, click here.
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). Across the country, thousands of FQHCs, sometimes called Community Health Centers or CHCs,  offer a wide range of free or low-cost health care services, including dental care. To find a health center near you, click here.
  • Dental schools.  Dental schools often offer free or low-cost dental care in their clinics. Find out whether there is a dental school in your community.
  • Dental Lifeline Network offers comprehensive dental services for older adults in need. Its program, Donated Dental Services or DDS, has a nationwide network of 17,000 volunteer dentists and 3,700 dental laboratories, which provide dental treatments free of charge. To find out the number of the Dental Life coordinator in your state, visit Dental Lifeline.
  • Dentistry from the Heart is a worldwide nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free dental care to those in need. The organization sponsors events in different parts of the country at which people can receive free dental services. For more information, visit the Dentistry from the Heart .
  • NeedyMeds.org has a database of free, low-cost and sliding scale dental clinics throughout the country. You can enter your zip code to find the clinics nearest you.

Your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) may be able to point you to free or low-cost dental care in your community. To find your local AAA, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

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3 Comments

  • Plaque, a sticky combination of food and bacteria, builds up on your teeth about 20 minutes after eating. That’s why it’s smart to brush your teeth right after you eat a meal.

  • Visit your dentist regularly. Have a relationship with the office. I’ve been going to the same office since 1961, and on the occasions when I have very big bills (for my husband when we first married, for my son, who didn’t follow my advice for several years, and for me, when I had to have some crowns), all I have to say is I can’t pay this all at once, but I can give you $100 a month until it’s paid off, and it’s a deal. Long term reliable relationships are still important for honest reputable dentists and business people.

  • I am a low income senior and live in the central coast of Calif. I have medi-cal, but medi-cal dental coverage only covers x-rays, cleanings and simple fillings.
    I was told by a dentist that I have cavities under 4 crowns that need to come out, cavity fixed and new crowns put on. Also a cavity filling and a root canal work is needed under a bridge in my mouth. I was given and estimate of out of pocket expenses of $ 12000- $ 15000. I can not afford this even on payments.
    I am in pain and don’t know what to do and who to turn to. Anyone has any suggestions any resources for my predicament ??

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