According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Dental Plans in 2018, more than 66.7 million Americans do not have dental insurance. The number of people without dental coverage in the United States has increased each year over the past decade and is likely higher than that today.
The survey found that lack of dental insurance is linked to an increased risk of requiring tooth extractions and dentures, not to mention poorer overall health. The sad fact is that many people who are unemployed, on low income, or retired simply cannot afford to pay dental bills or take out dental insurance.
Fortunately, there are usually some free and low-cost dental care options available, depending on where you live.
Dental and Hygiene Schools
Run a search for dental schools in your area if you are looking for affordable dental care. There are at least a couple of dental schools in most states, though a few have significantly more. For instance, New York currently has 160 dentist training schools.
Most dental schools offer a wide range of discounted preventative care and treatments, such as cleanings, fillings, and root canals. Keep in mind that priority may be given to children and the elderly. Plus, there will likely be a waiting list for consultations and treatments.
How much of a discount you can get will depend on the dental school itself. Some clinics offer a fixed percentage discount for all patients, while others base their discounts on income. In this latter instance, you will only be asked to pay what they believe you can afford.
The idea of allowing unqualified dental students perform procedures like tooth extractions and fillings may be off-putting to some. However, keep in mind that these are usually students in their final year of training. Moreover, the entire treatment will be closely supervised by a certified and licensed dentist, so patients are in safe hands.
The peace of mind you get from knowing that everything is being done by the book is balanced out by inconvenience. This is because student dentists will take longer to perform procedures.