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Finding Low-Cost Dental Care

Photo of man's face and the words Finding Low-Cost Dental CareThe National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), one of the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, leads the nation in conducting and supporting research to improve oral health. As a research organization, NIDCR does not provide financial assistance for dental treatment. The following resources, however, may help you find the dental care you need.

Clinical Trials

NIDCR sometimes seeks volunteers with specific dental, oral, and craniofacial conditions to participate in research studies, also known as clinical trials. Researchers may provide study participants with limited free or low-cost dental treatment for the particular condition they are studying. To find out if there are any NIDCR clinical trials that you might fit into, visit the NIDCR web site at http://www.nidcr.nih.gov and click on “Clinical Trials.” For a complete list of all federally funded clinical trials, visit http://clinicaltrials.gov. If you do not have access to the Internet, you may need to visit your local library or ask a friend or family member for assistance.

Dental Schools

Dental schools can be a good source of quality, reduced-cost dental treatment. Most of these teaching facilities have clinics that allow dental students to gain experience treating patients while providing care at a reduced cost. Experienced, licensed dentists closely supervise the students. Post-graduate and faculty clinics are also available at most schools.

Dental hygiene schools may also offer supervised, low-cost preventive dental care as part of the training experience for dental hygienists.

To find out if there are schools of dentistry or dental hygiene in your area, call your state dental society or association. These organizations are listed in your telephone book. For a complete list of dental schools, visit the American Dental Association web site at http://www.ada.org/267.aspx. To locate dental hygiene schools, go to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association web site at http://www.adha.org/dental-hygiene-programs. You can also contact the National Oral Health Information Clearinghouse at:

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Oral Health Information Clearinghouse
1 NOHIC Way Bethesda, Maryland 20892–3500
1–866–232–4528

Bureau of Primary Health Care

The Bureau of Primary Health Care, a service of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), supports federally-funded community health centers across the country that provide free or reduced-cost health services, including dental care. To obtain a list of centers in your area, contact the HRSA Information Center toll-free at 1–888–Ask–HRSA (1–888–275–4772) or visit their web site at http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) runs three important federally funded programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

  • Medicare is a health insurance program for people who are 65 years and older or for people with specific disabilities. Medicare does not cover most routine dental care or dentures. Visit http://www.cms.hhs.gov/MedicareDentalCoverage or call 1–800–MEDICARE (1–800–633–4227).
  • Medicaid is a state-run program that provides medical benefits – and in some cases dental benefits – to eligible individuals and families. Most states provide limited emergency dental services for adults, while some offer comprehensive services.Visit http://www.medicaid.gov/Medicaid-CHIP-Program-Information/By-Topics/Benefits/Dental-Care.html or call 1–877–267–2323 to learn more.
  • CHIP, also a state-run program, is for children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance. CHIP provides dental services to children up to age 19. Dental services covered under this program vary from state to state. To find children's dental care programs in your state, visit http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/state or call 1–877–KIDS–NOW (1–877–543–7669).

State and Local Resources

Your state or local health department may know of programs in your area that offer free or reduced-cost dental care. Call your local or state health department to learn more about their financial assistance programs. In many states, you can also call 2–1–1 to find services in your area.

United Way

The United Way may be able to direct you to free or reduced-cost dental services in your community. Visit the United Way web site at http://www.unitedway.org and type your zip code in the top right box next to “Find Your Local United Way.” 

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This information is not copyrighted. Print and make as many photocopies as you need.

NIH Publication No. 13-6097
April 2013

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

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This page last updated: January 06, 2014