Dental Charities: Pro Bono Oral Care for Adults & Children

Private charities and nonprofit organizations that perform pro bono dental work represent a possible avenue for adults and children to get limited oral care.

Government-required charity care at large public hospitals supports medical services for uninsured patients who cannot afford to pay the hefty bills. However, hospitals rarely perform dental work.

Small private dental practices provide most oral care in America. Therefore, patients in need often have to look under many different rocks before finding a dentist nearby willing to help.

Fortunately, there are many rocks worth exploring. Perhaps you can find a charity running an event sometime soon in your local area.

Grant Making Dental Charities

Many dental charities provide grant money to other nonprofit organizations that deliver oral care services to underserved populations. In other words, they do not provide the funding directly to individuals.

Patients looking for financial assistance for dental work should begin their search on the website of each organization. Each provides a listing of other charities they support with monetary gifts.

ADCF

America’s Dentists Care Foundation (ADCF) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focusing on delivering oral healthcare to the underserved. However, ADCF does not provide charity services to individuals.

Instead, ADCF offers support to other establishments seeking to establish and operate free clinics, such as Mission of Mercy (MOM) and other groups.

  • Dental clinic equipment
  • Pre-clinic guidance
  • Obtaining volunteers

The ADCF website publishes a state-based listing of local organizations that they support. Begin with this resource to find a clinic near you.

Patterson Foundation

The Patterson Foundation is a private grant-making organization that provides funding to other charities that help patients with dental care needs. You cannot apply for a grant as an individual but can follow money flow to recipient entities.

The Patterson Foundation recently awarded more than $1.3 million in one year to 45 other nonprofit organizations.

The Patterson Foundation website publishes a listing of grant recipients. Use this resource to follow the money and find local clinics offering free or low-cost dental care.

AAPD Foundation

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that strives to ensure that every child has a dental home – a place where they can receive consistent, compassionate oral care.

The AAPD Foundation funds community-based initiatives where pediatric dentists help underserved children. Grant money flows to local clinics that treat boys and girls in families that cannot afford care.

The AAPD Foundation website also publishes a listing of recent grant recipients. Begin with this resource to possibly find a clinic near you. Healthy Smiles Healthy Children is the former name for this organization.

Dental Charities for Adults

Several dental charities focus their resources on helping adults with their oral care needs. Patients sometimes lose Medicaid and CHIP coverage after they turn 21 and may need help paying the dentist.

Medicaid continues to pay for dental work for adults in about half of the states, but the coverage for specific services varies considerably based on where you live.

Dental Lifeline Network

Dental Lifeline Network (DLN) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing access to oral care and education for people who cannot afford it. The charity offers affordable treatment to individuals who fall into one of three categories.

  1. Have a permanent disability
  2. Elderly: age 65 or older
  3. Medically fragile

The DLN flagship program called Donated Dental Services (DDS) is a national network of over 15,000 servant dentists and 3,400 volunteer laboratories that offer free or discounted treatment to qualified patients.

The DLN website also publishes a state-based listing of member clinics along with an online application form. Your first step should be to apply for benefits to determine eligibility and get your name on the waiting list.

Cancer Survivors

Dental charities for cancer survivors might not be the most productive place to turn for help because nonprofit organizations often lack the resources to treat every patient with oral care needs.

Therefore, patients dealing with tooth loss after cancer treatment need to find deeper pockets. Your health insurance might pay for medically necessary dental work – especially those dealing with malignancy in the head and neck areas.

  • Extraction of teeth before radiation to treat cancer
  • Mandibulectomy to remove cysts and cancerous tumors
  • Mucositis and stomatitis from chemotherapy

Give Back a Smile

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry® (AACD) is a professional trade association that operates a charitable foundation (AACDCF) that helps restore teeth for adults who suffered dental injuries from domestic or sexual violence.

The AACDCF flagship program Give Back a Smile heals the devastating effects of dental injuries caused by a former intimate partner, family member, and other abusers.

The Give Back a Smile website publishes the details around their eligibility criteria and requirements ($20 application fee plus ten documented hours of community service). You will also find an online application to see if you qualify and match with a local volunteer provider.

Charitable Smiles

Charitable Smiles is a Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, helping people who can’t afford oral care get the treatment they need. They assist in pairing adults patients with participating dentists who volunteer their chair-time.

Charitable Smiles helps dentists take on more pro-bono work for patients who are otherwise unable to afford treatment. Providers can volunteer chair time but face other expenses for materials (amalgam fillings, Novocain, etc.) and appliances (dentures, implants, etc.).

Dental healthcare providers nominate patients for assistance with these extra costs. Therefore, speak with your dentist and ask for a nomination.

Dentistry from the Heart

Dentistry from the Heart is a nonprofit organization working to supply parts of the world with free oral care services. They partner with providers that offer special events at their offices for adults only.

The FAQ section of their website details how the setup works.

  • Complimentary services include your choice of one of three treatments
    • One basic cleaning
    • One tooth extraction
    • One cavity filling
  • They see people on a first-come, first-served basis

Smiles for Everyone

The Smile for Everyone Foundation seeks to provide free dental care to people in need in the United States and abroad. They claim to have donated over $20 million in oral care services since 2011.

Smiles for Everyone offers three programs.

  1. Days of Giving: volunteers offer free basic services for pre-qualified patients
  2. Smile Makeovers: extensive treatment for select individuals
  3. Implanting Inspiration: hand-picked patients receive implants at no charge

However, the Smiles for Everyone website does not show any scheduled events for the next 18 months at the time of publication.

Dental Charities for Children

Dental charities also target their giving to children. However, because Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan often pay for oral care for patients under 18, these programs often have a narrow focus.

Orthodontic Braces

Several charitable organizations sometimes provide help paying for orthodontic braces for children under the age of 18. Parents must first fund a modest application fee and invest ranging from $200 to $650.

  1. Smiles Change Lives
  2. Smile for a Lifetime
  3. Donated Orthodontic Services

Applicants must meet similar eligibility criteria at each of these organizations, including a family income below federal poverty guidelines, letters of recommendation, volunteer community service, and more.

Mars Wrigley Foundation

The Mars Wrigley Foundation creates better communities and happier, healthier smiles by giving people opportunities to flourish. The foundation has reached more than 6.5 million individuals globally.

The Mars Foundation website lists several initiates that focus on mint and cocoa-growing regions. Meanwhile, the Healthier Smiles grant money appears to flow exclusively to flows to Save the Children. However, the trail goes cold at this point.

Americas ToothFairy

The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation (NCOHF) (America’s ToothFairy) is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. America’s ToothFairy increases access to charity dental care by supporting clinics and community partners helping underserved children.

America’s ToothFairy offers three programs aimed at children.

  1. Resources for local clinics
  2. Grants for extensive care
  3. Assistance for children with special needs

America’s ToothFairy website also publishes a state-based list of neighborhood clinics that they support. Begin with this resource to find an organization near you.

ADA

The American Dental Association is an industry trade group that sponsors a charitable program targeting children known as their Give Kids A Smile® (GKAS).

Each year approximately 6,500 dentists and 30,000 dental team members volunteer at local GKAS events to provide free oral health education, screenings, preventive and restorative treatment to over 300,000 children.

Please call 1.844.490 to find out if there’s a GKAS event happening near you.