If you live in California and can't afford dental care, there are several programs that may be able to help. While budget cuts have severely limited some dental services, you or your family may be able to qualify for assistance if you meet income guidelines. Other options include receiving dental care through community clinics, dental schools or by working out a payment arrangement with a private dentist.
If you live on a low income and are elderly, disabled or receive aid through a social welfare program, such as Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Aid for Needing Families, also known as CalWorks, you may be eligible to participate in California's Medicaid program. California Medicaid medical services are offered under the "Medi-Cal" program and dental services are offered through the "Denti-Cal".
Due to budgetary constraints, services offered through the Denti-Cal program to adults are extremely limited. Most adult recipients of Denti-Cal services are only eligible to receive dental care necessary to treat "pain, infection or trauma." Denti-Cal no longer covers preventative dentistry, such as cleanings and x-rays. An exception to these restrictions exists if you are pregnant or are living in skilled nursing facility or institutional home for the disabled. In these circumstances, Denti-Cal covers comprehensive dental services, including cleanings and examinations.
Healthy Families Program
The Healthy Families Program helps parents purchase low-cost health, vision and dental insurance for their children. The Healthy Families Program dental plan covers many different dental care procedures, such as exams, dentures and braces. To participate in the program, you must meet certain income guidelines, pay monthly premiums for the insurance and also make a co-payment for some services.
California Primary Care Association
If you and your family aren't eligible for dental care under Denti-Cal or Healthy Families, you may be able to receive dental care through one of the California Primary Care Association's clinics. These clinics offer health care services to the uninsured. The services offered by these clinics varies, so you may have to call several clinics to find one that can help you receive dental care.
Some dental schools and dental hygienist programs operate student clinics. You may be able to receive low-cost dental care through a clinic in your area. Another option for receiving care is to approach a private dentist about setting up a payment plan. If you are able to make a cash down payment on necessary dental care, your dentist may permit you to pay the balance in installments.