It may seem impossible to get good dental care when funds are low and you aren’t insured, but there are always options available. From public services to private clinics, free dental care is available all over the country – you just have to know where to look.
Here’s how to get free dental work done quickly when you’re uninsured:
- Assess your disadvantages.
- Find local places to get free or low-cost dental care.
- Contact a service that can help you find a free dentist.
- Call your dentist to make an appointment in the morning.
- Bring pertinent documentation to your appointment.
So, let’s explore your options together. I’ll help you determine where you can find free, fast dental care and provide you with some resources to help you get connected with the best free dentists and dental care in your area. I’ll also explain more about each type of dentist you can contact to help you get the care you need.
1. Assess Your Disadvantages
Free dental work isn’t available for just anyone in the United States. Most free dentists only treat people with certain conditions or statuses that disadvantage them when finding dental care.
So, to determine what kind of free dental care you might qualify for, you’ll first need to assess your disadvantages. After you do so, you can then work on finding a clinic that can offer you free dental care based on those circumstances.
Some common disadvantages that might help you qualify for specific free clinics or dentists are:
- Income below the federal poverty line
- Lack of insurance
- Undocumented immigrant status
- Permanent disability
- Preexisting severe medical conditions
- Dental issues due to domestic abuse or assault
- Veteran status
Depending on which of these conditions and statuses you have, one dental care provider may be better for you than others, so keep that in mind as you read through the types of clinics and services that offer free dental care.
2. Find Local Places To Get Free or Low-Cost Dental Care
Although it’s not common knowledge to most people without insurance, there are tons of places that will offer free dental care to those who need it the most.
That said, keep in mind that most of these free clinics and dental care providers have certain criteria you will have to meet first in order to qualify for free, fast dental care, so you’ll need to check out each one in your area to see what you qualify for.
These clinics and services may also have a list of certain conditions they can treat and other qualifications you will have to meet in order to qualify for an appointment, so you may have to look around to find the one that works best for you and your teeth.
Still, if you’re uninsured and have a low income, there are plenty of places that should be able to take you on as a patient.
Here are some of the best places to get free or low-cost dental care.
Public Health Department
Public health departments are generally the top place to go for any healthcare when you’re uninsured.
They offer treatments on a sliding scale, and if you’re uninsured and below the federal poverty level, or if you’re a student, you can probably get your health issues taken care of for free – and that means dental work, too!
Contact the Oral Care Divisions of your local Health Department – they generally offer extractions, dental exams, cleanings, x-rays, cancer screenings, and sometimes even fillings.
The cost of dental care at the health department is usually calculated on a sliding scale, and you can expect to pay a nominal flat fee, no matter what procedures you need to be done.
Often, the fee can range anywhere from $10 (for the lowest-income people) and $25 for people with a higher income that still fall below the poverty line. So, although it’s not always completely free, going to the health department won’t drain your budget.
That said, these price ranges can differ depending on where you live, so you may want to check with your local health department’s website for the details. If you need help finding the department in your county, you can use this helpful search tool.
One significant benefit of using the health department for your dental care is that appointments are usually made and completed quickly.
Usually, the health department makes appointments a week or several days in advance, and arrangements are made on a first-come-first-served basis. That said, if you reach out as soon as possible, you should be able to get an appointment for the upcoming week.
Free Dental Clinics
There are many different free dental clinics run by charities, churches, and dental associations. These clinics are staffed by volunteer dentists and nonprofit or charity organizations to help people in need who cannot otherwise afford dental work. They are usually open to the public.
These organizations generally offer free dental work for people with a low enough income. Additionally, they often work on a sliding scale, so they’ll only charge what you can afford for the type of care you need, which can be helpful if you don’t meet the income threshold for completely free dental work.
Free and volunteer dental clinics generally offer a variety of services, and each provides a different set of services. This means you’ll have to check what’s available near you to determine whether there’s one that provides the service you want for free or for a nominal fee.
Dental schools are always looking for patients for students to practice with, and they often offer free or low-cost care in exchange. A professor constantly supervises students, so you’ll still get care from a qualified dentist at a school, but it won’t cost you what a regular dental clinic would.
That said, dental schools aren’t always free, so you’ll have to see what’s available in your area and check out the prices to see if you can afford it. Most university-affiliated dental schools do offer cleanings and other minor procedures for free, however, so if you live in a college town, you can probably get some services handled at no cost.
To look for a dental school, you can search and get the contact information for the school nearest you on the Commission on Dental Accreditation website. Then, just call the school nearest you to see what they offer and when they have openings.
If you only need a cleaning or minor work done, you may also find free care at a dental hygiene school. To learn more about what hygienist schools are nearest to you, you may want to look at the American Dental Hygienists Association Program website.
A Mission of Mercy
If you live in Arizona, Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Texas, you can get free dental care with A Mission of Mercy. They are a charitable organization that offers dental care and other healthcare to uninsured people and people who have a low income.
A Mission of Mercy usually organizes clinic events every month as a way to offer free dental care. They also have a convenient mobile clinic that can come to you if you have any disabilities that prevent you from visiting an office.
The only downside to this program is that it’s only available in four states. However, if you live in one of them, make sure to take advantage of this fantastic service!
Dentists Care Foundation
The Dentists Care Foundation is an organization that provides dental equipment to dentists nationwide who want to host free dental clinic events, which are free and open to the public.
These events happen sporadically all over the country, so finding one in your area while you’re in a rush to get your teeth taken care of may be challenging. However, if one is happening near you, you should try to make your way to it.
The Dentists Care Foundation requires no proof of income or qualifications to provide you with free dental care, so they’ll be able to help you no matter what your disadvantages. That said, they do operate on a first-come-first-serve basis, so if you plan to go to a clinic event, make sure to get there early.
Donated Dental Services
Donated Dental Services is a network of dentists and hygienists who provide free services to people with disabilities, the elderly, veterans, and people with a range of other medical conditions. To qualify, you also have to have an income below the poverty level.
This is an application-based program, so you’ll have to qualify and apply to get dental care. In addition, it can take several days to several weeks for them to process your application, so if you’re in a rush, this might not be the program for you right now.
However, once you’re a member, you remain a member for many years. This ensures that you will be able to get free dental care whenever you need it, preventing the need for emergency dental care a few years down the road.
To see what’s available in your state and county, check on the Dental Lifeline website.
Pro Bono Dentists
Some dentists are willing to work with people who need dental care but cannot afford it, including by negotiating the price of dental care. However, it will probably take a good amount of searching to find a dentist willing to take you on as a free patient.
That said, if you call around enough and ask, you may be able to find a dentist who’ll perform a procedure, examination, or cleaning for you at little to no cost. The price (or lack thereof) will usually depend on your financial situation and how urgent your dental health condition is.
As mentioned, it can be hard to find someone who is both willing to do pro bono work or who has openings for it and who offers the procedures you need, especially if you need significant dental care. This means that you may have to call around quite a bit before you find the right dentist and the right deal. However, dentists are dentists because they want to help, so you’ll probably be able to find someone willing to take your case if you look hard enough.
3. Contact a Service That Can Help You Find a Free Dentist
With all of the free and low-cost dental care services out there, it can be challenging to determine which one is best for you. However, there are some organizations that can help you find the dental care you need free of cost, so calling or contacting one could save you tons of time and effort.
Some of the best services that can help you find a free dentist are United Way and Informed Immigrant. You can use their websites or phone numbers to find the specific services you need to have performed for free from a clinic in your area.
United Way Worldwide is an organization that offers a free call-in service called 211 that connects people with free healthcare providers, food banks, charities, federal assistance programs, and so much more. When you call, they’ll connect you with a specialist who lives in your state so that you can find the best care available in your area.
This service makes finding free clinics and many other services very easy. To find dental care, you can talk with a United Way staff member to discuss the procedures you need to have done, the cost of care for you, and the locations of nearby clinics.
The volunteer and staff call agents at United Way are fantastic at helping you figure everything out in a timely fashion, and they are passionate about helping you, so I highly recommend giving them a call before you make an appointment anywhere. They’ll help you find a clinic that is affordable and near your home and is willing to help with the specific dental procedure you need to have done.
To contact them, you can check out their website or just call the number 2-1-1 on your phone.
Finding dental care as an undocumented immigrant can sometimes seem impossible, but there are options.
The Informed Immigrant website can help immigrants find clinics that offer them free or low-cost dental care, even if you are not a legal citizen of the United States.
Informed Immigrant is also a fantastic resource for other services such as any other healthcare needs you may have, DACA statuses, and much more, so check it out if you’re an undocumented immigrant in the USA. It can help you find what you need quickly, and you can be sure that all of the resources there are friendly to undocumented Americans.
4. Call Your Dentist To Make an Appointment in the Morning
When you’ve found the best clinic or service for you, it’s time to make an appointment. Dental care is in high demand in America. This is especially true for free and low-cost services – few people can afford dental coverage even if they have insurance, and the prices are often too steep to pay out of pocket.
With so many people in need of affordable dental care, it can be challenging to get an appointment at a low-cost or free clinic. So, when it comes to scheduling your procedure, the early bird always gets the worm.
When you’re ready to make your appointment, try calling the clinic or service the moment that it opens. If you don’t get an appointment, you should ask the receptionist when to call again for the next available slot. Call as soon as they tell you to – this ensures that you’re more likely to get an appointment, and you’ll likely be able to choose between a few options for your appointment time.
5. Bring Financial Documentation to Your Appointment
Most clinics and dentists that offer free procedures also require proof that you qualify for a free or discounted visit. Depending on where you get an appointment, you’ll need additional documentation, such as financial, legal, or identification papers.
For clinics that require financial information to see if you qualify for a free or low-cost visit, you must bring a month’s worth of pay stubs or a bank statement from the previous month. You may also choose to take your most recent tax return documentation if you don’t have the other documents for them.
If you have a disability, you can bring in government documentation of your disability status, a doctor’s statement, or any other proof you have, such as a handicap placard.
If you’re a veteran, you’ll need to bring documentation of that, as well. You can bring discharge papers, a veteran ID, or any other legal documentation that can prove your status as a veteran.
Some clinics may also require a driver’s license or state-issued ID, or they may ask you to bring in medical information that proves that you have a severe medical condition. To ensure that you bring everything you need, call ahead and ask a receptionist how you can get the lowest rates possible and what documentation you’ll need to do so.
Finding affordable or accessible dental care is much easier than most people know, especially if you have a disadvantage like a low income, no insurance, or a disability. There are many free dental care providers who are willing to do charity, pro bono, or free work, but you’ll have to find the right one for you that’s available in your area to get the best prices for your procedure.