Free Dental Implant Programs for Low Income | Grants

Many low-income patients search online for free dental implant programs and grants, only to come up empty time after time.

It seems as though every promising lead turns into a rabbit hole leading nowhere.

Tooth implants are an expensive cosmetic procedure with a cheaper alternative: tooth-supported fixed bridges, removable dentures, and resin-bonded bridges.

A more reasonable expectation is that you might find multiple forms of financial assistance, which you can cobble together for low-cost replacement teeth.

First, learn how to qualify for free implant services, then learn how to read between the lines of grants offered by the government and providers in the private sector.

How to Get Free Dental Implants

How can low-income adults get free dental implants? By looking under many different rocks and trading something of value, you could get portions of your smile restoration treatment at no charge, resulting in low-cost treatment.

This form of permanent replacement teeth is expensive; the average cost per tooth is about $3,500 without bone grafting. Therefore, getting new choppers at no charge could be an unrealistic expectation.

Instead, make financial assistance for low-cost implants your goal.

Become a Profitable Patient

Equipping yourself to become a profitable customer is the most realistic way for low-income adults to get portions of their dental implant treatment free of charge. In this instance, you are trading dollars for low-cost services.

Dentists are more likely to perform pro bono work when they can bill for other work, and the patient has the financial capacity to pay.

Financing

A dental implant payment plan helps you become a profitable patient for the practice. Having the financial capacity to fund a portion of your treatment expenses upfront makes it easier for the office to justify donating their time and expertise.

Paying later for any remaining expenses via monthly installments makes the treatment more affordable and allows you to get started right away.

Insurance

Buying dental insurance covering implants also helps you become a profitable patient for the practice. While missing tooth exclusions might preclude you from using the plan right away, the chances are that you need other oral care services.

Having a dental plan in force enhances your financial capacity to pay for other treatments. A prosthodontist is more likely to perform pro bono work for insured patients. They have bills to pay also.

Find a Non-Profit Organization

Locating a non-profit organization that offers free dental implants for low-income patients is a logical starting point. However, this strategy bears fruit for only a tiny handful of people because charities often rely on donors’ generosity.

In other words, non-profit charities typically lack the resources to assist a significant number of individuals, as indicated by this brief list.

  • Smiles for Everyone publicizes that they partner with device manufacturers to offer pro bono implants to “select patients” without quantifying the number of people served
  • The Dental Lifeline Network operates the Donated Dental Services program, which might include implants at no charge for a few lucky patients
  • Dentistry from the Heart does not offer pro bono implants but can provide basic cleaning, one extraction, or one filling

Be a Dental School Test Patient

Trying to become a test patient at a local dental school that does free dental implants is a road to nowhere. While many universities operate clinics for low-income patients, they typically charge for their services – albeit at steep discounts.

Once again, you may have to reset your expectations: dental schools rarely do free dental implants but do provide low-cost treatment. In this instance, you are trading your diagnosis, as inexperienced students (supervised by faculty) learn their craft as they fix your teeth.

The American Dental Education Association provides a list of universities. Use this resource to find a local clinic that offers treatment at more affordable prices.

Volunteer for a Clinical Trial

Volunteering for a clinical trial is another possible avenue to get free dental implants – for a tiny group of low-income adults. In this instance, you are trading your time.

In a clinical trial, prosthodontists experiment with untested techniques, materials, and appliances. In exchange, the researchers often provide select services at no charge.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine compiles an online database of clinical trials. Begin with this resource to learn of any studies in your area.

Keep in mind that the centers running clinical trials often need to find local volunteers fitting very narrow criteria – one recent study recruited patients with poor bone quality and limited volume near the sinus cavity.

Enter a Smile Makeover Contest

Entering a smile makeover contest run by a local office is another way for low-income individuals to get dental implants without spending any money. Many dentists promote competitions where the grand prize is significant pro bono work to one lucky winner.

Recognize these zero-cost dental makeovers for what they are – a way for the practice to grow its patient base. They probably receive hundreds of applications from people with missing teeth and pick one person as the grand prize winner.

So, how do you win a free smile makeover contest? Offer the practice something of value in exchange for replacing your missing teeth at no charge: allow the dentist to use your name, image, likeness, and compelling personal story to generate publicity.

Offer Public Relations Exposure

Trading positive public relations exposure is another way to get free dental implants. Prosthodontists are more likely to provide pro bono services to low-income patients when they can brag about their generosity.

Nothing generates good vibes for a neighborhood practice than a picture in the local newspaper of a smiling patient they treated at no charge. Plus, the more sympathetic the backstory, the better it will attract profitable new patients with financial capacity.

Free Dental Implant Programs

Select groups of low-income patients can tap into free dental implant programs that pertain exclusively to people in their category. However, you still have to trade something of value and temper your expectations.

These programs will not eliminate 100% of your costs but could lower them significantly.

Seniors

The free dental implants program for low-income senior citizens has a name: Medicare Advantage plan (Part C). While traditional Medicare and supplements (Part F & G) do not cover oral care (unless medically necessary), many Advantage plans do.

The extra coverage provides seniors the financial capacity to become profitable customers. Elderly patients with Part C coverage often have extensive treatment needs that go on for years and the means to pay for these services – via insurance.

As a future profitable customer, seniors can bargain with the dentist to reduce prices for treatments not covered by your plan.

Disabled

The free dental implant program for disabled adults also has a name: Medicaid. Medicaid is the primary form of insurance for most low-income disabled individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Medicaid covers dental work for adults with disabilities in many states – but not all.  However, it never covers implants because dentures represent the least costly treatment alternative.

Having oral care coverage makes some disabled adults profitable patients. It means they have the financial capacity to pay for other treatments – even when they live in poverty. Therefore, the rules in the state where you live could dictate whether a dentist is willing to provide some services pro bono.

Oral SurgeryPeriodontalRestorative
CaliforniaXXX
Florida  
Georgia   
IllinoisXXX
Michigan XX
New YorkXXX
Ohio  X
PennsylvaniaXXX
Texas   
Washington StateXXX

Veterans

The free dental implant program for veterans also has a name: Smiles for Vets. In this example, a manufacturer of devices, Integrated Dental Systems (IDS), gains significant market share with prosthodontists by working from the public relations angle.

IDS provides implant hardware (body, abutment, crown) to prosthodontists at no charge if they treat local veterans. Pictures of former service members in uniform or wearing a hat after a complete makeover of their smile make for fantastic publicity.

The veteran-fueled P.R. then drives more business to a local practice, which then buys IDS devices at full price. Everyone wins – veterans, IDS, and the provider!

Recruit members of your local VFW lodge with similar needs. Then, contact IDS as a group to identify a nearby practice they would like to gain as a new distributor.  There is power in numbers.

Free Dental Implant Grants

The keys to finding and then qualifying for a free dental implant grant require two completely different strategies reflecting the primary sources’ unique nature.

  1. Government agencies redistribute resources from wealthy taxpayers to low-income families
  2. Private companies offer promotions to acquire new patients that increase practice earnings

Government Grants

Government grants for dental implants will prove very hard to find. The federal government awards grants to universities, state agencies, and non-profit organizations. They fund ideas and projects fostering a public service or stimulating the economy.

In other words, federal money does not flow directly to individuals. You have to trace the funding to a logical endpoint.

Begin at the Grants.gov website to identify relevant opportunities – if any. Hopefully, a local agency or clinic will receive the funding. But do not hold your breath.

IRS Supported

The federal government does offer two types of dental implant grants – cleverly disguised as IRS tax savings. In this instance, you have to have an open mind to take advantage as many people qualify.

Tooth implants are tax-deductible, and you have three ways to take advantage.

Flexible Spending

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) can shave large percentages off the price of tooth implants for many patients, providing near-universal government-based financial assistance beginning with your first dollar.

An FSA provides dental financing without a credit check and allows you to use pretax dollars to pay for eligible expenses, which results in three possible savings without the need to meet thresholds.

  1. Federal income tax (22% + for households earning above $78,951)
  2. FICA payroll taxes (7.65% for many employees)
  3. State income taxes (varies)

An FSA might also help you avoid paying city income taxes – if applicable. People living or working in major metropolitan areas could see additional savings depending on local rules.

  • New York City (NYC): 3.078 – 3.876% [1]
  • Philadelphia: [2]
    • 5019% for commuters into the city
    • 8712% for city residents
  • Chicago: 0%
  • Houston: 0%
  • Los Angeles: 0%
  • Phoenix: 0%
Schedule A

IRS Schedule A includes entries for unreimbursed medical and dental expenses, providing government-based financial help for patients needing pricier full-mouth tooth implants.

Schedule A deductions save money only when expenses exceed two critical thresholds in a single calendar year.

  1. The standard deduction (2021) of $12,550 (individual) and $25,100 (married couples filing jointly) means that all itemized deductions must exceed this threshold
    1. Mortgage interest
    1. Real estate taxes
    1. Charitable contributions
    1. Unreimbursed medical & dental
  2. Only the medical and dental expenses above 10% (2021) of your Adjusted Gross Income count towards itemized deductions
State Government

Potential state income tax savings are the final form of government-supported financial help with tooth implants. Flexible Spending Accounts or deductions on your state return could lead to savings.

Your unreimbursed medical and dental expenses could reduce your general obligation based on the marginal rate in your state.

California1 – 12.3%New York4 – 8.82%
Florida0%Ohio0 – 4.8%
Georgia1 – 5.75%Pennsylvania3.07%
Illinois4.95%Texas0%
Michigan4.25%Washington State0%

Low-Income

Government grant money most frequently flows to state agencies that support benefits for low-income families as determined by the Federal Poverty Level.  While none of these programs help directly with dental implants, they reduce your overall cost of living.

Applying for one of these government benefits will not help get your missing teeth replaced, but you could afford to pay the dentist by cutting expenses elsewhere.

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
  • Women Infants & Children (WIC)
  • Child Care Assistance Program
  • The Child Care Tax Credit (CCTC)

Implant Grant Reviews

Many private companies market free dental implant grants to the general public. These are not government agencies redistributing taxpayer money to low-income families.

Instead, they are for-profit companies seeking to increase the amount of money they earn – just like a grocery store that promotes free samples, coupons, and discounts to frequent shoppers.  

While none of these programs are scams, you will find our reviews reinforce two critical concepts covered in detail above.

  1. Prepare to become a profitable customer by boosting financial capacity
  2. Offer positive public relations exposure that helps the practice grow

Cosmetic Dentistry Grants

Our review of the Cosmetic Dentistry Grant (CDG) program illustrates a central subtheme of this article. Prosthodontists are willing to provide awards to people deemed to offer something of value in exchange: a profitable future customer that generates positive publicity.

  1. “Partial grants” leave you responsible for all remaining future expenses
    1. Patients must fund all X-ray expenses associated with the “free initial assessment”
    1. Individuals or insurance must pay for all treatments needed to restore their oral health first
    1. The funds cannot go towards payment of treatment already completed or in progress
  2. Application questions surface your financial capacity to cover these left-over charges
    1. Do you have dental insurance?
      1. PPO
      1. HMO
    1. Are you employed?
  3. Applicants must agree to several public relations elements
    1. Allow the organization to publicize the disbursement of funds without prior notification
    1. Use your name, as well as other independently gathered information
    1. Write a thank-you letter that acknowledges the award

The cosmetic dentistry grant is a cunning marketing scheme conceived and executed brilliantly by the Oral Aesthetic Advocacy Group to help participating office grow their business. The award money comes from the practices that subscribe to their programs.

Do your homework on this organization first. Get competing estimates for comparison purposes before making a financial commitment.

Dental Grants of Texas

Our review for Dental Grants of Texas is precisely the same as for CDG because it appears to be a knockoff or rebranding. Compare the terms and conditions published on the two sites carefully, and you will see remarkable similarities between the two.

As with CDG, Dental Grants of Texas is willing to provide awards to people deemed to offer something of value in exchange: a profitable future customer that generates positive publicity.

  • The patient is responsible for all remaining future expenses
  • Application questions surface your financial capacity
  • Applicants must agree to several public relations elements

Smile Grant Program

Our Smile Grant Program review is simple. They offer a free consultation and X-ray and discounts on future dental work.

People with the financial capacity to be profitable customers stand to benefit most from the Smile Grant program. Their website clearly states, “Patients with insurance get the biggest discounts.”

The Smile Grant Program website does not disclose the name of the organization behind the operation. It appears that they make money by referring patients to providers wanting to fill chairs with customers, as evidenced by the following.

  • Their online application form does not ask for a payment method
  • Terms and conditions permit the sharing of your data with dentists

Article Citations

[1] NYC Income Tax Rate

[2] Philadelphia Wage Tax