So, You Need Free Dental Care
It has been said that it is impossible to be a healthy person if you have significant dental problems, and that is so very true. Studies have proven that untreated gum disease and severe inflammation of the gums can both contribute to a higher risk of heart attacks, although exactly how the relationship occurs is not understood at this time.
However and unfortunately, dental care is expensive and even if you have dental insurance, it usually doesn’t cover 100% of major procedures. That means that a lot of single moms, and other low-income individuals, will be forced to put it off. And put it off some more, and then some more and, well, you get the idea.
I know What it’s Like
I know, because I did this. I actually didn’t get my wisdom teeth in until I was about 22. I had less money then I had ever had, coming in and now my jaw was on fire for a couple of weeks. I did figure out that a steady diet of over the counter medications helped with the worst of the pain and that in about two weeks, they quit trying to come up and the pain went away. Of course, that only lasted until about six months down the road, when the same thing happened all over again.
About 6 years of this went by, and I always thought that with my next tax return or my student loan payment, I would take care of it. Then, when I got that payment, it always needed to go towards car repairs or moving expenses or something that my kids needed.
One day in late May, I had just come home from donating plasma, and realized that my jaw hurt. I popped some more painkillers and didn’t think much about it, until it got worse. That night, I couldn’t sleep because it hurt so badly. Even though I kept taking the maximum dose of all the OTC stuff I had, it did NOTHING.
I went on like that for three days until I couldn’t swallow enough water to take my pills, and when I looked in the mirror, it looked like I’d been beaten. My face was swelling and turning some lovely shades of blue and green. A friend of mine took me to the ER, where I was lucky enough to receive care through one of their financial aid grants.
They gave me some antibiotics and prescription pain meds, but weren’t able to do anything about the tooth.
Two weeks later, I’d finished the antibiotics and taken all of the pain meds….and my jaw began hurting again. This time, I seemed to get sicker and it hurt more quickly. I went back to the ER, but this time I was so sick that they transported me by ambulance to a bigger hospital. As part of the financial aid screening, they handed me information about city programs that would help with medical care, prescriptions….and DENTAL CARE!
I had made a lot of phone calls looking for some sort of city dental clinic or a dentist who would do pro-bono work. They do exist, but I couldn’t find them, and the places that 211 referred me to had no funding and long waiting lists. So, if I needed a dental cleaning in two years, they could help…but when I needed to have four impacted wisdom teeth removed, one of which was badly infected…they were no help.
Long story short, I got more antibiotics and strong painkillers. Before I left the hospital, they made me an appointment at the low-cost dental clinic for four days later, which gave sufficient time for the swelling in my face and gums to go down. They started my care, and over the next sixty days, I’d gotten all of my wisdom teeth removed, had three cavities filled and two root canals with crowns. I paid less then a hundred dollars for all of that and about fourteen dollars for some more medicine the dentist wanted me to have.
Now, I know that 114 dollars is not free dental care, but it was easily several thousand dollars worth of care, so I was happy. They even allowed me to pay half of that when they started the dental work, and half at my last appointment. I promised them when they finished the work on my teeth that I would tell everyone I knew, and anyone that needed inexpensive or free dental care about their clinic.
How to Find Free Dental Care in Your Area
I won’t lie to you. Free dental care is in great demand these days, and it can be challenging to find emergency care when you need it. That means that if it is at all possible, you should get the preventative care that dentists always recommend.
At least it will be easier to do when you won’t be paying much for that care.
I always recommend that people start searches for financial aid with 211. You can either call them, or find them at http://www.211.org/. They will probably be able to refer you to whatever resources are available in your area, even though they weren’t much help for me. If they can’t help you, you should not stop there.
Next, call all of the hospitals in your area. They are sure to have seen people coming in with dental problems through their ER, so they will know what your options are.
If you have severe pain or swelling in your face or mouth, you should probably go to the ER, even if you haven’t found free dental care yet. Your pain and symptoms are not likely to go away on their own , and delaying care could be catastrophic. Remember, even if you don’t have insurance, there are some ways to get free medical care, especially the ER. Your life and your health are more important than the possibility of getting help to take care of an unexpected medical bill, and I’ve covered some options about that in another entry.
A third option can be found through dental schools. Dental students are supervised by qualified dentists and are required to perform a certain number of hours, as well as specific treatments, before they are allowed to receive their license. Basically, they need to be able to do their job, and do it very well to get a license, which makes sense. Because of that, dental schools often offer either inexpensive or free dental care to people who are willing to be worked on by students.
A final option, although you’re more likely to find them in bigger cities, are medical research clinic. And yes, I say medical research clinics, because to the best of my knowledge there are no dental research clinics in the United States. However; if you get lucky, you may be able to find a medical research clinic that occasionally does dental research as well. With this option, you will often be testing new pain management medication, and you will, in essence, be a medical guinea pig. Although that can be a little intimidating, you will always be supervised by qualified medical personnel and you may even be given another medication if the one you are taking does not work well for you after a few minutes.
The REALLY nice thing about being a medical guinea pig is that you will often be offered a stipend in return for your time. In Austin, Texas they offered this procedure at one of their clinics two years ago, and qualified participants were paid up to 725.00 for their time and feedback As a friend of mine said when we saw the ad, “The only thing better than free dental care, is getting dental care that you’re paid to have”. If you would like to find a medical research clinic in your area, you can visit here: http://www.paidclinicaltrials.org/dir/location/united-states/ or here:http://www.clinicalconnection.com.
You may have to get creative when you’re looking for free dental care. If you live in a small town or need a lot of dental work, you might need to combine two or more of the ideas that I mentioned. It may also be necessary for you to do a lot of your own research or to drive farther then you would prefer, to get the free dental care that you need.
To find dental or medical clinics that might be able to work with your financial situation, you can go to this website: http://www.freemedicalcamps.com/.
Free dental care is a common thing to look for, and Medicaid is not required to cover dental work for adults. Putting off the work that you need to have done is a sure way to risk your health, your appearance, and even your ability to be employed. Obvious dental problems can make it hard to obtain and maintain employment, so make sure you do everything possible to save your beautiful smile. Remember that it’s easier to prevent pain then it is to make it go away.