Nearly 67 million Americans — about 20% of the population — don’t have dental coverage. If you’re one of them, you may not go to the dentist as often as you’d like to. Whether you’re interested in regular checkups to keep your teeth healthy, or treatment to fix an unforeseen dental problem, you may wonder how you can see a dentist without insurance. Read on to learn about your options for getting the dental care you need, as well as some tips for avoiding costly dental work.
What to Do if You Don’t Have Dental Insurance
Many Americans get dental benefits through their employer or from a public program like Medicaid. If your job doesn’t offer dental coverage and you don’t qualify for government assistance, you could have other options.
For some people, purchasing an individual dental insurance plan could make sense. This option could be relatively affordable: The monthly premium could be around $50, depending on the plan you choose. However, many policies have waiting periods before coverage kicks in, so a new policy may not help pay for impending dental work.
When buying a dental insurance policy isn’t an option, there are many possible ways to see a dentist without insurance. No insurance resources could include clinics run by nonprofit organizations, public health departments, and dental schools.
What to Do if You Need Emergency Dental Work Without Insurance
Many people who have dental emergencies but no dental insurance visit hospital emergency rooms: In 2017, there were about 2.1 million dental-related visits to emergency rooms, and nearly 30% of adult visitors were uninsured. While emergency rooms may offer pain medicine or other symptom relief, they don’t generally have dentists on staff to perform emergency dental work.
Emergency dental care for adults without insurance could be provided by several resources in your area, from local dental schools to public health dental clinics.
Options for Seeing a Dentist Without Dental Insurance
Many resources could help you see a dentist without insurance.
Dental School Clinics
Dental students need hands-on experience before they can graduate, so most dental schools operate teaching clinics. At these clinics, dental students provide reduced-cost services to community members under the supervision of licensed dentists. Available services may vary based on students’ educational needs but could include anything from routine cleanings and fillings to more complex procedures, such as dental implants.
Fees vary from one school to another, but you may only need to pay for the cost of equipment and materials. This can make getting dental work without insurance more affordable. To find a dental or dental hygiene school in your area, search the Commission on Dental Accreditation website.
Public Dental Clinics
Local health departments may run taxpayer-funded public dental clinics that provide free or low-cost dental services. Harris County Public Health in Texas, for example, operates two public dental clinics where uninsured patients can receive a wide range of treatments, such as cleanings, fillings, and extractions. Contact your local health department to learn about public dental clinics in your area.
Free Dental Clinics
Many nonprofit organizations operate dental clinics that provide free dental care for adults without insurance. Eligibility may vary from one free clinic to another. Some clinics may accept any patient with no insurance on a first-come, first-served basis, while others may serve more specific groups.
Your local United Way chapter may be able to direct you to free dental clinics in your area.
Government health insurance programs may cover some dental services for adults and children. Check to see if you’re eligible for the following programs that may offer dental coverage:
- Medicare: The federal government’s health plan for people 65 years of age and older and some younger adults with disabilities. While traditional Medicare doesn’t cover most dental services, it may cover inpatient hospital care if you need an emergency dental procedure. Medicare Advantage plans may offer dental coverage.
- Medicaid: A joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to eligible low-income Americans. Each state’s Medicaid program is required to cover dental care for kids, but adult dental benefits vary. Some states don’t cover any dental care for adults, while others may only cover emergency dental services. Some state Medicaid programs provide comprehensive dental coverage.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Provides health coverage to children with family incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. State’s CHIP programs are required to cover dental services that help restore teeth and maintain oral health.
Dental Savings Plans
Dental savings plans are membership programs that may offer cost-savings on services from participating dentists. They’re sometimes called "access plans" or "discount plans." Since dental savings plans aren’t dental insurance, there may be no waiting period before receiving services.
With discount dental plans, you pay an annual membership fee. Each plan has a network of dentists who’ve agreed to charge a discounted rate to members. This rate could be a discount off the dentist’s usual price or a specific discounted price, depending on the plan.
Talk to Your Dentist
To accommodate patients who don’t have dental insurance, some dentists may offer payment plans. A payment plan could help you spread the cost of your dental work into more manageable monthly payments. If your dentist doesn’t offer payment plans, they may have other suggestions. For example, they may direct you to a free or low-cost clinic in your area.
How to Avoid Costly Dental Work
Most dental diseases can be prevented with a good at-home oral hygiene routine and regular dental visits. Keeping your teeth healthy may help you avoid costly dental treatments.
Stay On Top of Your Oral Hygiene Routine
- Toothbrushing. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, brush your teeth twice per day. Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums, and gently clean the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of your teeth using short back-and-forth strokes. Brushing your teeth thoroughly takes about two minutes.
- Flossing. Floss at least once a day to clean areas of your mouth that can’t be reached with your toothbrush. To properly floss, use an 18-inch piece of floss and gently clean the spaces between your teeth and along your gumline. If you have trouble using string floss, tools such as interdental brushes or oral irrigators could be helpful.
- Mouthwash. Using mouthwash is an optional step that could be helpful for some people. While it’s not a substitute for floss, it can get in between your teeth and help reduce plaque. Mouthwash may also help reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease.
If you’d like a demonstration of proper brushing or flossing techniques, ask your dental hygienist.
See Your Dentist Regularly
When you don’t have dental insurance, you may avoid regular dental checkups to try to save money. While not going to the dentist could help you save a little money in the short term, getting regular checkups may be more affordable in the long run.
Regular dental visits may help you prevent some dental problems, such as cavities or gum disease. Plus, when you see your dentist regularly, they have the opportunity to spot dental problems at an early stage, when those problems may be easier — and more affordable — to fix.
How much is a dentist visit without insurance, and how much is a dental cleaning without insurance? It may vary based on your dentist and where you live. Still, for a mouth exam and dental cleaning, you could pay around $125 to $170, according to the American Dental Association’s most recent publicly available data. This could be money well spent if it helps you avoid other, more costly dental procedures:
- How much is a filling without insurance? This may vary based on the size of your cavity and the type of filling material. Dental amalgam (silver) fillings are a lower-cost option that starts at around $130 to $150, while composite resin (tooth-colored) fillings tend to be a bit pricier at $160 to $200.
- How much is a tooth extraction without insurance? Pulling a tooth that’s fully visible above the gum line may cost about $160 to $215, on average. In cases where the bone and/or gum tissue needs to be surgically removed to reach the tooth, extractions cost an average of about $285 to $555.
- How much does a root canal cost without insurance? A root canal on a front tooth averages around $700 to $900. For a molar, the average is higher at around $950 to $1,300. To protect the treated tooth, your dentist may need to place a crown.
- How much is a crown without insurance? Depending on the material it’s made from, a crown costs an average of around $800 to $1,500. Composite resin crowns tend to cost less than porcelain or gold crowns.
Save with the Smile Generation Dental Plan
With the Smile Generation, it’s easy to understand how to pay for dental work without insurance. All Smile Generation-trusted offices accept the Smile Generation Dental Plan, a dental savings plan that could help you save 20%-60% on Mouth-Body Connection® procedures. If you're wondering where can you find a dentist near me, use our Find a Dentist tool to search for dentists in your area.