Hard to say which is worse: The dental drill that leaves a hole in a tooth or the cost of dental care that leaves a hole in your wallet?
According to the American Dental Association, the average working-age adult spends over $300 per year on dental care. Add in multiple family members and kids who need braces, and dental care costs can easily add up to thousands of dollars annually.
Dentists and orthodontists are aware that their services are often not well covered by insurance, making dental care cost-prohibitive for many families. Many dental practitioners participate in programs and services like the following that are designed to help offset the cost of dental care for children from low-income families.
1. Smile for a Lifetime
A nonprofit, charitable organization, the Smile for a Lifetime Foundation provides orthodontic treatment for underserved patients ages 11-18. To participate in the program, a child must meet several qualifications, including:
• Having had a dental hygiene check-up within the previous six months
• Having a family income that doesn’t exceed 200% of the federal poverty level
• Having letters of recommendation from teachers or community leaders
• Being involved with community through volunteer or extracurricular activities
2. Smiles Change Lives
Instead of bracing yourself for a huge bill, you can expect to pay hundreds less for your child’s braces as part of the Smiles Change Lives program. Children ages 7 and up can receive braces at a much lower cost: You’ll only be required to provide a nonrefundable $30 application fee and an out-of-pocket $650 for the braces. In addition, applicants must submit a personal essay about why braces are necessary and how getting them will positively impact the child.
3. A Smile for Kids
This organization serves low-income, at-risk children in Oregon. Serving children in sixth grade to 11th grade who are “suffering from ridicule and low self-esteem due to severely crooked teeth,” the organization provides orthodontic care at a significantly reduced price; the parent or guardian pays a monthly fee to the orthodontist.
4. Give Kids a Smile
Originating in St. Louis, this program was adopted by the American Dental Association and became a national program in 2003. The organization brings dental professionals and volunteers together to provide care and education to underserved children. Among the services provided: routine screenings and oral health education and treatment.
5. Donated Orthodontic Services
You can check the American Association of Orthodontists for a list of Donated Orthodontic Services. Providers offer care to children who don’t have insurance coverage or don’t qualify for assistance, and who reside in the following nine U.S. states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia.