Financial assistance programs can help you pay for expensive dental work when you have no money in the bank. There are ways to fix your bad teeth when cash-strapped.
However, it is not easy finding the right resources.
The federal government does not provide grants to individuals for personal use. Charitable organizations have limited funding and strict qualifying criteria. Free services are rare and require some level of self-payment.
Therefore, adults need to follow a road map because the opportunities do not come with clear labels, and you may have to take several avenues.
Also, go into the process with a healthy dose of skepticism to avoid dead ends and unrealistic expectations.
Paying for Dental Work with No Money
How do you fix bad teeth with no money in the bank? In general, most adults find that self-help financial assistance programs available through the private sector are more readily available than grants or free care: financing and insurance.
Financing via third-party companies represents the most fruitful avenue for dental payment assistance for adults who lack money to get their rotten teeth fixed right away before problems become worse.
If approved, a private lender will deposit the funds directly into your checking account. Dentists are more likely to offer zero-fee services or lower prices when the patient has a demonstrated ability to pay.
Repay the lender in equal payments (installment loan) or via varying monthly amounts (revolving credit card).
Two different types of self-help dental assistance programs can help adults who need their bad teeth fixed but lack the money to pay now. Pay careful attention to each illustration.
Adults who need their teeth pulled but have no insurance and no money in savings can set up a dental assistance program themselves. Fast action and an understanding of key policy features make the difference.
Dental insurance without waiting periods could cover your tooth extraction right away, with critical limitations, hidden cost savings, and a reason to act now.
- Graded benefits limit the amounts paid for major services in the early years
- In-network dentists cannot charge more than the lower allowed amount
- Missing tooth exclusions eliminate benefits for implants as a replacement
In other words, you have no excuse to get your tooth pulled without insurance. The policy might pay for itself when you replace it later with dentures or implants – provided you start the plan before the extraction.
Adults who need emergency work but have no insurance and no money set aside can sometimes access dental assistance programs with alternative labels. You might get lucky after seeking urgent care for excruciating tooth pain.
- Medicaid covers emergency oral care for low-income households across the country and often pays three months retroactively
- Private health insurance pays for urgent oral care resulting from non-biting accidental injuries, and treatments stemming from a covered illness such as cancer
- Hospital charity programs help the uninsured pay for emergency treatment after a non-biting accident to relieve pain or clear an infection
Getting Teeth Fixed for Free
How do you get your teeth fixed for free? When you have no money, financial help with dental costs goes a long way – especially when the work price is zero.
Sliding scale clinics, charity care, dental schools, and pro bono dentists are the glaring places to look. However, each resource has limitations on the number of patients they can serve on the house.
Therefore, set your expectations accordingly and watch out for false promises made by other online publications.
Looking for free dental clinics online can be an exercise in frustration. Many headlines promise to lead you to a local resource, only to bombard you with advertising and links to sites you already visited.
Have the correct expectations going into the process. You probably will not find a clinic that will provide every needed service on a complimentary basis – and expect to wait in a long line.
Use the NeedyMeds database to find a clinic in your local area. Their website includes a database of 4,096 clinics that offer dental care at a reduced price using a sliding scale based on income.
Many charitable and nonprofit organizations may operate via free dental clinics. Keep in mind these entities depend on their donors’ generosity. Therefore, they can help only a tiny number of people.
- Dentistry From the Heart: provides treatment during specialized fairs at no cost
- Charitable Smiles helps Indiana residents who can’t afford treatment get the care they need by pairing patients with participating dentists who volunteer their chair-time
- The Smiles for Everyone Foundation provides no cost dental services to individuals in need through community projects
Try not to invest too much time chasing after local dental schools that perform work for free. Many online resources include headlines suggesting this is true across the country.
However, when you follow the links, you will find that most clinics charge patients – with perhaps some consideration for their ability to pay.
Dental schools do recruit residents so their students can practice their craft under the supervision of faculty. However, each college-based clinic determines fees and the eligibility criteria for any discounted work.
The American Dental Education Association publishes a state-by-state list of accredited programs. Use this trusted resource to find a nearby clinic.
Pro Bono Dental Work
Dentists will sometimes perform work pro bono for a small number of local patients that fit an exacting profile. Pro bono means for the public good and could translate into services performed without charge for low-income families.
However, it pays to learn the limitations and hidden agendas sometimes baked into specific free service offerings.
Free dentures for the poor is yet another example of misleading headlines you might find elsewhere online. Your local dentist might provide some level of pro bono work to help you replace missing teeth, but do not expect to pay zero.
Dentures require expensive fabrication by an outside lab that charges the dentist for the service. It is unrealistic to expect your local provider to swallow these costs on your behalf.
However, zero cost diagnostics and installation of dentures are not unreasonable because the dentist is merely donating his or her time and expertise.
Free dental implant programs often prove incredibly elusive due to the extremely high expenses; the average cost for a single tooth is about $4,000 without insurance. While you might find a prosthodontist willing to provide pro bono services, other providers are involved in the process.
- Oral surgeon to perform bone grafting and implant insertion
- Outside lab to fabricate the components (body, abutment, crown)
However, other financial assistance options could reduce your costs significantly.
- Tax savings
- Clinical trials
- Payment plans
Free dental braces for adults could prove very difficult to find. However, parents with children entering their teenage years could find multiple resources offering financial assistance with orthodontia.
- Orthodontists offer pro bono services through charitable organizations
- Smiles Change Lives
- Smile for a Lifetime
- Donated Orthodontic Services
- Medicaid covers braces for children with a handicapping malocclusion
- Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) covers braces when necessary
Finding a nearby dental office that offers free cleanings should prove simple. However, dentists offering this service pro bono could be more about growing their practice than performing a public service.
Dentists frequently send mailers to homes in their service area advertising cleanings (prophylaxis) at no cost to bring new patients into the office. Look in your mailbox or visit online coupon sites for similar offers – they are everywhere.
Each new patient receiving a complimentary cleaning could have other oral health issues.
Grants for Adult Dental Work
Finding grants for adult dental work will not be easy because very few funding organizations provide the awards directly to individuals. Grants represent free money that you do not have to repay – so it is tempting to spend time looking for this type of financial assistance.
Once again, proper expectations are critical.
Government grants for dental work do exist – just not in the form of financial assistance that people expect – the federal government awards grants to universities, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations – not to individuals.
Begin at the grants.gov website to see where the free government money flows and apply at any logical endpoints. Meanwhile, the federal government supports other programs that act like indirect grants to lower or eliminate your oral care costs.
- Medicaid covers oral care differently based on the age of the patient
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) includes oral care
- The IRS tax code reduces dental expenses
- Flexible Spending Accounts
- Deducting unreimbursed expenses
Grants for Low-Income
Dental grants for low-income adults are a good starting point for many people without the money to fix their teeth. Many of the programs cited earlier target adults who are living in poverty, plus a few more.
- Low-income households frequently qualify for Medicaid, which could cover all of your oral care needs with zero out-of-pocket expenses.
- Low-income households also qualify for other financial assistance programs that reduce other expenses, loosening resources to pay for dental work.
- 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)
Dental grants for single mothers fall under the low-income umbrella because solo parents frequently earn very little money. One parent living alone while raising a child at the same time cannot work as many hours or devote as much time enhancing her resume with relevant experience.
Plus, single mothers often have a broad array of financial needs when raising children by themselves without a partner’s help. These specialty programs can help by loosening resources to pay for dental work.
- Women Infants & Children (WIC)
- Child Care Assistance Program
- The Child Care Tax Credit (CCTC)
Grants for disabled adults also fall into the low-income category because the two Social Security disability programs pay very little in benefits each month.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays an average of only $1,300 per month for people who worked and paid FICA taxes
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pays out only $794 per month, plus you have resource limits of just $2,000 in countable assets
Disabled adults can also tap into grant money that flows to charitable entities. For example, Dental Lifeline Network is A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that nationally provides access to treatment and education for people who cannot afford it and:
- have a permanent disability or
- who are elderly: age 65 or older or
- who are medically fragile
Dental grants for recovering addicts also fall under the low-income umbrella as former methamphetamine, and heroin users are less employable because of their bad teeth and spotty work history.
In addition to the resources noted above, recovering addicts can tap into other programs that might help in related areas.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a government agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA publishes a grant awards archive that enables addicts in recovery to identify local programs that received awards. However, most of this funding goes towards substance abuse prevention and treatment.
- Regional charities are popping up to provide help with oral care to former drug users. For example, Wally’s War Against Addiction restores smiles for affected people in the Concord, New Hampshire area.
Dental grants for senior citizens can also fall into the low-income category because Social Security retirement benefits can leave the elderly in poverty if they do not have 401K or IRA funds.
Plus, free dental care for senior citizens is slightly more realistic as two assistance programs might apply to the elderly, who often need help fixing their teeth and have little money.
- Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) includes help with dentistry
- Medicare Advantage plans sometimes include coverage for oral care
Cosmetic Dentistry Grants
The Cosmetic Dentistry Grant program is an entirely different animal run by a private company rather than a government agency. The Oral Aesthetic Advocacy Group operates this clever marketing scheme to help participating offices grow their businesses.
Participating dentists offer partial grants to attract new patients with extensive oral care needs. In exchange for getting some services at no charge, you must agree to do three things that benefit the practice.
- Pay for any treatment to restore oral health first
- Fund remaining expenses leftover from the partial grant
- Allow the practice to publicize the award in public venues