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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7 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 ??

    • For free or low-cost dental care there are several options. Contact PACE, dental schools, Donated Dental Services (DDS), Dentistry from the Heart, NeedyMeds.org, or Area Agency on Aging (AAA) Eldercare Locator (800) 677-1116. Check the Dental Lifeline Network.

  • Try needing oral surgery and being on permanent disability. My fiancée has had several operations on neck, back and arm after an unfortunate accident. After many years on pain killers, his teeth just all broke and rotted away. He has no dental insurance and does not have enough income to pay the expense of having dental surgery to cut all the broken teeth and get dentures at a low cost or no cost. All you get is a run around from everyone or they want to pull a few at a time in the office at an exuberant expense, and it is way beyond that point. If anyone could help or give me any reliable information, please let me know.

  • I need free dental implants. My dentures no longer stay in. I’m on a fixed income and can’t afford any of these .My age is 66 and have nowhere to go

  • I am 69 years old I have had the dentures I have sents the last year that Medicare and Medicaid paid for them denters I have now i think i got them in 2012 they need replast very badly but i don’t have dental ins because the state of Wyoming will not elect it in along with eye ins again the state of Wyoming will not electt into the state because there isn’t enough population In this state because the whole state only has around 500,000 people in the whole state other then Alaska not enough people and i cant afford the insurance rates and extra I need to have my dentures paid in full it would be around 86.00 Dallas for dental and aro6 12.00 to 16.00 a month it is over 100.00 a month I think it works out almost 105.00 a month I can’t pay this on top of the 550.00 in bills plus rent I am in the hole by then my 1272.00 I get for Social Security with my half of the rent I have very little let to pay for eye and dental
    please don’t let me down please help I need dentures very badly I have had these dentures for over seven long painfulyears the last 3 years have been the worst can you help me I think you supposed to have them change in 2 to 3 years or 3to5 years

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