Cant afford a dentist what are your options

By Sarah R
Modified on September 14, 2023
can't afford dentist

Do you need dental work but worried about affording the costs? Unfortunately, many people avoid the costs of going to the dentist simply by not visiting the dentist at all. This avoidance can put people at risk of tooth decay, root canals, gum problems, or other dental health issues.

Instead of putting the dentist off, you may want to look into insurance coverage, government programs, or public services to help you afford essential dental care

How To Get Low-cost Dental Coverage

Nobody should have to go without dental care. Thankfully, you may be able to find a nonprofit organization or public dental clinic to help you out with discounted or free dental services. Below is more information on some of the most common places where you may be able to find affordable dental care. 

Dental Insurance

The first option you should look into when finding ways to pay for dental care is insurance from your employer. Insurance is usually the most affordable way to pay for dental care and can help save you several hundred dollars or more. 

Not all employers offer dental benefits, but many do. If you are unsure whether your employer provides dental insurance, talk to the Human Resources department. They may be able to give you a list of doctors and dental offices that are covered under your employer’s health insurance plan. 

Donated Services 

Many dentists offer pro bono services, meaning they provide services for free. You may have to complete some paperwork and be deemed eligible by a committee to receive some pro bono services. But, if you are struggling to afford dental care, it is an option to consider. Many pro bono services are also part of clinical trials, which means your case may be used as scientific data for new dental procedures or techniques. 

Dental Schools 

Many dental schools offer low-cost dental care to patients. While dental students may perform your initial diagnosis and checkup, a qualified dentistry instructor will review or perform any major work. You can save money on necessary dental work and also provide a valuable educational experience to a dentist in training! 

Public or Free Dental Clinic

There are also many dental clinics that offer free or cheap dental work to people and families with low incomes. Many dental clinics are nonprofit organizations that work to provide the public with essential dental care at low or no cost.  

Government Assistance

If your employer does not offer dental insurance, there are also government dental programs and federally qualified health centers to consider. Some popular programs are: 

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
  • America’s Dentists Care Foundation. 
  • American Dental Association. 
  • Medicaid. 
  • Medicare. 

Clinical Trials

If you are willing to be a part of some research, you may consider taking part in a dental clinical trial. When there is a new dental technique or procedure, doctors usually try them out in clinical trials before rolling out the information to established practices. If the dental work you’re looking for is being tested in a clinical trial, you may be able to receive treatment absolutely free! You may just have to keep certain records of your experience so doctors can collect the data for their clinical trial results. 

State or Local Resources 

Most states offer dental hygiene programs at community health centers. Visit your local health center and see what kinds of services they offer. You may be able to get free services or dental supplies like toothpaste, a toothbrush, or floss. 

What Are Your Options When You Don’t Have Dental Insurance?

What if you are uninsured and don’t qualify for any free dental programs? Don’t stress! There are still options to consider to pay for your dental treatment. 

Dental Payment Plans 

Many offices offer dental discount plans for routine procedures or special treatment procedures that are more expensive. Instead of paying for your dental work up front, your doctor may be able to offer you a dental payment plan so you can pay over time. That way, you have time to save in between payments instead of owing a massive lump sum all at once. 

Short-term Funding Options

If a dental payment plan doesn’t work for you, you may consider getting a short-term emergency loan to pay for everything upfront. Below are some common funding options you may consider using for dental coverage. 

Personal Installment Loans

For short-term or even long-term funding options, you may want to look into personal installment loans. Installment loans are a versatile type of financing that offer competitive interest rates, high or low loan amounts, and personalized payment options. There are installment loan plans available for people who need a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand dollars. Depending on the kind of work you need done, you may find an installment loan is the most convenient way to secure a dental care loan

Payday Loans

An online payday loan is a short-term financing option that may work for you if you need dental work immediately but won’t be able to pay for it until your next paycheck. Since the interest rates on payday loans are so high, it is in your best interest to completely pay off the balance within about fourteen days or less (usually the amount of time in between paychecks). If you don’t think you will be able to take care of your balance in two weeks, you may want to consider other short-term financing options. 

Car Title Loans

If you feel comfortable using your vehicle as collateral, you could take advantage of car title loans. A car title loan is a type of secured financing that offer short-term loan amounts, similar to payday loans. Title loans also come with high-interest rates, which may make paying off the balance more difficult. 

Other Ways To Save on Dental Services 

Looking for some other ways to save on dental services when you have a limited income? Check out the tips below! 

Develop Good Oral Health Habits

When it comes to your teeth, preventive care is the best care. You can prevent unnecessary decay and other dental issues by practicing good oral health. Some habits you should stick to are brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly. 

Don’t Skip Out on Routine Dental Care

It is also important to visit your dentist regularly, not just when you are in pain. Going in for regular oral checkups and teeth cleanings not only helps keep your mouth healthy but can also be a great way to detect minor issues before they become bigger dental problems. 

Try To Eat Healthier 

Eating heavily processed or sugary foods regularly may put you at high risk for dental problems like cavities and even root canals. Instead, try to eat healthier. You may find that meal prepping makes developing healthy eating habits easier and may even help you grocery shop on a budget. Eating nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables promotes oral, gut, and overall bodily health!

Listen to Your Body

Listen to your body. If your gums, teeth, tongue, or any other part of your mouth feels off, make a dentist appointment. Don’t wait until a minor soreness becomes unbearable pain to visit your dentist. Some warning signs that it may be time to visit a dentist are: 

  • Extreme sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods. 
  • Pains or soreness when you bite down or chew. 
  • Excessive gum bleeding. 
  • Bad breath that won’t go away with brushing or mouth wash. 
  • Swelling of the gums, cheeks, or tongue. 

Free or Low-Cost Dental Care When You’re Uninsured

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