The federal government funds local health centers, Medicaid and child health programs that help low-income individuals get affordable dental care. State governments, local governments, nonprofits and dental schools also provide grants and services for residents in certain areas.
Community Health Care Centers
The federal government funds local community health centers that offer dental services to low-income individuals. These centers typically offer services on a sliding scale basis, so your dental services will be greatly discounted -- or even free if your income is low enough. You may be required to show proof of your income, such as a copy of a recent tax return or a W-2, to receive benefits.
To find a dental health center with federal government funding in your area, use the U.S. Department of Health's online tool or call 1-800-ASK-HRSA.
Dental coverage under Medicare is very limited. Individuals eligible for Medicaid, however, may have access to dental benefits. States are required to provide dental benefits for children. However, Medicaid.gov reports that most states offer some sort of emergency dental care for adults on Medicaid but less than half offer comprehensive dental benefits.
Eligibility for Medicaid varies based on your state. As a general rule, you must have a low income relative to your family size, be part of a covered group of individuals and be a U.S. citizen. You can check if you're eligible for Medicaid benefits using HealthCare.gov's online tool. Call 1-800-MEDICARE to get connected to your state office to see what kind of dental benefits they offer.
CHIP, short for Children's Health Insurance Program, provides comprehensive dental coverage to eligible children under the age of 19. Like Medicaid, exact requirements for the program vary by state. However, most children in a family of four with a household income of $48,500 or less per year are eligible. To apply for the program and find out about benefits, select your state on the CHIP map or call 1-877-KIDS-NOW.
Individual states and community governments sometimes fund other dental assistance programs unique to a specific area. They may not be directly funded by the government, but local nonprofits and dental schools may be able to provide you dental services at a low cost.
To find out about state and local dental assistance in your area, contact 211 and ask about low cost dental care. You can also ask about dental schools when you call 211 or you can browse the American Dental Association's comprehensive list of programs and locations.