Dental Grants for Low-Income Adults: Access to dental care is crucial for overall health and well-being. However, dental treatment can be prohibitively expensive, putting it out of reach for many low-income adults. Thankfully, some organizations provide dental grants to help make dental care affordable. This guide will outline the options available for dental grants for low-income adults in 2023.
Overview of Dental Grants
Dental grants for low-income adults are funds awarded by government agencies, non-profits, corporations, and other organizations to help pay for dental care. These grants help bridge the gap for those who do not have dental insurance or cannot afford out-of-pocket dental expenses.
Dental grants can cover a variety of treatments, including:
- Routine preventive care like cleanings, x-rays and exams
- Basic restorative procedures like fillings and extractions
- Major dental work such as crowns, bridges, implants, and dentures
- Orthodontia like braces and retainers
- Emergency dental treatment
The grants help pay part or all of the cost of dental services at low-cost clinics, private dental offices, dental schools, or mobile dental clinics.
Who Qualifies for Dental Grants?
Eligibility requirements vary depending on the organization providing the dental grant. However, most dental grants for low-income adults are need-based. Here are some typical eligibility guidelines:
- Low income below a certain threshold based on Federal Poverty Level guidelines
- No dental insurance or inadequate dental insurance
- S. citizenship or legal permanent resident status
- Meet certain age requirements, such as over 18, over 65, etc.
- Reside in specific areas or states
- Have a qualifying medical condition
- For veterans, an honorable discharge from the military
Applicants may need to provide proof of income, citizenship status, and residence to show they meet the eligibility criteria. Students, seniors, veterans, pregnant women, tribal community members, and people with disabilities are often prioritized.
Types of Dental Grant Programs
There are a variety of organizations that offer dental grants or funding for dental care. Here are some of the main types of dental grants available:
- Government Dental Grants
Several government-funded programs provide dental grants for qualifying individuals. These include:
Medicaid is a joint federal/state program that provides medical and dental coverage for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. Adult dental benefits vary quite a bit from state to state. Certain procedures like cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and extractions are generally covered. More extensive treatment may be limited.
Medicare does not cover routine dental care but may provide some grant funding for certain dental services if they are medically necessary. For example, Medicare Part A can help pay for emergency dental procedures performed in the hospital.
- Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Program
Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care and meet income limits can get dental grants to cover some or all of their dental treatment through the VA dental insurance program. Grants help veterans access services like exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, and dentures.
- Indian Health Service
The Indian Health Service, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, provides some grant funding for dental care to eligible Native Americans and Alaska Natives through its health centers and dental clinics.
- State and Local Dental Grants
Many states and local governments offer dental grants, voucher programs, loan forgiveness programs, and other funding. These are often administered by public health departments, human services agencies, or non-profit organizations on behalf of the government. Some examples include:
- State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)– Provides dental grants for children in families earning too much for Medicaid but not enough to afford private dental insurance. Offered in many states.
- County health department dental clinics– Many county or city health departments get grants to provide free or discounted dental services to uninsured, low-income residents.
- Dental Lifeline Network– A national organization that partners with dentists to provide grant-funded dental care to people with disabilities or who are elderly or medically fragile. Programs available in most states.
- Private Non-Profit Dental Grants
Many non-profit organizations and charities offer dental grants or access to free or reduced-cost dental treatment. This includes programs like:
- Dental clinics for the uninsured– Non-profit dental clinics provide heavily subsidized or free dental care to uninsured individuals and families. There are over 1,200 community dental clinics nationwide.
- United Way– Some local United Way offices use grant funding to offer dental care assistance programs.
- Donated Dental Services (DDS)– Dentists volunteer their services and DDS provides grants for lab fees and supplies for seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.
- Missions of Mercy– Temporary dental clinics that provide free care relying heavily on grants and donations. Organized by state dental associations.
- Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC)– RMHC chapters provide dental care grants to children in need through their mobile clinics and dental care referral networks.
- Dental School Programs
Many universities with dental education programs offer reduced-cost dental services to the public, made possible by grants and subsidies. Treatment is performed by dental students under faculty supervision. Options may include:
- Dental school clinics
- Dental hygienist school cleanings
- Mobile dental clinic programs
- Pro bono treatment days
- Corporate Dental Grants
Some corporate foundations and employers provide dental care grant programs as part of their health services and charitable giving initiatives. For example:
- CVS Health Foundation – Provides grants to support dental services through community health centers.
- Walmart – Partners with dentists to offer dental grants that provide free care days in their store parking lots.
- Crest and Oral B – Donates dental care grants and supplies to organizations like dental schools and clinics through their Crest Oral Health 3D Program.
- Dental Procedure-Specific Charities
Many non-profit charities raise money to provide grants for specific types of dental treatments, such as:
- Children’s Dental Health Project– Provides grants for children to receive dental care.
- Dental Lifeline Network– Offers grants for dentures and crowns for elderly, disabled, or medically fragile patients.
- HealthWell Foundation– Provides grants to cover coinsurance and copays for major dental procedures.
- Smiles Across America– Organizes free children’s orthodontic care events relying on grants and donations.
How to Apply for Dental Grants
Here are some tips for applying for dental grants:
- Determine eligibility– Carefully review grant eligibility rules related to income level, location, age, disability status, etc. Make sure you qualify before applying.
- Gather documentation– Application forms typically require proof of income, identification, residence, military service, dental needs, and other information. Obtain letters, pay stubs, and medical records as needed.
- Complete applications thoroughly– Follow all instructions and answer questions completely and accurately to avoid delaying the process. Include all required documentation.
- Apply broadly– Increase your chances by submitting applications to any grants you may qualify for, rather than relying on a single program. Cast a wide net.
- Reapply annually– Some grants need to be applied for yearly to continue receiving assistance. Mark your calendar for reapplication deadlines.
Top 10 Dental Grants for Low-Income Adults
Here is an overview of 10 great dental care grant programs for low-income adults to consider applying to:
- Dental Lifeline Network
- Provides grants and connects patients with volunteer dentists to receive donated dental care.
- Offers specialty care grants for crowns, dentures, bridges, and more.
- Serves people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and others who lack access.
- Programs are available in most states, both urban and rural areas.
- CareQuest Dental Access Now
- Partners dentists with community organizations to provide dental grants and care.
- Operates in certain regions of MA, MD, OH, SC, VA, and Washington DC.
- Simple application and enrollment process.
- Covers exams, x-rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions, and education.
- Florida Dental Association Mission of Mercy
- Hosts free mobile dental clinics across Florida offering free care.
- Services include cleanings, fillings, extractions, and limited restorative work.
- Eligibility is 400% of the Federal Poverty Level and below.
- Requires applying for each scheduled clinic as they are announced.
- Colorado Dental Association Caring for Colorado Foundation
- Provides grants and vouchers to low-income patients to access dental care.
- Offers specialized grants to cover dentures and partials for qualified patients.
- Access care through CDA member dentists who accept the subsidies.
- Must be a Colorado resident and meet income requirements.
- America’s Dentists Care Foundation
- Dentists donate their services and ADCF provides grants to cover lab costs.
- Treatments include dentures, implants, crowns, root canals, and more.
- Serves elderly, veterans, homeless, disabled, domestic abuse victims, and uninsured.
- Access care through volunteer dentists in your state.
- Dental College of Georgia Indigent Care Program
- Provides grants to cover discounted dental services performed by students.
- Eligibility is household income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
- Comprehensive exam, x-rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions, and select specialty care.
- Open to Georgia residents – must apply in person.
- Arkansas Charitable Dental Clinic Program
- State-funded program offering grants for care at participating dental clinics.
- Covers exams, x-rays, cleanings, fillings, extractions and dentures.
- For Arkansas residents between ages 19-65 earning less than 200% of FPL.
- Limited number of grants available – first come, first served.
- Kansas Bureau of Oral Health Project Access
- Connects low-income uninsured Kansas residents with dentists volunteering care.
- Grants provided cover basic to advanced dental treatment.
- Must be between 19-64 years old and earn below 200% of FPL.
- Call or use the online directory to locate a participating dentist.
- Virginia Health Catalyst ED Dental Diversion Program
- Offers dental grants and provider incentives to divert non-urgent ER visits.
- Links patients to community dental clinics and other safety net providers.
- Focuses on Medicaid enrollees and uninsured residents in areas of need.
- Check availability through participating hospital ED staff.
- Chapel Hill Community Health Dental Fund
- Provides grants to cover 100% of dental costs at their clinics for the uninsured.
- Broad eligibility – 400% of the federal poverty level and under.
- Full range of general dentistry services available.
- Must reside in Orange, Chatham, or surrounding NC counties.
Applying for Dental School Treatment
Getting dental work done through dental schools is a cost-effective option made possible by grants. Here are tips on applying for dental school treatment programs:
- Search for “dental school clinics” and your state/city to find nearby options.
- Check their website or call to learn about their application process and eligibility.
- Make sure to confirm what types of dental services they offer students. Some have limitations.
- Know that wait times may be longer than in private dentistry offices.
- Expect visits to be longer so students get experience – schedule accordingly.
- Contact your local dental hygiene school for preventive cleanings and x-rays.
- Ask about free and reduced-cost dental days if the regular fees are still too high.
- Have records from your current dentist transferred before your first appointment?
- Show up early to allow time for paperwork – bring income documentation and ID.
Grants for Dental Emergencies
Dental emergencies like injuries, pain, or serious infections need prompt treatment. Here are some options if you can’t afford emergency dental care:
- Hospital ER– ERs can provide pain relief and antibiotics for dental infections. They also must stabilize dental injuries. You may receive a bill but can apply for charity care.
- Dental schools– Many dental schools operate emergency dental clinics where students treat urgent issues under supervision at a reduced cost based on their income.
- Community clinics– Some community dental clinics receive grants to cover emergency dental care for low-income uninsured patients.
- Medicaid– People with Medicaid coverage can access emergency dental treatment from dentists who accept Medicaid patients. Requests are typically approved promptly.
- Dental Society emergency funds– Many state and local dental associations have emergency dental relief funds or vouchers to help pay for immediate dental care for those in need.
Having a hospital ER provide basic pain relief and antibiotics can buy you time to secure grants from the other sources above and schedule more definitive treatment. Don’t let the lack of money deter you from seeking help with dental emergencies – get relief first, then deal with the financials.
Grants for Dental Procedures
While routine cleanings and basic fillings are the most commonly covered dental services through grants, some programs do offer funding for major procedures. Here are a few options:
- Dental Lifeline Network– Provides crowns, fixed bridges, and partials for qualifying patients through their Crown Program. Must have a disability, be elderly, or have other qualifying health issues.
- Care Quest Foundation– Offers crowns at substantially reduced cost through their voucher programs for the uninsured in certain regions. Income limits apply.
- America’s Dentists Care Foundation– Volunteer dentists provide discounted or free crowns for vulnerable groups like the uninsured, elderly, disabled, and veterans. ADCF provides grants for labs.
- ADA Foundation Endodontics Awards– Provides grants to endodontists to cover root canal treatment for needy individuals at no or low cost. Patients must apply to be considered.
- Dental schools– Dental education programs sometimes include root canals as part of their student training. Treatment costs are discounted through grants.
- Donated Dental Services– In some cases volunteer dentists through DDS programs may provide free or discounted root canals if grant funding for labs is secured.
- Implant America– Provides grants to cover implants for low-income individuals through dentists volunteering their services. Must be a US citizen and earn < $60K annually.
- Smiles Across America– Donates lab costs and services for implant-supported dentures for adults who qualify through application. Must lack adequate dentition.
- Americas Dentists Care Foundation– Ask if an ADCF network dentist near you will help with implants. Must meet eligibility criteria.
- Smiles Change Lives– Offers braces and orthodontic care for children ages 11-18 from low-income families who apply. Provided by volunteer orthodontists.
- Medicaid– Orthodontics like braces are covered for children by Medicaid in many states if medically necessary. Apply through your state Medicaid program.
- Dental schools– Dental students supervised by orthodontics faculty provide low-cost braces and other orthodontics to qualifying patients.
By thoroughly researching programs in your area, you can find grants to help make specialized dental procedures possible despite financial limitations.
Grants for Dental Labs and Supplies
Grants are available in some cases to help cover the cost of dental lab work, supplies, and materials needed for certain procedures:
- Americas Dentists Care Foundation– Provides grants to dental labs to subsidize the cost of lab work for qualifying patients at participating dentists. Reduces patient fees.
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation– Its Safety Net Dental Clinic grants can cover lab fees, supplies, digital x-ray equipment, and more for qualified dental clinics serving the uninsured.
- Dental Lifeline Network– Negotiates discounted lab fees and sometimes secures full lab fee waivers through donors to reduce costs for patients.
- Ronald McDonald House Charities– Provides grants to cover dental lab costs and supplies for lower-income patients of partner dentists and schools.
- Donated Dental Services– Uses donations and grants to pay dental labs to process dentures, partials, crowns, and bridges for approved patients receiving pro bono treatment.
Discuss lab fee donation programs with dentists, labs, schools, and non-profits in your area to take advantage of these grants and discounts.
Top Foundations Offering Dental Grants
Many large charitable foundations provide grants to increase access to dental care for those in need. Here are some of the top foundations offering dental grants:
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- Supports programs that bring dental services to underserved communities through clinics, mobile programs, dental therapists, etc.
- Offers grants to safety net dental clinics to improve capacity and upgrade equipment and technology.
- Partners with organizations like NCOHF and ADA Foundation to increase dental access and advocacy.
- DentaQuest Foundation
- Invests in oral health programs and partners with dental organizations to serve low-income individuals.
- Supports dental clinics, mobile dental programs, dental therapist training, and pilot programs that widen access.
- Advances innovations like tele-dentistry to extend the reach of limited dental resources.
- Washington Dental Service Foundation
- Dedicated to increasing dental access in the states where Delta Dental operates like WA, OR, MT, AK, etc.
- Grants support operating costs for non-profit dental clinics serving the uninsured and programs that recruit dentists to work in dental shortage areas.
- CVS Health Foundation
- Major funding partner for clinics and mobile dental programs providing care for uninsured and underserved populations.
- Partners with organizations like America’s Dentists Care Foundation and Donated Dental Services.
- Supports programs increasing diversity among dental professionals.
- Cigna Foundation
- Walmart Foundation
- Partners with dentists and dental organizations to provide free dental care events in Walmart parking lots.
- Funds mobile dental clinics that travel to underserved neighborhoods and schools in Walmart communities.
- Supports charities expanding access to dental care for people with disabilities.
- Healthcare Georgia Foundation
- Focuses grant funding on improving dental access for Georgians through school sealant programs, rural dental clinics, and dental workforce development.
- Partners with organizations like Georgia Dental Association Foundation.
- Advances teledentistry programs to extend care to underserved areas.
- Michigan Health Endowment Fund
- Supports Michigan safety net dental clinics serving the uninsured through operating grants.
- Expand services and access for the uninsured through mobile dental programs and dental therapist training.
- Partners with groups like Michigan Dental Association Foundation.
- Northeast Delta Dental Foundation
- Awards grants to increase dental access for underserved residents across Northeastern states.
- Funds free dental clinics, purchase of dental equipment for clinics, and school dental education programs.
- Focuses on oral health promotion through community water fluoridation.
- BCBSNC Foundation
- Leading funder supporting dental access for uninsured North Carolinians.
- Invests in programs that recruit dentists to practice in rural areas.
- Partners with entities like NC Dental Society Foundation to fund clinics.
Researching foundation grant programs in your state and region can help connect your dental services or clinic with funding opportunities.
Tips for Affording Dental Care
If you still need help with dental expenses after exhausting grant options, here are some tips for making dental treatment more affordable:
- Discuss payment plans and financing with your dentist – many offer flexible monthly payment options.
- Ask if they offer fee reductions or discounts for the uninsured– some do.
- See if your dentist accepts discount plans like Careington or HumanaDental to save money.
- If you lost insurance coverage, explain your situation – some dentists will offer a grace period to complete treatment.
- Ask about free or discounted service days– organize a fundraiser or volunteer in exchange.
- Get the least expensive treatment option that will effectively meet your needs.
- Have dental work done overseas– countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Thailand offer huge savings.
- Use dental schools, clinics, and public health programs for lower costs.
- Search for clinical trials offering free or reduced-cost dental procedures.
- Pay cash for a dental discount– avoid paying higher fees charged to insurance companies.
- Take excellent care of any dental work you get to maximize longevity.
The lack of dental coverage and high costs often put recommended dental treatments out of reach for those with limited budgets. However, organizations across the country recognize the importance of oral health and offer dental grants and resources to help fill this need.
By reaching out to government programs, dental schools, community clinics, various foundations, and more, many options exist for financial assistance. Do your research, ask questions, submit applications, and exhaust every avenue. With persistence, affordable dental care is often possible for low-income adults through the power of dental grants and caring programs.
Small steps like taking advantage of discounted cleanings, x-rays, or basic fillings can help prevent larger issues. Don’t wait until you have a dental emergency or problems become severe. Be proactive in seeking the preventive and restorative dental care needed for health, function, and confidence.
Mustafa Al Mahmud is a passionate medical writer and health enthusiast. He is excited to share his knowledge and make reliable health information more accessible through Quick Medico. Mustafa aims to write about common diseases, medications, wellness topics, and the latest health research in easy-to-understand language. He believes clear and accurate health communication empowers readers to take charge of their well-being. In his free time, Mustafa enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with his family.