Dental care is an important aspect of our physical well-being and good health. But with age and rising healthcare costs, dental care is often overlooked. One of the main reasons for this is the sky-high cost of dental care, with basic procedures costing hundreds of dollars and the bills for cosmetic procedures often starting from $1,000.
For low-income households and individuals who live on incomes close to the federal poverty line, health and dental insurance is a luxury they cannot afford. Approximately 8.3% of the American population did not have health insurance in 2021, and a whopping 77 million people had no dental insurance.
This guide will cover the costs and expenses associated with adequate dental care, relevant procedures, and different means of getting dental care for adults without insurance.
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How Much Does Dental Care Cost Without Insurance?
Access to dental care for adults without insurance seems very difficult in the current economy. The average dental care insurance plan that covers routine checkups or minor procedures is approximately $47 a month.
Although this might seem a manageable expense, low-income individuals and households, especially the ones without fixed incomes and living off government assistance, such as SSI, cannot afford to spend on insurance. A visit to the dentist for a basic examination and minor cleaning costs between $75 and $200, with an average cost of $127 per visit.
The following are a few procedures you might undergo when you visit your dentist. If you are a veteran without a car, read our blog post on free cars for veterans and disabled veterans.
A root canal is a dental treatment procedure required if you have an infection inside your tooth. Often, the soft pulp at the center of your tooth might be subject to bacterial infection due to an injury, previous improper filling, or general decay of the tooth's outer layer.
This infection is characterized by intense pain while chewing or when the tooth is exposed to cold or hot food or liquids, puss emanating from the infected tooth, or a loose tooth. Root canal treatment without an insurance plan can cost anywhere between $620 and $1,472 per tooth, depending on which tooth requires treatment.
Dental fillings are needed when you have a cavity in your tooth due to decay. Treating cavities is a simple process. Ideally, your dentist would remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill the cavity. Fillings can also treat cracked or broken teeth damaged due to a fall or accidental trauma. The dentist first numbs the area surrounding your tooth and removes the decayed area using a drill, an abrasion tool, or a laser.
Once the cavity is free of decay, debris, and bacteria, they apply the filling material, usually comprised of amalgam, gold, ceramic, or composite material. Depending on the size of the cavity and the material used to fill the cavity, the cost of a single filling can vary between $100 and $2,000.
If your teeth are overlapped or misaligned, your dentist might suggest dental braces. A similar treatment is recommended for people with misaligned jaws, also known as malocclusion.
Until a few years ago, braces were used to treat young people only, but now, even adults opt for braces as a corrective measure to realign their teeth. Braces are expensive, costing between $3,000 and $10,000 for people without dental insurance.
To maintain good dental health, you should visit your dentist regularly to clean your teeth and the spaces between the teeth. Before your dentist cleans your teeth, they will examine your mouth to assess the level of treatment required.
They then clear up the minute layers of tartar and plaque accumulated between your teeth and close to your gum line by scaling your teeth. After scaling, you'll need to rinse your mouth, after which your dentist will give you fluoride treatment that protects you from cavities for a few months.
How Do You Afford Dental Care Without Insurance?
If you have no dental care insurance, you can choose from the following options to access affordable dental care.
Dental Lifeline Network
Using a volunteer dentist network, the Dental Lifeline Network provides dental services to the elderly, ill, and disabled. There can be long waiting lists, however.
Medicaid is a state-federal health insurance program that provides coverage to low-income individuals. Regardless of your state, Medicaid covers dental care for children if you qualify. Some Medicaid programs also cover adult dental benefits.
Accessing quality dental care for less is possible through dental schools. Outpatient clinics operated by dental schools provide dental procedures performed by students as part of their training at substantial discounts under the supervision of practicing dentists and dental surgeons.
Learn more about accessing low-cost dental services by visiting the American Dental Association's website.
Low-cost dental care is also available in federally funded community health centers. Sliding scales are often used for determining fees. Health centers near you can be found on the US Health Resources & Services Administration website.
Besides community health centers, local clinics can help by offering preventative dental treatment, phased treatment, interest-free plans, special offers, and discounts.
The Urgency Of Medical Conditions And Dental Care
According to a study in 2019, the number of people in the United States who suffer from untreated dental decay and cavities is as follows:
- 13.2% of children between the ages of 5 and 19.
- 25.9% of adults between the ages of 20 and 44.
- 25.3% of adults between the ages of 45 and 64.
- 20.2% of adults at the age of 65 or more.
The statistics above depict the urgency required to provide affordable dental care, especially for people who cannot afford it. The following are a few tips for saving money on your dental treatment.
- Check if your employer offers a dental plan. This way, you can significantly reduce your dental treatment's financial burden.
- Participate in dental savings plans if your employer does not offer dental coverage. Dental savings plans offer an annual fee of $80 - $200.
- Get in touch with your local dental schools to learn about their free dental treatments.
- Check for dentists and organizations offering veterans benefits if you have a service-connected disability.
- Create a personal emergency dental fund by setting aside a small sum of money each month. This way, you'll have an adequate amount saved to supplement the amount you pay for an emergency visit to the dentist.
Charities That Help Access Dental Care
If you cannot afford dental treatment, you can also get the help you require from a charity that offers free or affordable dental care. Here are a few charities that can help you in your quest to find affordable dental treatment.
- Charitable Smiles: Charitable Smiles is a nonprofit organization that is 501(c)(3) approved and provided dental treatment to people who cannot afford it. The organization helps patients connect with volunteer dentists who offer their services to provide dental treatment to low-income individuals.
- Oral Health America: Oral Health America was founded in 1955. By connecting communities with resources and advocating for policies that improve overall health, Oral Health America aims to change lives through better access to oral health.
- Mission of Mercy: As part of the Mission of Mercy (MOM) program, dental services are provided in underserved areas of the state in which there are insufficient dental practitioners to provide adequate oral care.
- Open Wide Foundation: Founded in 1995, the Open Wide Foundation seeks to provide charitable dentistry services. As a nonprofit organization, it aims to significantly impact the oral health of individuals residing in low-income communities.
- American Dental Partners Foundation: Individuals and organizations generously contribute to the American Dental Partners Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Educating, preventing disease, and providing community patient care, aims to improve oral health care.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following are a few of the most frequently asked questions when talking to people who cannot afford dental care.
Depending on how many teeth need to be implanted, the cost can range between $1,500 and $30,000. In certain cases, the procedure cost could reach $50,000, depending on the case's specifics, the dentist performing the procedure, and the region in which the procedure is performed. An implant that replaces two to four teeth can cost between $6,000 and $10,000.
To qualify for a low-income affordable, or free dental treatment in the US, you must comply with the rules of the program, check for income and age eligibility, and have an eligible dental ailment with a level of intensity that may qualify it as a serious dental issue that needs immediate dental care.
You can find affordable dental care at your community health centers, local clinics, and dental schools. If you are a veteran, you can claim limited dental care due to your service-connected disability. Many charities and benevolent dentistry programs aim to mitigate the dental afflictions of low-income and needy people.
Now that you know the various options that provide dental care for adults without insurance, check the ones available in your area and apply for the one that suits your needs best.
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