How to Get Free or Low Cost Dental Care


Going to the dentist is something a lot of people are inclined to put off. Ironically, this raises costs in the long term. Unattended, a tooth which has a cavity decays further, requiring a root canal eventually. Filing a cavity costs around $150-$300 while a root canal costs more, as much as a $1000 or more if you do not have dental insurance. A lot of people do not have dental insurance in the United States. Unsurprisingly, the percentage of people who need dental care but have not opted for it has risen from 29.5% to 31.6% from 1988-1994 to 2011-20141.

According to findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011–2012, one in five adults aged 65 and over had untreated tooth decay. Among adults aged 65 and over, complete tooth loss was lower for older Hispanic (15%) and non-Hispanic white (17%) adults compared with older non-Hispanic black adults (29%)2.

Dental insurance usually pays for root canals because it is a procedure necessary for one's health. Sometimes people get dental insurance at their place of work. One of the biggest factors for people skipping dental care is the prohibitive cost associated with going to a dentist if they do not have insurance. Even when they do use their insurance, there's usually a cap of between $1000 and $1500 per year. Anything beyond this is outside the scope of dental insurance and has to be paid by the individual. This makes it important to have a source of low cost dental care.

There are ways to access affordable dental care. One of the most common is to sign up for a Dental Plan which is on the lines of a discount membership. This requires a small investment but makes it more than worthwhile because it immediately gives you access to discounts at thousands of dentists' clinics across your state and the membership pays for itself instantly. These plans are tailored for individual men and women as well as entire families. These plans cover the entire gamut of dental care. This includes basic and preventive dental care, restorative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, dentures/bridges, oral surgery as well as speciality dentistry. Considering that dental insurance covers dental costs only to a limited extent, this may be a useful option even if you are already covered by insurance.

Another way is to get in touch with The Bureau of Primary Health Care. This is a service of the Health Resources and Services Administration. It supports federally-funded community health centers across the country that provide free or reduced-cost health services, including dental care.

Medicaid is a state-run program with which you can get dental benefits in some cases. Individuals and even families may be eligible. Emergency dental care is provided in a limited way to people 21 and over. Those under 21 can get dental services under Medicaid.

CHIP provides medical care to those under 19 years of age. Kids can get dental services. The dental services provide vary depending on which state you are in.

Dental Schools are another way to get low cost dental treatment. Many of these schools have clinics that let students gain experience while providing affordable low cost dental care to people looking for them. Similarly Dental Hygiene Schools also provide dental care while giving opportunities to Dental Hygienists to enhance their skills. You don't have to worry about being treated by a student. Students usually perform dental surgeries under supervision of experienced dentists.

Dental tourism is another option. There are many countries like India, where dental care is far more affordable compared to the United States. If you're planning to go to India on a holiday you can combine it with an annual visit to a local dentist. It is probably a good idea to shop around and find a competent dentist who's services are reasonably priced as well as read reviews online. Generally costs are higher in major cities such as Mumbai due to higher rents. Downtown Mumbai is less expensive.

  1. Health, United States, 2016 - Untreated dental caries, by selected characteristics: United States
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011–2012