How essential is having a healthy mouth to your physical health? According to medical experts, it would be very difficult to be in peak physical condition if your oral health isn't what it's supposed to be. In effect, you should be thinking of your mouth as the “gateway to wellness.” Recent studies have shown that the correlation between oral health and overall body health is closer than what was previously believed.
If you read our article, The Importance of Senior Dental Care, you'll know how important good oral health is to your overall quality of life. You'll be able to chew food properly and without pain. You'll taste what you're chewing. You'll reduce the likelihood of developing other health issues. And you'll save money in the long run.
For seniors, maintaining oral health becomes doubly important. This is because as you age, you become more susceptible to diseases. Of course, it would be ideal to have regular dental check-ups and have yourself treated whenever an oral issue arises. But access to regular dental care is often difficult for seniors. Medicare doesn't cover it. Medicaid coverage is limited. Out-of-pocket expenses can be prohibitive to those on a fixed income.
Fortunately, there are organizations that can help. Here are 10 free or low cost dental care options for seniors:
- The first place you should start is the toothwisdom.org, a site dedicated to health resources for older adults. Aside from the informative articles you can find on the site, you can also make use of the care locator tool, which will direct you to where you can find low-cost dental care in your area. Click on your state here and you'll find a list of excellent resources. The site is run by Oral Health America (OHA), “a national nonprofit based in Chicago that is dedicated to changing lives by connecting communities with resources to increase access to care, education, and advocacy for all Americans, especially those most vulnerable.”
- With Eldercare Locator, a service of the Administration on Aging, you can search by state or by service (health, transportation, legal, etc.). Speak with an information specialist: 1-800-677-1116. If you have more questions, you can also make use of the chat window where an Information Specialist is available from Monday to Friday between 9 AM to 8 PM EST.
- 2-1-1 Information and Referral Search is sponsored by the United Way and can connect you to services in your area. Simply dial 211. The number will connect you to a trained professional who will gladly answer your queries or direct you the appropriate agency or organization that can provide help.
- PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a Medicare and Medicaid program that “helps people meet their health care needs in the community…” This healthcare can include dentistry. To avail of PACE, you need to be at least 55 years old, a resident in the area where the services are offered and deemed eligible for nursing home care.
- The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) supports federally-funded health centers for those with no insurance or limited income. Many offer sliding scale (based on what you can afford) payments. Visit the site or call 1–888–275–4772.
- The Dental Life Network (formerly the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped) provides “access to comprehensive dental services for people with disabilities or who are elderly or medically at-risk.” Its flagship program, Donated Dental Services or DDS, has a nationwide network of 17,000 volunteer dentists and 3,700 dental laboratories; all offering dental treatments free of charge. To find out if you qualify as a beneficiary, you can visit their website or call 303-534-5360.
- The non-profit Dentistry From The Heart (DFTH) provides “free dental care to those in need.” Volunteer dentists and hygienists donate their time for events around the country. Due to the number of patients serviced in every event, treatments only include cleaning, filling, and extraction.
- United Way, a nonprofit organization with chapters across the country and worldwide, may be able to help you find free or low-cost dental care options. You can search for your local chapter on their website.
- Dental schools are an option for good low-cost care as many have clinics where students get experience working on patients and with dentures. The American Student Dental Assocation's website has a listing of schools by state. Also, try dental hygiene schools for preventative care.
- The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics is a non-profit that seeks to “broaden access to affordable health care for the medically underserved.” In keeping with its belief that access to health care is a right and not a privilege, the NAFCC ensures that the poor and uninsured can still avail of medical and dental services. The organization's noble goal is accomplished by 1,200 clinics found all over the country. You can search for free care from their homepage or call 1-703-647-7427.