The National Association of Dental Plans estimate that nearly 25 percent of people in the United States do not have dental coverage. This percentage equates to some 74 million Americans. Lack of dental insurance quite often means a complete lack of oral care, as dentistry services can be extremely expensive. One survey found that the average cost of a preventative care appointment is around $140 to $175. The tragic reality is that many low-income families and elderly members of the community simply cannot conceive of paying these fees. Therefore, they’re forced to go without essential care.
Good dental health is a vital aspect of overall health and wellbeing. So much so that lack of access to dental care has been strongly linked to an increased risk of developing chronic, life-threatening diseases, like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and diabetes.
People who are struggling to afford dental care may be able to seek assistance from a dental charity.
Can Anybody Access Care from a Dental Charity?
The charities included in this article all have different eligibility criteria. For example, some may be limited to operating within certain states, while others may only serve children or the elderly.
In nearly all cases, access to treatment will be “means tested”. This means that the level of support you receive will depend on your income and overall financial situation.
The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation
This independently owned, non-profit organization specializes in helping children around the country access oral care. The charity was set up to support low-income families who may otherwise not be able to afford preventative and restorative dental treatment.
The National Children’s Oral Health Foundation aims to provide children with a complete oral health plan which spans for 10 years. The plan covers basic preventative care such as screenings and hygiene education, plus a wide range of restorative treatments like fillings and extractions. Over the next decade, the organization aims to build 500 new dental care facilities and treat at least five million children throughout the United States.
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry run a charitable program which provides cosmetic dentistry services to survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Their Give Back A Smile (GBAS) project aims to help people who have suffered dental or oral disfigurement at the hands of abusive partners or as a result of sexual violence. Since the GBAS project was established in 1999, the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry have spent more than $17 million helping nearly 2,000 victims regain their smiles.
In addition to domestic violence survivors, the organization works with victims of natural disasters who do not have access to dentistry services or are unable to afford dental care. Visit givebackasmile.com to check your eligibility or apply for support.
Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children
Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children is a dental charity run by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). The foundation was set up in 1987 to help children from families who cannot afford proper dental care. Since 2010, the AAPD have awarded an astonishing $6.2 million in grants to provide underprivileged kids with regular screenings and dental care. The organisation aims to give children the best possible experience by finding them “dental homes” at clinics with dental professionals they can trust and grow up with.
Requests for support must be made to the charity via your dentist. They can apply for up to $20,000 annually to treat children from low-income families via community initiatives. This support is currently available in 32 states and the District of Columbia.
The Dental Lifeline Network
This non-profit organization is affiliated with the American Dental Association. The Dental Lifeline Network is essentially a group of dental care providers who provide dentistry services to people who cannot afford to pay for treatment and meet one of the following criteria:
- 65 years old or older
- Considered to be medically fragile
- Suffer with a permanent disability
The organization’s flagship program is called Donated Dental Services and is available at many locations around the United States. At present, the program includes more than 15,000 dentists and laboratory staff who volunteer their services to help those in need.
Check out the Dental Lifeline Network’s state programs map to find out what services are available in your area.
The Foundation for Health Coverage Education
The Foundation for Health Coverage Education provide information about health coverage programs around the United States. If you are struggling to pay for dental care, they may be able to point you towards state-funded dental coverage programs.
This support is designed for people who do not have dental insurance or who are currently unemployed.
Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures
Though Colgate is not a charitable organization, their Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program provides free dental screenings and information to help to education children about the importance of oral health. This initiative targets underserved communities and families who may not be able to afford dental screenings for their kids.
Colgate’s charitable work is carried out by professional volunteers via a mobile dental van. Every year, they provide thousands of children around the United States with free dental check-ups and gift bags. These gift bags contain toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a pamphlet on oral hygiene.
Finding a Free Dentist
There are thousands of certified dentists around the country which provide free or cheap dental care to those in need. These clinics are often funded by government initiatives or charitable organizations. Dental schools also provide free or heavily discounted oral treatments, as students in their final years of training need to practice performing procedures.
You can find your nearest free dental clinic via the American Dental Association’s online search tool.