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Low-Income Dental Care

With the economy in a recession, many families are now looking for low-income dental options. Unfortunately, finding affordable dentists is easier said than done. According to WorlDental.org, millions of Americans are postponing dental treatment because they lack access to a low-cost dentist. But with the knowledge that dental health directly affects your overall health, forgoing dental care can contribute to significant health problems -- and lead to more costly dental problems down the line.

Many people can't find a low-income dentist because they don't know where to look. 1-800-DENTIST offers the following information to help you in your search for low cost dentistry:

Finding a Low-Cost Dentist

Notice that we say "affordable dentists" and not "cheap dentists." Finding a low-income dentist means not substituting quality for price. The optimal low cost dental option is financing on approved credit (FOAC), which allows patients to make monthly payments with low or no interest. Some practices may also provide in-office payment plans that eliminate the need for an outside lender.

If financing isn't an option, consider your alternatives. There are several other low-income dental care solutions to explore:

Dental Schools -- Many dental schools provide a wide range of dental services at a reduced fee. Most of the work is performed by dental students under the supervision of their teachers. Although much more limited, some dental hygienist schools also provide preventive dentistry services.

Dental Clinics -- A free or low-cost dentist can often be found at your local dental clinic. You can search for community dental clinics via the internet or your local phonebook.

Dental Charities -- Dental charities provide a plethora of low-income dental outreach programs. Because charities distribute their services based on funding and availability, free dental care is usually only accessible to the truly needy.

Public Aid -- Government assistance is available for certain individuals who meet their requirements. The following state programs help provide dental care to those who cannot afford it on their own:

- Medicaid: Low-income families may benefit from state-funded medical and dental coverage provided by Medicaid. While dental coverage is limited for adults, Medicaid covers most dental services for children under the age of 21 (Medicare does not cover dental care).

- Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Although assistance varies from state to state, CHIP provides dental services to children up to the age of 19.

Clinical Trials -- National organizations, including several branches of the National Institutes of Health, may seek volunteers for clinical trials. Your contribution to their research studies could entitle you to a free or low cost dentist.

Patient Responsibility

Unfortunately, affordable dentists won't come to you -- while many government programs have set standards for low-income dental care, they can't always tell you which dentists provide these services. It's typically up to the patient to find a low-income dentist and understand his or her responsibility regarding payment.

Because government assistance programs vary from state to state and are subject to change, it's extremely important for patients to remain educated. For more information regarding your state's public aid programs, contact your local representative.

One Final Note…

There is another way to find low cost dentistry. You may consider purchasing private dental insurance on your own. Many dental insurance companies charge a monthy fee to cover a percentage of your dental care services. And if that seems too expensive, consider your budget -- sometimes taking care of your health means eliminating optional expenses, such as dining out or cable TV. Tough times may call for a budget overhaul, but the price of good health can't be disputed.