5 Stories That Will Open Your Eyes to the Need for Dental Care in the United States

Around half of all adults make a dental visit once every six months. Many adults don’t get the dental care they need because they don’t have the money or insurance to pay for it. Lack of dental care can lead to chronic health conditions and death. Fortunately, there are many dental health care programs across the country that are helping low income adults take care of their dental health. Here are five stories from different dental organizations that will open your eyes to the issues surrounding free dental care for low income adults and their families.

Free Dental Care for Low Income Adults: North Charleston

Trying to get dental care when you don’t have a stable job can be incredibly difficult. In some communities, some dental practices are trying to provide free dental care for low income adults while struggling themselves to stay open. Many nonprofit dental organizations are relying on donations and private funding to keep their doors open. They rely on local community volunteers and outdated equipment to ensure people in need get the oral healthcare they need. The overall mission to deliver healthy smiles to the people in their local communities motivates them to overcome whatever financial challenges they may have.

In North Charleston, local dentist Dr. Bill Sasser is helping to provide free dental care for low income adults in the community and around the world. He provides emergency dental services through the North Charleston Dental Outreach, which was established in 1998 by the Charleston Baptist Association. Many people in the North Charleston area struggle to obtain insurance through affordable insurance companies because of high rates of unemployment. The ministry outreach has struggled to remain open to the public due to limited funding. It had to close for a couple of years but reopened in 2010 after receiving private funding.

The outreach is operating with old equipment in a three-room facility with a handful of volunteers. Dental services are provided free of charge, but they also accept donations. In order to sustain their efforts, they are considering a sliding scale method. The outreach once provided $4,500 worth of dental care in one night but received only $52 in donations. The organization is currently fundraising to move into a bigger space to expand its preventative and restorative dental services.

Free Dental Care for Low Income Adults: Free Dental Kits

Many low income families have public or private dental insurance that isn’t accepted by local providers. Those with public insurance are around 10% less likely to visit a dentist every six months than those with private insurance. Many providers don’t accept public dental insurance because of lower provider reimbursement levels, and many employers don’t offer dental insurance because of the high costs. The recent pandemic has also created issues with receiving emergency dental care. Some dental organizations are trying to come up with unique ways to help address these disparities during this challenging time.

In Arizona, a local nonprofit organization is giving away dental treatment kits to help provide free dental care for low income adults. The Central Arizona Dental Society Mission of Mercy recently held their annual Drive-Through Dental Day at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The organization planned to give away 1,000 dental kits that include basic items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss. The nonprofit has been providing free dental care since 2000 for local Arizona residents who can’t afford it themselves. Its foundation has provided $12 million in free dental care for 10,000 Arizona residents in the last eight years.

The pandemic has changed how the organization has operated its Drive-Through Dental day this year. Normally, they offer in-person dental procedures during their weekend-long event but were unable to this year because of the issues surrounding the virus. They decided to mimic the drive-through services developed for COVID-19 testing to still be able to provide help to those who are in dire need. The organization states that they receive numerous calls every day from residents needing free dental care and are trying to find ways they can help. During the Drive Through Dental Day, residents received resources to places where they could receive free dental care for low income adults included in their kits.

Free Dental Care for Low Income Adults’ Kids

A child’s dental health is just as important as their overall physical health. However, around 4.6 million children in the United States have no access to professional dental care because of unfortunate financial circumstances. Approximately 40% of children have tooth decay before they enter kindergarten. Dental decay in baby teeth can significantly impact permanent teeth. Only 50% of children who receive Medicaid with included dental insurance receive any kind of dental care. Addressing this issue is incredibly important to protect a child’s overall health long into the future.

A dental hygiene program at Minnesota State University recently hosted an event to help children in preschool to teens in high school receive free dental care. Procedures offered included exams, x-rays, sealants, and fluoride treatments. The program hosted this event to provide free dental care for low income adults and their families because many in the area struggle to get access to care. Some of these adults have dental insurance, but it’s not accepted by local dental clinics. The event reached full capacity, so they created a waiting list for those who need care.

In October of this year, the dental hygiene program offered a free two-day clinic for children and families who arrived in droves. For some children, it was the first time they had their teeth professionally cleaned since last winter. The program noted that many smaller towns don’t have a dental practice, and the ones that do were unable to provide care because of the pandemic. Tooth decay in children can affect their performance in school and lead to a host of other health problems. By offering free dental care for low income adults and their families, organizations can help eliminate healthcare disparities and give children more opportunity for academic success.

Free Dental Care for Fire Victims

A dentist office in Oregon is offering free dental care for low income adults who have been the victims of a devastating fire. Summit Family Dental Care in Medford allocated $20,000 to be used for around 50 fire victims by the end of this year. These individuals may be struggling to pay for care if they have to pay for a fire damage restoration service or look for a new home. The area has recently experienced ravaging wildfires that wreaked havoc on the community of Almeda. The dental clinic desired to give back to the community by assisting those who may not be able to have a home or return to one for several weeks while repairs are taking place.

When you’re filing fire damage insurance claims and house surfing, the last thing on your mind is routine dental exams. These families are already struggling to get whatever resources they can to get on their feet. By offering free dental care for fire victims, they hope to provide a sense of normalcy during an incredibly chaotic time. The clinic is offering its free dental care on a first-come, first-serve basis. People who are in need can call the office to schedule an appointment for an exam, an x-ray, and a cleaning.

Individuals who become a victim of a natural disaster can also apply for FEMA assistance. You can find out specific information by checking out the Internal Revenue Service’s website. This federal assistance can not only pay for medical and dental costs but other immediate needs as well. The federal government partners with many organizations to help provide housing, clothing, and food to fire and natural disaster victims. Without free dental care for low income adults, these survivors may have to rely on expensive emergency room care that can further aggravate their financial situation.

Free Dental Care for Veterans

When it comes to free dental care for low income adults, veterans are often the ones in the most need. For the third straight year, the Touro College of Dental Medicine is providing free dental treatment for veterans in the Hudson Valley during the holiday season. Veterans will receive dental exams and endodontic treatment services from dental students being supervised by faculty staff. Many military veterans are forced to have to pay for out-of-pocket dental expenses because of specific guidelines with government benefits. The majority of military members can only receive dental benefits through the Veterans Administration if they are completely disabled, were a prisoner of war, or have a service-related dental injury.

When veterans do have dental coverage through the Veterans Administration, it often only covers certain emergency situations for tooth pain and loss. Preventative and restorative care are typically excluded for most veterans. These veterans may rely on care through a hospital’s emergency room. However, this medical care can only offer antibiotics and pain medication. Many veterans also have transportation and mobility issues when it comes to seeking dental care.

The staffing agency at Touro College helps reduce these costs for military members and their families throughout the year with their Smiles for Veterans program. Many veterans have expressed that this free dental care for low income adults is a blessing. These individuals often work full time at jobs with limited or no benefits and can’t afford to buy a plan through the Veterans Administration. Because of their military service and financial situation, they often suffer from dental problems for years without being able to get them fixed. Programs like these that offer free dental care for veterans give them the opportunity to maintain their oral health and prevent chronic health conditions.

How Can Dental Practices Further Help Communities in Financial Trouble?

Dental practices can help communities that are in financial trouble in a number of ways. They can make an impact on the community through collaboration with other businesses. Dental clinics can work with building contractors as relief resources for victims of environmental disasters. These dental practices can cross-promote with other services, such as a local cleaning company, to offer discounts. With the recent pandemic, many small businesses are working together in high-risk communities to be able to keep their doors open to help those in desperate need.

Dental practices are also working at the local and state level to help eliminate healthcare disparities for low income families. In communities of color, black and Hispanic children are more likely to have cavities than white children because of poverty and lack of access to care. Finding solutions such as free dental care for low income adults and community dental education helps bridge the gap. Dentists are also training volunteers to help increase the number of providers in impoverished communities. Dental professionals are also volunteering to assist with COVID-19 testing and providing telehealth services to those with mobility issues.

Access to dental care for many adults in the United States is a serious issue being addressed by many dental professionals. The recent pandemic has only complicated these issues even more for both providers and patients. Organizations are working hard to deliver necessary services while reducing infection rates at the same time. This can significantly impact the number of patients that a provider can see during a single day. Patients who are already struggling to receive care dental may be put on a waiting list to receive free care while rules and regulations change with lockdowns.

There are many programs throughout the United States that offer free dental care for low income adults. If you need dental care, you can visit your state’s website or local community organizations for resources where you live. Free dental care can include things like routine cleanings and exams along with emergency teeth extractions. Look for public dental clinics and dental schools where you can get services free or at a sliding fee payment. Getting oral care can be a challenge, but help is available if you need it.

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