Written for Dental1 by Michelle Alford
Tooth decay is a serious and growing problem in America despite recent advancements in dental care. The prevalence of tooth decay steadily declined throughout the seventies, eighties, and nineties, but recent statistics show that it is once again on the rise.
How to free or discounted dental care
Check with local dental colleges
Call your local Health Department
Research charitable organizations
Watch the news for upcoming events
Much of this can be attributed to climbing costs of dental care and the high percentage of Americans without dental insurance. For those who can’t afford to regularly see a dentist, there are options available for free or cheap dental care.
Recent statistics show that 42 percent of children and 92 percent of adults have had tooth decay in their primary teeth, and 23 percent of both categories have untreated tooth decay. The average adult, aged 20 to 64, has lost 7 teeth, and 3.75 percent have no teeth remaining. Untreated tooth decay and gum disease doesn’t just negatively affect the mouth. It can also lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, digestive disorders, and osteoporosis.
According to a 2005 study, 59 percent of lower income adults don’t have dental insurance. When surveyed, lower income adults were twice as likely to have gone without a dental check-up the prior year and are 1.5 times as likely to have an unmet dental need.
The following steps can be taken to locate free or discounted dental care in your area:
Check with local dental colleges. Often, students will perform free or cheap check-ups under the supervision of a dentist or professor. These check-ups may include free cleanings, x-rays, and professional services such as fillings as long as you cover the costs of materials. Many dental colleges also offer free denture and oral cancer screenings.
Call your local Health Department. They can tell you if your state has any state assistance programs or direct you to free clinics in your area. They’ll also be able to inform you of local dentists who are willing to reduce their charges based on your income.
Research charitable organizations. Organizations such as Free Medical Clinics and Operation Blessing International offer free or cheap dental care both throughout the United States and worldwide. Dentists will often volunteer their time and expertise to help those in need.
Watch the news for upcoming events. Numerous organizations and schools sponsor events that provide free or cheap dental care. One example is the American Dental Association, which runs an event every February called “Give Kids a Smile” that provides free dental care to children from low income families.
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Photo: Herry Lawford