According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about 108 million Americans went without dental insurance last year. Many of those living without it believe an affordable dentist is out of reach, but to maintain a healthy mouth, regular dental visits are a must. And there are, in fact, ample low-cost care options for those who think it's beyond their budget.
One of the best ways to find affordable care is to seek out your local university or dentistry school, where supervised students and faculty offer care at a reduced cost. The University of California at San Francisco is one such school with a comprehensive clinic of supervised dental students who provide a wide range of services, including root canals, crowns and fillings. The university also offers specialized care in the form of endodontics, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics and oral surgery – all at reduced fees.
The American Dental Association (ADA) provides a list of all dental schools in the United States, so you can search for one in your area to find out whether they offer the treatment you need. But be sure to determine whether there are certain days, hours and even times of the month when an institution offers this care, and if they do so for only a certain number of people. Some schools offer appointments, whereas others see patients on a first-come, first-served basis.
Local, Inexpensive Clinics
Federally funded, low-cost health facilities are another option if you're struggling to find quality dental care on a strict budget. HHS actually supports local centers where you can find low-cost, often free medical attention that includes this dental care. HHS provides a tool wherein you can enter your address or zip code to find one in your area.
Services may not be as comprehensive, but many of them do offer cleanings, fillings and crowns as a minimum. Some centers also offer root canals and more in-depth work. Because payment options vary, it's best to determine beforehand whether a clinic can implement fees on a sliding scale, or includes insurance like Medicare. Above all, be sure you know which services are available at a low cost.
It's also common practice for these centers to require proof of income. Therefore, you'll want to bring a recent pay stub, tax form or letter from your employer to qualify.
Student Discounts or Promotional Rates
If you're a student, you may want to ask whether your local dentists offer a promotional rate. Though not as common or well known, some dental practices will offer discount plans and other reasonable rates to those who are in school. These aren't the same as student-based discount insurance plans; rather it's a matter of some legwork on your part to pinpoint the dentists in your area who forgive students and families with unique needs.
There's no specific site to locate practices that offer discounted or promotional rates for students, but a good start is to look for national or franchise dentists with whom it may be more common to find promotional rates on cleanings, X-rays, fillings and even extractions. Even if you're not a student, however, consider selecting a few in your area to contact with an interest in lowered rates, sliding-scale fees or discounts for those on a tight or limited budget.
Foundations and Special Needs
Keep in mind there are several charitable organizations that donate their time to affordable and pro-bono care, such as Give Back a Smile, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry's charitable foundation. These are typically for extreme cases, emergencies and special needs. However, some do offer makeshift clinic days for the basic cleaning and dental work you need every six months.
Taking care of your teeth on a daily basis is one of the best ways to cut down on major dental work and its associated costs. Using products like Colgate® 360® Toothbrush, which cleans the teeth, tongue, cheeks and gums – thereby removing more bacteria – can help reduce decay, cavities and impromptu trips to the dentist.
Finding an affordable dentist may take some time and a little effort, but the benefit is peace of mind with a healthy, pain-free smile.