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Dental emergency, no insurance: 4 tips to get affordable care

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Experiencing a dental emergency without insurance can be intimidating and costly.

If you have a dental emergency and don’t have dental insurance, you still have options. Equipping yourself with the right information can help lower your costs and reduce stress. 

Know how to prepare for a dental emergency—insured or not—with the help of these four tips.

Tip #1: Know what’s urgent and what isn’t 

If you don’t have dental insurance, it’s vital to know what might need immediate attention and what can wait.  

  • A loose or knocked-out permanent tooth 

  • Painful swelling or aches 

  • An injured jaw 

  • Incessant bleeding 

If you experience any of these, visit a dental professional as soon as possible. 

Less urgent dental issues to be determined by your dentist may include: 

While these issues may be less urgent, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a professional as soon as you can to help prevent issues from worsening. Waiting to address dental issues can make them more painful and costly to fix down the line. 

If you feel pain around one tooth, floss. Flossing can help you determine if you have something stuck between your teeth or in the gum tissue. A hydrogen peroxide mouthwash can also help remove any bacteria and irritation. If flossing does not alleviate the pain, you’ll need to schedule a visit to a dentist to determine the cause. 

For more help determining if you should see a dental professional, find out when you need to go to the dentist about your tooth pain

Tip #2: Determine an action plan for emergencies 

Determining a plan of action in case of dental emergencies can help alleviate the stress when you aren’t insured. 

First things first: Remember to stay calm. Anxiety may increase the pain in your body, so remain calm throughout a dental emergency in order not to make the situation worse. 

Next, use a salt and warm water mixture as a mouthwash to help reduce irritation and swelling. Cold compresses may also be used to help reduce swelling, irritation, and bleeding. 

If an adult tooth has come out, place it in a glass of cold milk to keep it moist as you travel to a dentist. You must act quickly. It’s best to see the dentist within 30 minutes, though it’s possible to save a knocked-out tooth even if it has been outside the mouth for over an hour.¹ 

Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients. After you’ve taken care of your immediate needs, call your dentist right away and provide as much detail as possible about your condition. They can instruct you on what to do next. 

If you don’t have a dentist, there are several options to get affordable dental care in your area. 

Tip #3: Familiarize yourself with available options 

Not having dental insurance doesn’t mean that you don’t have options. When a dental emergency strikes, you might want to try: 

  • Dental schools: Dental schools typically provide dental care work by students at little to no cost under the supervision of licensed dentists. Many clinics in your area may partner with these schools to provide affordable dental care to those who are uninsured. 

  • Free or governmental clinics: Do an online search to see what free or governmental clinics are near you. Many dentists and dental professionals volunteer throughout the year to provide their services at no cost to those in need.  

  • Payment plans: Many dentists offer payment plans to provide an affordable method for obtaining dental care, or to help supplement existing dental plans. Usually, these plans do not include interest and have many ways to make payments. Ask your dentist what options they have available. You may even get a discounted rate for paying your dentist directly if they offer this choice. 

  • Charity or community events: Many cities hold healthcare events to provide affordable dental care. Look out for community events that provide dental care to those who need it. 

When to visit the emergency room 

If you have general health insurance and are experiencing a dental emergency, you may consider a visit to your nearest emergency room (ER). However, many ERs aren’t equipped with in-facility dentists which could make your trip to the ER fruitless.  

There are a few exceptions to this. Seek immediate medical attention if: 

  • You have severe facial or oral trauma 

  • You have broken your jaw 

  • You have symptoms of a severe dental infection, such as high fever, chills, and swelling 

Otherwise, for maybe typical dental emergencies, call a local dentist’s office to determine your options. If it’s after hours, there may be an emergency line you can call. Many offices also offer discounted prices to uninsured customers willing to pay directly to the dental office. 

Tip #4: Take important preventive measures 

While dental insurance may be viewed by some as expensive or unnecessary, insurance help reduce the financial burden in case of an emergency. The first preventive measure is to obtain dental insurance. 

When you go uninsured, dental issues that you may not be able to see or feel can go untreated. This can lead to higher treatment costs down the road. For example, a one-surface tooth filling costs $200 on average.² But leaving a cavity untreated for too long could eventually require a root canal, which can cost anywhere from $700 to $2,100.³ 

Next, take preventive measures at home. Make sure to brush twice a day for two to three minutes, floss regularly, and use mouthwash. Most importantly, if you feel symptoms of a dental issue don’t delay in getting proper care. 

What to do if you need emergency dental with no insurance and no money 

If you find yourself in need of emergency dental care with no insurance and no money, don’t panic. While dental insurance is usually the best way to bring emergency dental costs down and save money, you still have options available to you that can help you take care of your health without proving disastrous for your finances. 

Call your dentist and explain the situation to determine the best course of action to take.  

If you need immediate dental care, visit the dentist as soon as possible. Check whether they offer payment plans or discounts for paying in cash.  

If you have severe facial or oral trauma, you have broken your jaw, or you have symptoms of a severe dental infection, visit the emergency room. Even if you don’t have dental insurance, your health insurance may cover much of the bill.  

If your condition doesn’t require immediate attention, look for free or governmental clinics, dental schools, or charity events that provide free or discounted emergency dental care with no insurance. 

Whatever you do, don’t ignore a dental emergency. Without proper treatment, dental emergencies can be extremely painful and serious. Any infection could spread, which could leave you needing even more expensive treatment down the road or even losing teeth. Saving money isn’t worth jeopardizing your personal health. 

Is there emergency dental care near me with no insurance? 

Even if you’ve just had a serious dental emergency and there’s no time to waste, it’s possible to find emergency dental care with no insurance. Many regular dental clinics may take patients without insurance. They typically require out-of-pocket, upfront payment, though some offer payment plans to help patients budget for their care. But be prepared—without insurance, dental care can typically be really expensive, especially for an emergency that requires surgery or other major procedures. Make a few calls to local dental offices to see what sort of options you have. 

If you’re looking for emergency dental with no insurance and no money near you, seek out low-cost or government-assisted clinics in your area. Assistance programs vary from state to state—contact your state dental society to find affordable dental care options near you.⁴

Is emergency dental covered by insurance? 

Emergency dental care is covered by insurance. Whether you find yourself with a broken molar, a knocked-out tooth, a serious infection, or unbearable tooth pain, dental insurance may help you cover a significant portion of the treatment costs.  

Your dental benefits will vary depending on your plan, but most dental insurance typically covers a portion of the costs of preventative care, basic procedures such as fillings, and major procedures such as emergency surgery. This can help you save money on emergency dental treatment in the long run. Getting dental insurance now is the best way to help prevent future dental emergencies from becoming financial emergencies. 

Check out these resources to learn how to get dental care you need and feel better prepared to face dental emergencies in the future. 


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  1. https://www.aae.org/patients/dental-symptoms/knocked-out-teeth/ (Last accessed April 2021) 

  2. https://www.authoritydental.org/cavity-filling, 2021 (Last accessed April 2021) 

  3. https://www.authoritydental.org/root-canal, 2021 (Last accessed April 2021) 

  4. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/paying-for-dental-care/helpful-resources (Last accessed April 2021) 

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.(exp.Invalid Date)

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