Dental care can be prohibitively expensive for individuals or families without dental insurance. However, affordable dental care is still available even on the most limited of budgets. You just need a little more research than usual to find a local dentist who can perform the necessary procedures.
What are the options for dental care on a budget?
Medicaid or other state sponsored plans
Individuals with lower income levels can often qualify for expanded medicaid, which is a perk of the Affordable Care Act for those who cannot afford even the most basic premiums. While Medicaid may not cover all of the dental care needs of adults, it does provide complete dental care for pregnant women and children under 21 years of age.
The guidelines for expended Medicaid can vary from state to state, so it's necessary to contact the local health department for information about qualifications and the local application process.
Local dental schools offer very inexpensive dental care, ranging from basic checkups and cleanings to emergency care for root canals and extractions. The dental work is performed by dental students, under the supervision of an experienced instructor.
The only drawback to this option is the limited hours and number of appointments offered. While this is not a problem for basic dental care, it could be an issue for a more pressing need such as an infection or toothache.
Emergency rooms of hospitals
While this is the most expensive option for those whose income is too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford dental insurance, it may be necessary in the event of a dental emergency such as severe pain or an infection. A dental infection can be deadly if left untreated, especially in the most vulnerable populations such as the very young or elderly.
A hospital ER usually has an emergency dentist on staff to treat such issues, and you can receive emergency treatment without advance payment.
Payment plans with a local dentist
Local dentists are part of the community, and build a relationship with their regular patients and their families. Most local dentists will work out a payment plan for those who need expensive dental treatments but are unable to pay in advance.
If you or your children are eligible for Medicaid, you can usually find a local dentist that accepts Medicaid payments. If you live in a more remote area with fewer dentists, you may need to find a provider through Medicaid.
There's always a way to get the dental care that you need, but you need to be resourceful and persistent if you want to find care to on a challenged budget.