Last week Kyle Willis, a 24-year-old father living in Cincinnati, died from complications of a tooth infection. Willis' wisdom tooth had reportedly been hurting him, and dentists advised that he have it pulled--which he didn't do because he was unemployed and had no health insurance. When his face started swelling and his head hurt, Willis went to the emergency room, where he was given prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers. He couldn't afford to fill both prescriptions, so he filled only the prescription for the painkillers. His tooth infection spread, causing his brain to swell, killing him.
Sometimes people forget that dental insurance is as important as health insurance. There are dental diseases that can cause serious illnesses and--as evidenced in Willis' case, although he is hardly the only victim--even lead to death. ABC News said that the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 33% of people skipped dental checkups and dental care because they couldn't afford them, while the US Surgeon General reports that 108 million Americans had no dental insurance. That's nearly 2.5 times the number of Americans who don't have health insurance.
So what can you do, and where can you go, to find dental care when you're uninsured or can't afford to spend much on dental care? Read on to learn about a few options.
Need dental care?
- National Association of Free Clinics: The National Association of Free Clinics is the only national non-profit that provides a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, and/or behavioral health services to economically disadvantaged individuals who are predominately uninsured. Their website allows you to search by state to find free clinics in your area. Click here to check out The National Association of Free Clinics.
- Bureau of Primary Healthcare: This is a searchable database of clinics that provide low-cost or free care (including dental care) to people without health insurance. Users can enter an address or zip code, or state and county for a list of clinics in their area. Click here to check out The Bureau of Primary Healthcare.
- One tip from The Healthcare Survival Guide is to locate dental universities near you. Dental schools have clinics that allow students to gain experience by providing treatment at reduced costs to the patients. Licensed dentists closely supervise students as they treat patients. Additionally, post-graduate clinics are also available at most schools and offer services for people who are seeking an endodontist, orthodontist, periodontist, oral surgeon, etc. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers a complete list of dental schools in your area.
Need a prescription for a dental issue?
- CVS. Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 888-616-2273 or visit Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. http://www.cvs.com/healthsavingspass.
- PatientAssistance.com, Inc. PatientAssistance.com is a free resource designed to help connect patients who can’t afford their prescription medications with patient assistance programs. We believe that medication should be affordable for all Americans, including low-income families and the uninsured, and our database features over 1000 programs that help make that possible. Call (888) 788-7921 or visit http://www.patientassistance.com/
- Rite Aid. Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 800-748-3243 or visit http://www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/rx_savings.jsf
- Walgreens. Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 866-922-7312 or visit http://www.walgreens.com/pharmacy
- If you have dental issues such as a tooth infection, don't underestimate the problem and wait to schedule care--call as quickly as possible, since it may take a little while to get you fit in for an appointment. The earlier you start to handle dental problems, the better likelihood you may have of surviving them.