Free Dental Care: Extractions, Routine Checkups, and Cleanings

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Free dental care is available from a variety of sources including a local dental clinic, nonprofits, events, dental schools, and clinical trials. And in some states, if you live under the Federal Poverty Level, you may even qualify for free dental care with Medicaid.

free dental
You can find free care from clinics and programs.

In this article, you'll find out about some of the best resources for free dental care for adults and children and we'll also answer the following questions:

  • What type of care can you get for free?
  • Where can you get a tooth pulled for free?
  • Where can immigrants find free care?

We hope this information helps you find the help you need so you can take care of your oral health today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your life.

What dental work can you get for free?

If you need free dental help, you're not alone. Around one-third of adults in the US have no form of dental benefits, and even those who do are often massively underinsured.

Fortunately, it's possible to find a wide range of free dental services. It's even possible to find restorative services, like implants or dentures for free, or at least low-cost.

Unfortunately, however, sometimes it can take a lot of searching and investigating to find a dentist for free, and other times it just comes down to being in the right place at the right time.

The good news is that routine services, like cleanings and checkups, are often offered for free because they cost less for dentists and hygienists to provide. For the purpose of this article, we'll be focusing on free routine care, extractions, and emergency services, but you can read our free implants and dentures guides for more information on those.

Where to get free dental care

Let's have a look at where you can find free dental treatment.

United Way

The United Way is often a sort of one-stop-shop for all your social services, and that includes finding free dental care. Whenever you are looking for local resources, you can call United Way Worldwide by dialing 2-1-1. This line is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week and is free and confidential.

Health centers

Your local health center is one of the first places you should look for free dental care. These are community-based and patient-directed centers that offer comprehensive health care services, regardless of patients' ability to pay. Health centers also provide culturally competent, high quality care with interpreters available as needed. Find your nearest health center by searching on their page here.

Medicaid

People who qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act may receive free dental care if they live in a state where Medicaid has been expanded to cover dental.

free dental care pregnant
Many pregnant women are eligible for Medicaid

Medicaid eligibility depends on:

  • Income level
  • Family size
  • Pregnancy status
  • Recent medical emergencies
  • …and a variety of other factors

Find out more about income requirements here, and about Medicaid eligibility in general by reading our full article here.

Dental schools

Dental schools are a safe place to find affordable and quality dental care for free or reduced prices. It doesn't matter whether you're uninsured or underinsured. Anyone can go to a dental school for routine dental services.

So why do dental schools provide affordable care? The answer is simple: dental students need real-world experience treating real patients before they can become licensed dentists.

If treatment from dental students gives you pause, it really shouldn't. These are students who are nearing the end of their studies and will soon be treating patients of their own. Additionally, each student is carefully supervised by an experienced licensed dentist with years of training experienced.

Another great thing about dental schools is that there are a lot of them, and there are always students in need of gaining real-world experience. If you live in an urban area, chances are that there's a dental school near you. And if you live in a rural area and don't have a dental school near you, making the trip into the city for free care is very much worth it. You can search for a dental school near you on the ADA's website here.

The short news clip below describes how patients can get free dental screenings from students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry.

Free clinics

There are free and sliding scale dental clinics everywhere. You just need to know where to find them, which can be difficult. One easy way to get started is by searching online databases for local free dental clinics, like those offered by the following websites:

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are performed by accredited medical organizations like the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research before a drug or therapy can be made available to the general public. While no procedure is 100% guaranteed to be safe, clinical trials are very safe. That's because before any new treatment can be tested on humans, it has to go through years of laboratory research. Additionally, Congress passed laws that protect study participants and ensure their safety.

For routine dental care, cleanings and checkups, you probably won't need to enroll in a clinical trial because there are so many free and low-cost options available, but if you need more extensive and complex care, like implants or surgery, this may be an option for you to consider. You can have a look at the trials that are available here.

Nonprofits

There are nonprofits all across the country where you can get dental work done for free, especially when it comes to routine care like cleanings and checkups. Let's have a look at some of the most popular programs and options.

Missions of Mercy

Missions of Mercy (MOM) has been operating since 2003. They bring together hundreds of dental professionals every year to create temporary dental hospitals in the field for the underserved, including adults and children. There are MOMs in various states, and you can check to see if there is one in your state on the American's Dentist Care Foundation website here.

You can see MOM in action in Oklahoma in the video below!

Give Kids a Smile

Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) is run by the American Dental Association. There are GKAS events annually throughout the year where thousands of dentists and volunteers provide free oral health education, screening, and treatment to children from underserved communities. To find care for your child through GKAS you can visit their website.

Donated Dental Services

Donated Dental Services (DDS) provides free dental care to people with disabilities, people who are considered to be medically fragile, and older adults. DDS operates in each state, and you can find your state's program by visiting their site here.

America's Dentists Care Foundation

This national nonprofit has its headquarters in Kansas but partners with other nonprofits all over the country. They also support charitable clinics that offer free services and sliding scale fees across the country, and they offer comprehensive care clinics for veterans. Check their event map here to see if there are any upcoming free care opportunities in your area.

Give Back a Smile

Give Back a Smile provides free dental work for survivors of domestic abuse. This program is run by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation and helps both women and men who have suffered oral injuries from a partner, spouse, or family member. They also provide dental care and reconstruction for men and women who have dental injuries from sexual assault. You can check out their website here to find more about this program.

Dental care for immigrants

Immigrants who are in the process of getting their residency documents may face exceptional difficulty in finding a free dentist or clinic because they won't have access to government programs like Medicaid. If you or someone you know is in this situation, have a look at the resources provided by Informed Immigrant. You can browse various trusted nonprofits that will help connect you with the care you need.

Free emergency dentist

First of all, if you have a dental emergency, you should go to an emergency dental clinic. Your dental insurance provider will be billed for the procedures. If you don't have insurance and your income level is under the Federal Poverty Level, then you can apply for retroactive Medicaid to cover your emergency costs from the past three months.

The best way to apply for this is with the help of a free health insurance assister or navigator. They can help you complete the application error-free so you can get helping paying for your emergency. To find an assister near you, you can search on the Healthcare.gov site here. When you search, make sure to select ‘assister' or ‘navigator'. ‘Agents' and ‘brokers' aren't free and usually only help when applying for private insurance.

If you need urgent dental care, but it's not an emergency, you can search either one of the databases we mentioned above for free clinics in your area.

For more information on emergency dentists, you can read our full emergency care article here.

Free dental treatment resources

There's a lot of information in this article, so we've compiled all of the resources we mentioned in the table below:

Program/OrganizationWho is eligible?Website/Phone number
United Way WorldwideAnyone2-1-1
Health centersAnyoneFind a health center
MedicaidAdults and children under the Federal Poverty LevelEnroll in Medicaid
Dental schoolsAnyoneFind a dental school
Free clinicsAnyone (may be income requirements)DentalAssistance.us and Freedental.org
Clinical trialsAdultsFind a trial
Missions of MercyAnyoneFind an event
Give Kids a SmileChildrenFind a GKAS event
Donated Dental ServicesPeople with disabilities, senior citizens, veterans, and people who are medically fragileFind your state program
America's Dentists Care FoundationVeterans, adults, and childrenFind an event
Give Back a SmileSurvivors of domestic abuse and sexual assaultApply for care
For immigrantsChild and adult immigrantsFind resources
Healthcare navigators and assistantsAnyoneFind an assister

Conclusion

Free dental help isn't always easy to find, but it is out there. There are a number of options you can investigate for free dentistry, including local health centers, nonprofits, dental schools, clinical trials, and in some states, Medicaid. A good place to begin your search is by dialing 2-1-1 for United Way Worldwide. This nonprofit will help put you in touch with any kind of help you need.

Fortunately, there are often free events and clinics throughout the year held by nonprofits, like Give Kids a Smile or Missions of Mercy, where you can get your annual checkup. The volunteers at these events will also help find you your ‘dental home'—a dentist near you who offers care you can afford so you can go for regular checkups and cleanings.

There are always obstacles in finding care, but where there's a will there's a way, and oral health should be a priority for everyone.

FAQs

How can I get free dental work?

Whether you need to get a tooth pulled for free or you just need a free dental checkup, there are many places where you can get free dental services for adults and children. Options include nonprofit events, free dental clinics, dental schools, and clinical trials.

Do dental schools offer free dental care?

Dental schools do offer free dental care. Dental students who are getting ready to go out into the real world as certified dentists need to treat real patients as part of their degree requirements. If you go to a dental school for free or low-cost dental care, a student will perform your procedure, but they will be supervised the entire time by an experienced, certified dentist, guaranteeing you receive high-quality care.

Where can I get my tooth pulled for free?

If you need free tooth pulling, visit your local health center or call United Way Worldwide (2-1-1) and ask for information about free dental extractions in your area. They'll be able to put you in touch with free emergency dental care or let you know if there is a free dental clinic for adults and children near where you live.

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Contributors:
Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen on LinkedinNatalie Asmussen on Website
Natalie used to work as a Community Health Worker and Health Insurance Navigator. She continues to follow her passion for connecting people with the healthcare they need by writing informative content about dentistry and medicine.
Sources
Ada.org: Dental benefits coverage in the U.S. Consulted 24th October 2020. Unitedway.org: 211. Consulted 24th October 2020. Informedimmigrant.com: Find a service organization near you. Consulted 24th October 2020. HRSA: Find a health center. Consulted 24th October 2020. Freedentalcare: Find free dental clinics. Consulted 24th October 2020. USA.gov: State health departments. Consulted 24th October 2020. ADA.org: Find dental care for your child. Consulted 24th October 2020. ADCF: Find an upcoming free dental clinic or volunteer opportunity. Consulted 24th October 2020. Mission of Mercy: Home. Consulted 24th October 2020. Healthcare.gov: Find local help. Consulted 24th October 2020. Dental Lifeline Network: State programs. Consulted 24th October 2020. ADA.org: Search for dental programs. Consulted 24th October 2020. Clinicaltrials.gov: Find a study. Consulted 24th October 2020. ASPE: Poverty guidelines. Consulted 24th October 2020.
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