February 27, 2015

How to Get Free Dental Care in Utah (that isn’t Scary)

When is a trip to the dentist not the worst thing ever? When it’s free!

The scene is a grisly one: I lie supine in a brightly lit room while a masked female wielding a wicked-looking metal object instructs me not to move. The area is full of strange instruments and various chemicals, and I can hear the muffled whimper of a child in the other room–for him it must already be too late. As she dons gloves and approaches me, I gulp in anxiety, but she has already attached a sinister device that drains my mouth of saliva and my heart of hope. Before I can scream “Geneva Conventions” she is upon me and begins her twisted procedure.

This is not a scene from the final days of a Gitmo interrogation chamber. I am at the dentist’s office. And in reality, my dramatic introduction could not be farther from the truth: I’m actually having a pretty good time.

Now don’t get me wrong, going to the dentist is at about the same spot on my list of fun things to do as waiting in line at the DMV and filing my taxes, but there is one thing that makes this visit almost pleasant enough to actually be enjoyable: it’s totally free.


Times are tough, and one way to save money is to take advantage of the many services offered by local students who are willing to work for free in order to get experience. This week I visit the Utah College of Dental Hygiene in Orem in search of quality, free dental care. Though the prospect of “student” dental care might seem frightening, my experience was universally positive, and I would highly recommend it to everyone.

dental hygienist student

Chelsie is a second year student at UCDH

My hygienist’s name is Chelsie, and though she is second-year student, you would never know it, since she is knowledgeable, professional, and highly competent. We start off with a full set of x-rays, and then she leads me back to the dental chair and explains the cleaning and fluoride procedures she is about to administer.

The Utah College of Dental Hygiene is a private, two year program that prepares students to become dental hygienists. Second-year students have the chance to work in their on-site clinic and offer free care to the public to gain experience in the field. The facilities are state-of-the-art, and Chelsie tells me that since manufacturers are eager to promote their latest and greatest products, the college actually is actually better equipped with more cutting-edge gear than most of the dental offices in the state.

As Chelsie works, a roaming supervisor, who is an experienced and licensed hygienist, checks on her periodically to answer any questions she or I may have.

I ask her if there is any bad blood between the school and local dentist offices, since they could be potentially taking clients from them, but she tells me that, “dentists feel bad that they can’t help everyone.” The school is a place they can send uninsured people where they know they will get good care for free. Therefore, she says there is no competition, “We’re looking for people in need who don’t have access to regular dental care.”


Something I find particularly interesting is how desperate the students are for patients. Apparently, word on the free clinic has yet to get out. In order to pass their board certification (think of it as a final exam for hygienists), students need to have someone to work on to prove their competence on a specific day in front of an examination panel. The thing is, students are not allowed to test on someone with good teeth–they need something challenging. This requirement leads to a strange phenomenon: the desperate students are paying people to let them clean their teeth. We’re not talking about chump change, either. Chelsie says that some of the girls will pay in excess of several hundred dollars if they find someone with particularly bad teeth who will agree to come in for their exam.

dental hygienist

All dressed up and no teeth to clean

While x-rays, cleaning, and fluoride treatments are free, they do not fill cavities or perform any other advanced procedures. However, if you do need these, conveniently located next door is a “half price” dental clinic. There are no students there, only real dentists, and they can do all the things the students cannot for about half the cost of a regular clinic.

Now I should mention that although the services I received were free, there is technically a $5 instrument sterilization fee I did have to pay. This money is an OSHA requirement and is not charged by the school. However, that five bucks got me the most thorough dental care I have ever received, and was certainly worth every penny.

The final word is this is deal that you cannot possibly go wrong with. It is free dental care with cutting-edge gear, and, if your oral hygiene is disgusting enough, they might even end up paying you!


If you are interested in visiting the Utah College of Dental Hygiene, check out their website.
Some other Utah schools that offer free or cheap dental care are the following:

Related Stories: Earning and Saving Money in Tough Times

Comments

  1. Hey ive been having very bad tooth pain to the point that I cant sleep or eat and have no insurance and very little money for a dentist I know of 4 of my teeth need to be pulled. I need help its getting to the point that im crying can I please get help I can't find a dentist that is willing to work with me out in magna or in west valley city

  2. I am disabled & have severe dental problems abscesses & chipped teeth.. Damage to my teeth is the result of my medicine I have had to take for about 15 years & now I’m suffering not just with my disability but also my teeth.. I HV Medicaid (traditional) & Medicare & am on social security a very very low income I just really need some help in finding a dentist who cares & could possible help & work out payments.. Just inquiring for some advice I am only 46 & am trying to get surgery on my back & neck to get back to work & get off of disability if possible per Dr’s they don’t see any way of surgery helping but I’m trying to b positive & hopeful.. My bad teeth are making me quite I’ll & extremely ashamed & depressed. Please help & send any information or advice I really would appreappreciate it thnx, m.DIANTONIO

  3. Hi everyone,

    I am currently a student at Utah College of Dental Hygiene. If anyone would like a cleaning, please do not hesitate to reply back to this message! :)

  4. Anonymous says:
  5. Anonymous says:
  6. Anonymous says:
  7. I have a tooth that need to be extracted I have some money I am currently laid off please contact me by email in pain thanks

  8. Rachel Church says:

    Looking for affordable dental extractions and affordable dentures. senior citizen and part time employed.

  9. Lyndsey Lafay says:

    801-426-8234. Call the school. We would love to help everyone!!!

  10. Lyndsey Lafay says:

    801-426-8234. Call the school. We would love to help everyone!!!

  11. rita martinez says:

    I have two teeth that I believe I have an absest when I went to the E.R I have very little money I have four children. And work at burger king. If youn can help please contact me asap.. thanks!!!

    • Hi Rita,

      I am currently a student at Utah College of Dental Hygiene and would be more than happy to see you and your children for cleanings if needed! It will also include x-rays, intra oral examination, extra oral examination, fluoride, sealants, and a dental exam. Feel free to email me!

      Thank you!
      Jessica

  12. Betty Geurts says:

    I have several teeth that I need RTC and crowns on, I’m on a limited budget with a special needs child that I spend all of my time and money caring for. I am in constant pain and I need to get some relief soon. I have been to the ER a few times for dental pain.

  13. I Ned help I’m in pain bad can’t take it no more please I Ned help and don’t have much money but I have too ask for help please contact me 8016864454

  14. Craig Reid says:

    I have had a bad drug problem that I have finally kicked but it has left me with a terrible teeth problems or let call it a disaster instead I need teeth pulled and plates formed I have very very little money can you help?

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