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Many patients search online for grants and free programs to lower their dental implant costs, only to come up empty time after time.

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

Implants are an expensive cosmetic procedure with a cheaper alternative: tooth-supported fixed bridges, removable dentures, and resin-bonded bridges. Therefore, do not expect to find many handouts.

Instead, incorporate strategies to improve your financial capacity, and watch dentists compete for your business. Then, learn how to read between the lines of free care and grant offers and use this knowledge to your advantage.

Cheaper Dental Implants

Begin by exploring the more reliable options to lower your dental implant costs. Far more patients will find the financial help they need through one of these avenues.

Plus, these methods also strengthen your capacity to pay, which is a crucial factor in qualifying for free care and grant programs that you can read about later.

Payment Plans

A smartly executed payment plan can make your monthly and total dental implant costs seem cheaper. Access to funding upfront plus the ability to stretch out your obligations over time enables a strategy many patients can follow successfully.

Boost your financial capacity by taking these two steps.

  1. Request a personal loan (Affiliate Link) to equip yourself with enough cash to fund early-stage procedures. Walking through a clinic door with a war chest of the money puts you in control of the process, and allows you to select the dentist offering the best deal. Repay the lender in equal monthly installments in the future.
  2. Buy dental insurance to cover later treatments for teeth you have yet to extract. The process does not happen overnight, and you need time to heal between each step (up to 24 months in many cases). The benefits paid back to you could exceed premiums – even after factoring in waiting periods. Providers often bend over backward to attract patients with coverage.

Inexpensive Options

Do not overlook two IRS programs proven to make dental implants less expensive. Both of these options are available to many people, and the qualifying criteria are incredibly lax.

Flexible Spending

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) can shave large percentages off the price of implants for many patients. An FSA allows you to use pretax dollars to pay for eligible medical and dental expenses, which results in three possible savings.

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

Furthermore, your employer must reimburse all qualifying FSA expenses immediately. Begin a treatment step at the beginning of your plan year, and get a money-saving loan without a credit check.

The annual health FSA contribution limit is $2,750 per person in 2020. However, shrewd couples can expand their utility.

  • Both spouses can combine to contribute $5,500 each year
  • Treatment spanning two plan years allows $11,000

Finally, perform some simple math to ensure that you do not overlook the true FSA savings potential. For example, a household that avoids paying 33% in federal, state, and FICA taxes gets a $493 discount when you consider what they must earn to fund $1,000 in dental implant charges.

  • Pretax contributions require $1,000 in wages
  • Post-tax spending requires $1,493 in salary

Tax Deductions

Deducting your dental implant expenses by using IRS Schedule A could be a viable cost-reduction method for patients needing to replace multiple teeth all at once. Also, taking the deduction is a fallback alternative for people without access to an FSA at work.

Unfortunately, Schedule A deductions will only help people with extremely high medical and dental spending (i.e., full mouth restorations) because your unreimbursed expenses must exceed two thresholds in a single year.

  1. The standard deduction (2020) of $12,400 (individual) and $24,800 (married couples filing jointly) means that all itemized deductions must exceed this threshold in order to reduce your tax obligation
    1. Mortgage interest
    2. Real estate taxes
    3. Charitable contributions
    4. Unreimbursed medical & dental
  2. Only the medical and dental expenses above 10% (2020) of your Adjusted Gross Income count towards itemized deductions

Discount Plans

Dental discount plans are another reliable method to reduce implant treatment costs. Enrolled members can access reduced pricing immediately without having to endure long waiting periods before benefits begin.

However, discount plans are not insurance. The issuing company does not pay claims on your behalf. Instead, participating providers agree to charge members a lower fee than they would otherwise.

Dentists agree to charge reduced prices after negotiating with the issuing company. They minimize rates in exchange for higher patient volume from discount plan members.

Free Dental Implant Programs

Finding a way to get selected services free of charge could lower your dental implant costs. However, you have to temper your expectations, watch out for misleading headlines, and offer something of value in exchange.

  1. The average cost of a single replacement tooth is about $4,000, so do not expect to find a dentist willing to give away the full amount of such a staggering sum
  2. Many online publishers know you are asking this question, and they develop content with clickbait titles, but the articles mostly fail to deliver.
  3. Trading something of value is the best way to get a service at no charge, and you have three avenues.
    1. Make yourself a profitable customer by having the capacity to pay for all other oral care procedures you might need
    2. Provide the practice with valuable public relations exposure that attracts other patients in need of extensive work
    3. Become a test subject and participate as a volunteer in a study, or allow a novice student to fix your teeth

Clinical Trials

Participating in a clinical trial is a possible way to get free dental implants – for a small handful of people. Patients volunteer to help prosthodontists experiment with untested techniques, materials, and appliances. In exchange, the researchers often provide select services at no charge.

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

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.

Dental Schools

Lists of dental schools offering free implant programs is an example of misleading headlines. You may be able to get some care at a lower cost, but not the full value of an expensive cosmetic procedure.

Follow the links found in online articles promising this benefit – as we did. You will quickly learn that most dental colleges charge patients for their services. Several make the point that they do not provide care on the house because so many people believe they do.

Dental schools often have all of the patients they can treat because they usually charge lower prices than private practices. After all, inexperienced students (supervised by faculty) are learning their craft as they fix your teeth. Plus, endowment funding and tuition can sometimes support part of the clinic operating expenses.

The American Dental Education Association provides a list of universities. Use this resource to find a local clinic, but have reasonable expectations about fees.

Pro Bono

Private practices sometimes provide dental implant programs on a pro bono basis. Sometimes, they want to perform a public good by serving others in need as a ministry. More frequently, a prosthodontist might agree to perform one procedure step at no charge to get you to become a patient.

People with broken, decaying, or missing teeth and the financial capacity to pay (secure employment and or insurance) are profitable customers who keep coming back year after year. Giving a service away, in the beginning, is a smart marketing move when a full-mouth restoration can bring in up to $90,000 to a dental office!

Seniors

Senior citizens with Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) are positioned to negotiate some dental implant services without compensation. While traditional Medicare and supplements (Part F & G) do not cover oral care (unless medically necessary), many Advantage plans do.

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, bargain with the dentist to reduce prices for treatments not covered by your plan.

Low-Income

Low-income patients in roughly half of the country can obtain some early-stage teeth implant services for nothing thanks to a federal and state government partnership.

While Medicaid never covers implants, it could honor claims for some of the beginning steps and finishing touches.

  • Oral Surgery (O)
    • Tooth extractions
    • Bone grafting
    • Body placement in the jaw
  • Periodontal (P)
    • Abutment gum surgery
  • Restorative (R)
    • Dentures

Also, each state determines Medicaid income qualifications (percentage of federal poverty level), and the types of oral care it supports. Therefore, where you live determines what treatment steps might come at no charge to you.

O P R
California X X X
Florida X
Georgia
Illinois X X X
New York X X X

Disabled

Disabled individuals seeking complimentary dental implant services need to combine the lessons learned in the low-income and senior citizen sections. Social Security provides two wage replacement programs for people with permanent disabilities, and the insurance works differently for each.

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) covers individuals with few resources who never worked. SSI recipients take part in Medicaid, which includes some dental services in half of the states (see low-income section above).
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) covers people who worked and paid FICA taxes. (SSDI) recipients are Medicaid eligible for the first two years and then graduate to Medicare, which does not cover dental unless you enroll in an Advantage plan (see seniors section above).

Veterans

Veterans have the most apparent path to getting dental implant services on the house by working the public relations angle. Pictures of veterans in uniform or wearing a hat after a complete makeover of their smile make for fantastic publicity. The PR then drives more business to a local practice

For example, the PR angle is so robust that a device manufacturer offers free prosthetic devices to dentists who perform work on veterans. The Smiles for Vets program helps Integrated Dental Systems (IDS) gain a more significant market share with prosthodontists.

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. Everyone wins – veterans, IDS, and the provider!

Grants for Dental Implants

The keys to finding and then qualifying for a free dental implant grant illustrates many of the critical concepts covered above in this article.

  1. Misleading headlines drive online traffic to questionable sites
  2. Partial awards leave the patient to pay the bulk of expenses
  3. Equipping yourself with the ability to pay leads to success
  4. Prosthodontists see value in positive publicity

Federal Government

Grants for dental implants from the federal government are an example of clickbait headlines. Publishers can readily discover search terms used by consumers and develop content to match the query to bring in traffic to their site. Once you arrive, they can bombard you with advertising.

The government awards grants to universities, state agencies, and non-profit organizations to fund ideas and projects to foster a public service or stimulate the economy. In other words, the federal money does not flow directly to individuals.

Check out the Grants.gov website to identify relevant opportunities – if any. Trace where the money flows (if you are lucky enough to find something close, which is unlikely). Hopefully, a local agency or clinic will receive the funding. But do not hold your breath.

Cosmetic Dentistry

The Cosmetic Dentistry Grant (CDG) program illustrates the remaining subthemes 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”
    2. Individuals or insurance must pay for all treatments needed to restore their oral health first
    3. 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
      2. HMO
    2. 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
    2. Use your name, as well as other independently gathered information
    3. 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.

Texas

The Dental Grants of Texas program could be a knockoff or rebranding of the CDG scheme. A review of the websites of the two organizations shows remarkable similarities.

  • Application questions
  • Disclosure statements
  • Included procedures
    • Whitening or Tooth Bleaching
    • Veneers
    • Invisalign®
    • Implants
    • Dentures
    • Crowns (Caps)
    • Dental Bridges
    • Bonding
    • Contouring
    • Lumineers
    • Gum Lift
    • Enamel Shaping

See for yourself that Dental Grants of Texas also offers awards to future profitable patients that will provide them with valuable publicity.

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