Your Free Guide to Dental Grants
Introduction to Dental Grants
Dental procedures and preventative care can be costly, especially for individuals without insurance. However, many dental problems, including cavities, often worsen when left untreated. This can result in pain, difficulty chewing, tooth loss, low self-esteem, and more.
Fortunately, you may be able to find one or more dental grants from government and non-government entities that can help you cover some or all of the costs associated with a dental procedure. In this guide, you can learn helpful information about dental grants, including what they are, where to find them, who may be eligible, and what you might need when applying for a grant.
What is a Dental Grant?
In general, a dental grant is a lump sum of financial assistance that can be used to pay for dental procedures, such as cleaning, cavity fillings, root canals, extractions, and implants. Most grants have a specific intended purpose they must be used for.
For example, a dental grant for an implant must generally be used toward the cost of the implant. A grant may be large enough to cover the entire procedure cost or only cover a portion of it.
Do I Have to Pay Back a Dental Grant?
In most cases, you do not have to pay back a dental grant. So long as you use a grant for its intended purpose, it does not need to be repaid. Grants differ from dental loans and payment plans with a dental office.
A dental loan is a personal loan or line of credit for a dental procedure that must be repaid, usually with interest. A payment plan is an arrangement made with your dentist where you make fixed payments each month until your balance is paid in full. It’s worth noting that a dental grant can usually be used in addition to a loan or payment plan to help reduce the amount you’ll owe.
Where to Find Dental Grants
Dental grants fall into two categories:
- Government grants
- Non-government grants
Here’s a closer look at some common types of dental grants that may be available to you.
Government Dental Grants and Aid
Medicare is a federal health insurance plan for seniors, certain disabled persons and people with certain health conditions. Medicare Part A and Part B do not typically cover most routine dental services.
However, coverage may be available in some instances, such as:
- Dental procedures vital to a larger procedure’s success, such as facial reconstruction after an accident
- Tooth extractions that pose a risk of infection or to prepare for radiation treatment
- Oral exams necessary for another procedure, such as a heart valve replacement or kidney transplant
- Life-threatening or life-altering conditions that require dental work
However, some Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage plans may provide at least some dental coverage. These are optional plans that you can purchase from Medicare-approved providers. Additionally, you may be eligible for coverage if you have a supplemental plan that covers some of the gaps in traditional Medicare.
You can learn more about and apply for the Medicare program online at www.Medicare.gov. Alternatively, you can also call Medicare at (800)-633-4227.
Medicaid is a federal health insurance plan for low-income individuals and families. Each state governs its own Medicaid program under federal guidelines, so eligibility requirements and benefits can vary between states.
While federal guidelines include dental procedures for children under the age of 18, it does not afford the same benefits to adults. Therefore, whether or not you can receive financial assistance for a dental procedure with Medicaid depends on your state program.
You can learn more about the Medicaid program online at Medicaid.gov or by contacting your State Medicaid Agency. You can find your State Medicaid Agency here: https://www.medicaid.gov/about-us/beneficiary-resources/index.html#statemenu
You can apply for the program directly through your State Medicaid Agency, or on healthcare.gov.
VA Dental Care
Veterans and active service members may qualify for dental grants for some or all of their dental care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Eligibility is based on several factors, including military service history, living situation, and health. You can apply for benefits online or at your local VA office.
You can apply for VA dental care benefits by completing the 10-10EZ Health Application, found online here: https://www.va.gov/health-care/apply/application/introduction
Otherwise, you can visit your local VA office. To find a VA location near you, use the search tool provided by the VA here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations
Local and State Grant Programs
Many state and local programs provide grants to low-income and vulnerable individuals and families to help them afford medical care, including dental services. These programs, their eligibility requirements, and their coverage details can vary widely, so you’ll need to research programs in your area to determine if you qualify.
Non-Government Dental Grants and Aid
Here’s a look at some of the non-government dental grants you may qualify for.
Private Health Insurance Dental Coverage
If you have private health insurance, it’s worth checking whether your insurance plan includes dental coverage. What an insurer will and will not cover varies by plan and insurer. If you do have coverage, be sure to find out about your:
- Deductible: This is the amount of money you must pay towards your own medical care before your insurance coverage kicks in.
- Co-Insurance: Co-insurance is a percentage amount your insurer pays towards your medical and dental expenses after paying your deductible.
- Co-Payments: Co-payments are an amount you pay directly to the dental office at the time of service. These amounts are generally minimal, such as between $20 and $50.
- Out-of-Pocket Maximum: Out-of-pocket maximums are the maximum amount you’ll pay toward your medical or dental services.
If you do not currently have insurance, you can enroll in an insurance plan during open enrollment or if you have a Qualifying Life Event (QLE), such as:
- Loss of existing coverage
- Changes in your household, such as getting married or divorced, having or adopting a child, or a death in the family
- Changes in residence, such as moving to a different county or zip code
- Changes in your income that impact the coverage you qualify for
- Becoming a U.S. citizen
- Leaving incarceration
The American Dental Association (ADA)
The American Dental Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving people’s oral health and advancing dental research and technology. The ADA provides dental grants for the Give Kids a Smile program, which aims to ensure that all kids have access to oral health education, dental screenings, preventative care, and other dental procedures. The program is a nationwide event that occurs only once or twice a year.
You can contact the American Dental Association using the contact us page here: https://www.ada.org/contact-us
Or, you can contact your state dental association to learn about opportunities in your area.
The Dental Lifeline Network
The Dental Lifeline Network is a nationwide charitable organization that helps seniors, disabled adults, and adults who need life-saving care afford their dental procedures. The program provides one-time grants to the most vulnerable in our communities without other means of receiving dental services. Grants can be used for various dental services, including complex treatment plans and implants.
You can learn more about the Dental Lifeline Network online at https://dentallifeline.org/ or by contacting them at (303)-534-5360.
Dental schools are a great way to receive low-cost dental treatment. Costs are often reduced because dental students work under close monitoring by a licensed professional to provide treatments and services, including cleanings, root canals, and dental surgeries.
Community Health Clinics
Community health clinics are an invaluable resource for low-income and underinsured dental patients. These non-profit organizations and clinics receive federal and private grants to offer their local communities adequate, affordable dental care. Generally, these clinics operate on a sliding scale or provide free services to low-income individuals. Unfortunately, however, lengthy wait times are common.
Who Can Get a Dental Grant?
Each non-profit organization or government program creates its own eligibility requirements that applicants must meet to receive a dental grant. For example, to qualify for assistance through Medicaid, you must be part of a low-income household. To meet income-based requirements for Medicaid, your income must be at or below 133% of the current federal poverty level (FPL).
The 2023 FPL chart for the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. is as follows:
|Family Size||Annual Income Limit|
Additionally, some state programs restrict Medicaid to disabled persons, senior citizens, and families. Similarly, some assistance and grant programs, such as Medicare, are only available to seniors and disabled persons.
Non-profit organizations offering dental grants may only cover certain services, such as severe dental conditions or routine services. An organization may also choose to provide grants based on income or limit grants to seniors, disabled persons, or veterans. Therefore, checking each grant program to determine what dental grants you may qualify for is important.
How Much Money Can I Receive From a Dental Grant?
Similarly to eligibility, each grant program can contain different financial award amounts. These amounts may cover all or some of your dental expenses. Additionally, some organizations may provide a flat amount, while others may choose to cover a portion of your dental procedure costs.
What do Dental Grants Cover?
Coverage for dental grants, assistance programs, and insurance can vary widely by provider. Therefore, you should always refer to the program or grant details when considering whether or not you can receive assistance for the dental procedure you need. Dental grants may cover services such as:
- Routine cleanings and preventative care
- Cavity fillings
- Root canals
- Implants and bridges
Cosmetic vs. Medically Necessary Dental Care
Dental services can be considered medically necessary or cosmetic, like all types of medical services. While you may be able to find dental grants for cosmetic procedures, these programs are few and far between. Most organizations only provide financial assistance for medically necessary dental work. Similarly, insurance does not usually provide coverage for cosmetic procedures.
So what’s the difference between cosmetic and medically necessary dental care? Medically necessary services generally improve your oral health, while cosmetic procedures focus on enhancing the appearance of your gums and teeth. Examples of cosmetic dental procedures include:
- Teeth whitening services
- Dental veneers
- Fixes to teeth that are broken, chipped, or crooked that do not pose a health concern
- Enamel shaping
- Gum grafts or coloration
In some cases, dentures and implants are considered cosmetic procedures. The distinction usually falls into whether or not missing teeth pose a health concern or make it difficult for you to chew or speak. For example, many insurers only provide coverage for implants if you are missing several teeth.
Basic Dental Care
Dental grants and assistance programs commonly cover basic dental care, such as:
- Dental Cleanings: Routine cleanings are a preventative service that removes plaque build-up, improves oral health, and reduces oral disease risk. Most dentists recommend dental cleanings twice a year. However, some patients require more frequent cleanings to prevent or treat gum disease. Average dental cleanings run between $75 and $200 per cleaning.
- Panoramic X-Rays: Dental imaging helps detect cavities, gum disease, and other tooth-related concerns early. The average cost of these x-rays in the U.S. is between $100 and $200.
- Dental Fillings: If you have a cavity, you’ll need a dental filling. Cavities don’t go away on their own, and left untreated, they can lead to infection, severe pain, and tooth loss. Costs can vary depending on the size of the cavity that needs to be filled, the location of the tooth, and the filling material. Commonly used filling materials include amalgam and composite, with average costs between $50 and $250 per tooth. Fillings can also be done using gold, but it’s a far more expensive option, with an average cost of $250 to $4,500 per tooth.
- Dental Crowns: Dental crowns are caps placed on damaged teeth to protect them from breaking or further damage, hold a bridge in place, cover misshapen teeth, or cover a tooth after a root canal. Crown costs are based on the materials used, with average prices for metal crowns ranging between $500 and $1,500 per tooth, porcelain-fused-to-metal running from $600 to $1,800 per tooth, and ceramic ranging between $800 to $2,000 per tooth.
- Tooth Extractions: Tooth extractions are sometimes necessary to treat infected, dying teeth or other oral health conditions. When an extraction is needed, the cost depends on the size and location of the tooth, as well as the difficulty of the procedure. Extraction costs range from $75 to $800 on average.
- Root Canals: Root canals are performed on infected teeth to prevent reinfection and save the damaged tooth. For incisors, the cost of a root canal averages between $500 to $1,000. For molars, the price increases to $800 to $1,500.
A dental implant is one of the most popular ways of replacing missing teeth. Unlike other tooth replacement options, implants can last a lifetime with proper care, and they’re incredibly strong and durable.
Having a dental implant procedure offers patients several benefits, including improved oral health, the prevention of jawbone deterioration, improved function, and better comfort. However, while beneficial, implants can be expensive, especially if you need to replace multiple teeth. In the U.S., the average cost of a single dental implant is $1,500.
Implants are not always covered by insurance. However, insurance may provide coverage if the procedure is medically necessary, particularly if you’re missing multiple teeth. Additionally, you may be able to find a dental grant that will help you cover the cost of the procedure.
How to Find Dental Grants
Ready to start looking for dental grants and assistance you qualify for? Here are a few ways you can find dental grant opportunities.
The internet is one of your best resources to find grants and assistance programs of any kind, and dental grants are no exception. You can perform a google search with keywords like “dental grants in (city, state)” to get started. Additionally, you can check your state resources or look at insurance options using websites like www.healthcare.gov.
Through Your Dentist
There are dozens of grant programs that provide funds directly to dentists so they can help provide dental care to their local community. Ask your dentist if they have any information about grants, assistance programs, or if they offer sliding scale or repayment services to help you afford your dental procedures.
Word of mouth is still popular for learning about assistance programs, dental grants, and sliding-scale dental offices and clinics. Ask your friends and family if they know of any good dentists and whether or not those dentists assist patients struggling to cover procedure costs.
Dental Schools and Clinics
Check with your local dental clinics and schools to determine if any dental grants or lower-cost procedures are available. Additionally, check with any free clinics in your area, as many free clinics provide referrals or have a dentist work at the clinic for medically necessary cases.
Applying for Dental Grants
You’ll need to apply for a dental grant after finding one you may qualify for. Grants, assistance programs, and insurance programs all have their own application methods and requirements you’ll need to adhere to. For example, some grant programs may require you to provide personal or financial information as part of the application process.
Information and Documents You May Need to Provide
While every application process and requirements are different, here are some examples of information and documentation you may need to provide when applying for a dental grant or assistance program:
- Proof of Identity or Age: Driver’s license, state-issued identification card, passport, or Social Security number
- Proof of Income: W-2s, other tax documents, recent pay stubs
- Proof of Address: Driver’s license, recent utility bill, or another recent piece of mail
Common Ways to Apply for Dental Grants
Each dental grant or assistance program sets its own application methods. Common ways to apply for a dental grant include:
- By phone
- By mail
- In-person (local clinics and programs)