Where Can I Get Free or Low Cost Dental Work?

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Dental work can be extraordinarily expensive. Even an ordinary cleaning is more than $100; add in the cost of routine X-rays and visits with a qualified dentist, and the numbers add up. Procedures such as tooth extraction, tooth replacement, periodontal treatment, or root canal can cost thousands of dollars. 

Yes, some people do have dental insurance. But for reasons of their own, dental insurers have chosen not to keep up with changing costs.

As a result, even a solid dental plan can pay for very little in the way of preventive, emergency, or cosmetic care.

Many people are finding themselves putting off dental treatment due to lack of insurance and funds. Fortunately, there are options for free, low cost, or sliding scale dental care -- and, surprisingly, these options include some of the best practitioners in the country. Here are a few of your possible choices for lowering your dental bills; it's important to note that availability of services will depend upon your location and your personal finances.

Dental Schools

More and more people are turning to dental schools to have their dental work done for free dental students are always working in the presence of professors who are scrutinizing and judging their work constantly. The idea is that students get the opportunity to learn a procedure while you get the dental work at a fraction of the cost.

You are probably at your safest when getting treated at a dental school whereas you have to trust that your private dentist knows what he/she is doing and that they are doing a good job.

There are a couple of potential down sides to dental schools. One is location: if you live in a major city, you're all set -- but if you live hours from a good dental school, you may be facing a good deal of travel which may be prohibitive for multiple treatments.

In addition, because every step is monitored, a two-hour procedure can wind up taking five hours. This may be a problem if time is an issue.

There are a few minor down sides. One of the biggest issues you will have to deal with is the amount of time the procedures will take. For instance, under a specialist's care or a private dentist, a root canal may take 1-2 hours. At the dental school, however, the same procedure will likely take up to 5 hours because every single step is monitored and approved by the professor before moving forward.

Government Agencies

Many government agencies fund some level of healthcare; some of these also provide dental care. Three of these are Medicare (for people over 65), Medicaid (for people living below a certain income level), and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If you qualify for any of these services, get in touch to ask about dental options.

Community Health Centers

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services:

The federal government's Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), runs federally funded community health centers across the country that provide free or reduced-cost health services, including dental care. To find a health center in your area, visit HRSA.gov and type your location in the "Find a Health Center" box.

Clinical Trials

If you are suffering from a particular condition that is causing dental or related issues, you may be able to enter a clinical trial. Clinical trials are free -- but for good reason. When you enter a clinical trial, you are allowing practitioners to try out new techniques or untested medications that have not yet been approved by the FDA. There may be side-effects that you are at risk of and you will be notified but should always query before commencement of the trial. The website www.clinicaltrials.gov provides information about all clinical trials in progress, along with information about who qualifies for which trial and what is required of patients who are enrolled.

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