Free & Low-Cost Dental Resources for Seniors
Dental care is a major area of concern for seniors. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries didn’t visit the dentist in a given year. While dental care can be expensive, low-cost options and resources are available that seniors can take advantage of if they know where to look.
Free or Low-Cost Dental for Seniors on Medicare
An issue that seniors commonly run into is that Medicare typically does not provide any coverage for dental care. Coverage is often available through Medicare Advantage plans, which are sold by private insurers and usually include additional benefits beyond the scope of Original Medicare.
But there are other low-costs routes to finding dental care.
While dental isn’t included in Original Medicare services, some other government programs do. The Children’s Health Insurance Program typically includes dental care for children.
As for seniors, Medicaid may be able to help you. While Medicaid coverage varies by state, dental services are offered in some areas. The majority of states’ Medicaid programs offer emergency dental services to adults, while some also offer full dental services.
Another option for dental care could be to explore a federally qualified health center. FQHC’s are designed to help underserved areas and populations, and anyone can get care there. You can check if there is an FQHC near you to see if they offer dental services.
There are often plenty of non-government local resources that you can explore as well.
Dental schools are often a great option. Since dental students need hands-on practice, dental schools will offer many of the same services that you would get at a regular dentist at a low cost. Any visits or procedures are typically supervised by a qualified dentist, ensuring your care is still safe and of high quality.
Depending on where you live, there may be free or low-cost dental clinics nearby as well. As with dental schools, they can provide a range of dental services at a reduced cost. You can check online to search for ones near you. There may be nonprofit options as well.
It also may be worth checking with your local dental office to see if there are any options for cheaper services. Some dental clinics do offer pro bono work or may have payment plans available to make your costs more manageable.
Dental Organizations That Help Seniors
Outside of local and government resources, there are several dental organizations that may also be able to help seniors get care at a low or free cost.
The Dental Lifeline Network is a nonprofit organization that offers affordable and sometimes free health care to elderly or disabled people. It is a national program with services available in different states.
The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, also known as PACE, is a program designed to help seniors get the care and resources they need from their existing communities instead of having to move to a facility or nursing home. Dental services can be included as part of this care. PACE beneficiaries are typically eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
Dentistry from the Heart is another option. The nonprofit offers events around the globe that provide free basic dental care, such as cleanings, extractions, and fillings.
You may also be able to find info on free or reduced-cost dental services through NeedyMeds.org, which is an information hub that can direct you to various resources and options on a number of topics. You should also check in with your local United Way. They may be able to direct you to cheap dental services.
More Dental Resources for Seniors
Beyond organizations and government services, there are still other ways to get dental care. You could be eligible for a dental grant, for example, if you have a dental problem but don’t have money to pay for it to be treated.
Many insurance companies also offer discount dental plans, which are much cheaper than standalone dental insurance. These plans don’t cover everything but can offer you a cheaper way to still be eligible for dental care.
Another less consistent option could be to look into clinical trials. These trials are always looking for participants, and there may be one near you that offers some sort of dental care. The issues with this option is that it will likely never be consistently available.
A potentially cheaper path that also might be available is a telehealth visit, either with a dentist or doctor. You may be able to have your dental problem diagnosed and get options for at-home treatment without ever having to set foot in a clinic.
And, of course, preventing dental issues from popping up in the first place can help as well. Taking care of your mouth and teeth becomes more and more important as you age. Taking simple steps like brushing your teeth and flossing daily can dramatically reduce your risk for many common dental problems.
4 Cited Research Articles
- Kaiser Family Foundation. (2019, March 13). Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/drilling-down-on-dental-coverage-and-costs-for-medicare-beneficiaries/
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Dental Care. Retrieved from https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/dental-care/index.html
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). PACE. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/get-help-paying-costs/pace
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (n.d.). Where can I find low-cost dental care? Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/answers/health-insurance-reform/where-can-i-find-low-cost-dental-care/index.html