For individuals without access to a dentist, dental insurance or money to pay for dental treatment, maintaining good oral health is a struggle. Far too many live in pain, and miss work or school. Those with access to transportation often travel long distances to see a dental provider or wait in long lines at free dental clinics. However, cost is the top reason Floridians delay seeking dental treatment.
Listed below are the experiences Floridians have shared with us regarding their struggles in finding affordable, accessible dental care in their communities. If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear it. Click here to share your story now.
I’m a single Grandma raising two of my grandsons who are now 11 and 12 due to the murder of my son. I had them since they were babies and have been on top of their healthcare diligently until we moved to Florida and got established and then Covid hit and the Charlotte County Health Department for children’s dental lost their dentist. Once they got another one I called to try and get my kids in to get appointments. They ran the insurance with no problems, transferred me to make an appointment, no one picked up the phone so I left a message and that was a year ago, I have called every single week since, I leave messages and no one returns the calls. My kids are autistic and have other disorders and I have a lot to deal with and I need to have their teeth cleaned and have their yearly exams. I take pride in taking care of my grandsons and this is unacceptable. Thank you for a platform to tell this experience.
After I turned 65, my Delta Dental insurance did not cover crowns or root canals. I ended up paying cash & can’t afford to private pay. I have switched dentists because he won’t take you to the bank. Dental insurance should be dramatically improved. Everyone deserves to have healthy teeth! I switched to Cigna & it is not any better than Delta Dental. Affordable dental, eye & health insurance is something all Americans need! Just one more problem that could be easily resolved in America is put on the back burner while young & old teeth rot. It affects their health as well as their mental well-being.
– Elizabeth S., Pasco County
I have only 10 “Teeth” left. They are all on my bottom jaw; they are broken at or near the gum line and completely rotted. I get infections at least once a month so I am constantly on antibiotics. Dentists want 2500 to pull them which I can’t afford. I have no upper teeth and no dentures for upper teeth. I was able to afford to have them pulled 6 years ago as my family was able to help me then. I am a disabled paramedic currently on SSDI. I do have Medicare but they do not provide dental. Somehow I only qualify for a share of cost Medicaid and that share is almost as much as the dentist charges to begin with.
Many dentists do not take my insurance which I pay $176.00 a month for because it is Carrington and I am told that is through my Medicare. They don’t participate in Medicare. Older people on Medicare and live on Social Security need help. I’m trying to fix a mobile home after Ian and my teeth hurt but no help.
– April Z., Charlotte County
I feel so demoralized. I retired September 3, 2022 and then Ian hit Fort Myers. My home owners insurance went up as did my escrow, car insurance, property taxes and I was required to purchase flood insurance. A year before I retired, I pulled 20K out of retirement funds to repair long needed dental work. Since that time, my dental needs have changed and I now need implants on my lower arch.The same dental facility provided me a treatment plan costing 30K, completing impossible and overcharging.
I worked almost 50 years in education and mental health. I was plagued with low salaries and useless dental insurance for all of those years. Even with a Master’s degree, salaries and benefits never provided me with the ability to keep up with my dental work.
I am now 72 and very concerned about my dental health. I have researched dozens of implant facilities and the cost of implants is still out of reach. I am barely meeting my monthly expenses.
I am looking for help in getting my dental health needs addressed before my physical health is effected.
I was formerly a Medicaid recipient and when my daughters were younger they got treatment, but appointments were cancelled due to lack of staffing, which caused them to be behind on preventative care. As for myself it was almost impossible to find someone that accepted Medicaid. I have dental insurance now, but I still have thousands of dollars to pay out for preventative care for myself and my daughter because it will only pay out 80 percent of the cost. A crown cost is going to cost me $1000 even with insurance, which is a week’s wages.
I’ve had an awful time getting my children into a dentist office. The one local to me books 6 months out, and keeps rescheduling their appointments due to staff shortages or over scheduling. My oldest has mental health issues and has 17 cavities (Found in January) and still hasn’t had any fillings. His appointment was just moved for a 3rd time to 9/1. I have to drive my younger kids an hour away to be seen. This is very hard on me financially. Especially since it’s a trip for the exam, a trip for cleaning, and then separate trips for treatment. It’s extremely exhausting and a financial strain.
I have MCNA dental through Medicaid. I was sent out a card with the dental subscriber on it. I called in November of 2022 only to be told to call back the first of the year to get an appointment for a new patient. I called on the first of the year 2023 to then be told to call on the first of February. That’s when they will start scheduling appointments for new patients. I called in February only to be told to keep calling to see if they had any cancellations.
I then called the 1-855 number on the card to get a list of other providers. I then proceeded to call a list of providers only to be told that that they are not taking new patients, or they no longer accepted that form of insurance. What good is it to have this service when you can’t receive the service?
I have been having dental issues since my first pregnancy back in 2013.
Medicaid had always denied the services needed back when I first had a cavity in just one of my back molars. Ever since I’ve always been scared to go to a dentist to just be turned down for the services and now, I’m 29 and my teeth are slowly decaying, and my chewing teeth are basically gone.
I don’t know what to do. I’m scared, I need help, and I feel so self-conscious about my smile I don’t even like to smile anymore.
I suffered from dental issues for a long time due to not being able to afford dental care. I suffered from that when pregnant. I repeatedly got infections and was constantly on antibiotics while pregnant.
Dental care needs to be more affordable. Constantly being on antibiotics while pregnant could’ve been avoided had dental care been more affordable to me previously.
I have horrible teeth. My teeth are breaking off and rotting from the inside out. I’m in a lot of pain and can barely eat anything. I’m currently working but I don’t make enough to get help paying for health insurance through the Marketplace. I make too much to qualify for straight Medicaid, so my family is stuck in the middle.
I have Share of Cost Medicaid and the only way for me to use my Medicaid dental benefits is for me to go the hospital. The way Share of Cost Medicaid works is that I have to pay a $364 deductible each month before Medicaid will cover any of my medical costs. The only exception is when I have an emergency or a medical expense that goes over my monthly deductible. I recently went to the hospital for another medical issue and the medical bill was over $364. This meant that I qualified for Medicaid dental benefits – for the rest of the month. So, as soon as I was feeling better, I tried to schedule a dental appointment. The problem is, I had to wait for my dental Medicaid card to come in the mail before I could schedule an appointment. When I finally reached a dentist that accepts Medicaid, the dental offices are so back logged and overrun with patients, I had to wait a few weeks for an appointment. By the time my appointment date rolled, around it was a new month which meant my Medicaid dental benefits had expired.
This happens to me each time I use Share of Cost Medicaid. I’m assigned a different Medicaid dental insurance provider each month that I ‘meet my deductible’ so there’s no consistency. It’s a backwards system. There’s no dental plan for people who want to pay or can pay a small amount towards their dental bill. It’s like you have to make nearly nothing in order to get Medicaid dental insurance.
I’ve worked in childcare most of my life. Back in 2013 I started feeling really fatigued all the time. My doctors put it off as being overly tired because I worked with children and had my own. They diagnosed me with IBS, then after a few months another doctor diagnosed me with chronic fatigue syndrome. One night I woke up with bad stomach pain, so I drove myself to the ER where they ran some tests. A doctor that came in ask me “are you by yourself,” and I knew it was bad. He said that my CAT scan looked really mysterious, and it looked like I had cancer. They scheduled me for a colonoscopy the next day, which was my birthday, and it came back that I had Stage 4 colon cancer. It had spread to my liver and lymph nodes.
Because my cancer was Stage 4, I have Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid is the dental provider. The strong medications from chemotherapy destroyed all of my teeth. I was told all my teeth needed to be pulled out and that I needed to get dentures. I called Medicaid and they mailed me two pages full of dental providers in the Tampa, Orlando, Kissimmee area. But, after spending a whole day calling everyone that was on the list, not one dental office accepted Medicaid. Talk about frustrated!!!! I was even willing to travel further away from my house. I called the Medicaid office back and told them they needed to update the list. That’s when they told me that they had already updated the list. My frustration just grew from there.
When we started getting the stimulus checks I just decided that I would save those and put them towards my dental work. I also had to get a CARE credit card that would cover the rest of the cost. I still owe about $4,000 on the credit card which is money I don’t have. The debt has put me in a bind. The total cost of my dentures was $9,500 through Affordable Dentures. Aspen Dental wanted around $30,000.
In my area the health department used to see adults for dental, but now I think they only take kids and maybe pregnant women. Brevard Health Alliance does see adults for dental, but you have to be an established patient and first see a doctor within their office. After that, you’re added to the dental waiting list. Once you get in to see a dentist, the Health Alliance dentists will only pull two teeth at a time which would have taken me over a year to have all of my teeth pulled. Who wants to walk around with missing teeth?
My Medicare doctors are excellent and very thorough. My doctor said that colon cancer is a slow growing cancer which means that I’d been living with it for several years for it to be a Stage 4. I’m close to losing my Medicare doctors because I’m in remission, but I’m appealing the decision. I would still have Medicaid, but I’ve lost faith in the Medicaid doctors because they missed my cancer diagnosis for so long.
My neurologist is the one that encouraged me to get the dental work done. She talked to me a lot about how important your teeth are to your health overall. I wish that I could have my regular teeth back, but I’m blessed to still be here.
I live in Pensacola Florida and there are only two dentist offices that accept Medicaid. You end up waiting long periods of time to schedule appointments – which is really bad when you need to have work done on your teeth. To make matters worse, when I do have an appointment, it’s not uncommon that I get there only to find out that the appointment has been canceled. Usually, they say there’s something wrong with the dentist and they have to reschedule. I’ve tried to look for other dentists, but I only get referred to the main health department or the health department in Ensley. When I called the Ensley office, I just get a message that it’s a nonworking number.
Here in Pensacola the dentists will only do extractions, fillings, and cleanings. You can’t get any extensive dental work covered by Medicaid. Day to day it’s difficult to eat my food because the two main teeth that I need are missing. My teeth are also very sensitive. I know that I need some extensive dental work, and I thought that Medicaid would cover it, but they don’t. If I need crowns or fillings, the Medicaid dentists won’t do that work. I guess they would refer me out to someone else, I’m not sure. I get the feeling that the Medicaid dentists feel like I don’t really need the work done, so they’re not going to approve it. Then, I’m back at square one. I know I need partials, but I can’t afford to pay for them out of pocket. In order for Medicaid to cover my partials, I would have to travel out of town to get them. I might have to go to Navarre, Gulf Breeze, or Destin. Gulf Breeze would be the closest location, but it’s still not close enough for me.
I haven’t been to the dentist in a while, well, not since having my baby. I had a high-risk pregnancy and was not able to go to the dentist. I have a family history of teeth getting bad while you’re pregnant. If I think about it, my family’s dental history is not the greatest. So, I’m not sure if it’s genes or what. The last time I saw a dentist was when I went to one down to see one in Tarpon. I had a couple teeth pulled. The dentist decided he was going to upgrade me to a partial but didn’t charge me the full price for it. I think he wrote off the cost. He did more work than Medicaid would cover. I didn’t like the partial and would have much rather had the one that Medicaid covered. The partial he gave me was like having dentures. It was really nice of him, but I hated it and would rather not use it. The dentist didn’t tell me about any of the cavities that I had at the time. So over time, those got worse. I was never offered filings even though I had Medicaid.
My boyfriend is disabled and has Medicaid and Medicare. He has Liberty Dental insurance through Medicaid and is having the worst time trying to see a dentist. He’s been to three of four different dental offices. The last place he went refused to do a deep cleaning for him. Deep cleanings are supposed to be covered by Medicaid, but the dentist office said they wouldn’t do it because Medicaid will only pay them $15. The dentist said that he would have to pay out of pocket $300 a quadrant. They also told him that he has a few cavities, but they will only fill one of them.
The dental program with Medicaid is like not having dental insurance. To make matters worse, when you can find a dentist that accepts Medicaid the staff treat you really bad. I already struggle getting to the appointments, and when the office staff don’t make you feel welcome, it makes me feel worse. Another big problem is that the dentists that do accept Medicaid are too far away from my house. Many times the dentist is a 45 minute drive away or you have to drive outside of your county. We’re on a fixed income, so we can’t spend the money to drive with the risk of not being seen.
Oral health is so important. Routine dental care and teeth cleanings are essential for preventive care and overall health. Thus, the issues I’ve experienced trying to access the appropriate dental services for my son are unacceptable. It is unbelievable to me that it has been this difficult in the state of Florida for someone like him– someone who is not able to speak for himself or even function on his own– to get the dental services he needs. For these reasons, things need to change in Florida. One of the things that needs to change is that dental providers should not tell the public that they serve physically and developmentally disabled adults if they don’t really serve them. I understand that specialization and equipment are needed to provide services to an adult with the conditions my son has. However, it would be so helpful if they could just clearly tell me that they cannot provide services to him when I am scheduling the appointment over the phone, as opposed to turning me away after driving long distances to those appointments. The second recommendation I have is that the following question needs to be answered: Where are the providers who can service adults with the needs my son has? I am in disbelief that the only provider I have been able to find that can do so is located an hour and a half away from me, and that I have not been able to find an alternative after that clinic was closed to the public. There are simply not enough dental providers equipped to work with adults with the conditions my son has. This is so troubling and needs to change.
Taking care of my son is hard work, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. He isn’t able to take care of himself, so I am proud to be his voice and his advocate. I am prepared to fight hard for the care that he needs. I don’t know how to fix this issue, but I have a clue. I also know that there are many others throughout Florida experiencing very similar challenges finding the care their adult children need. I urge the state’s lawmakers to talk to us and listen to us. Maybe in doing so, we can find a solution to this issue together.
I approached the local Federally Qualified Health Center for my dental work. At first, I was extremely happy with the service I was being provided. There was nothing out of pocket for me, and although it was a drawn-out process, I was beginning the journey of fixing the multiple cavities I had in my mouth. I had about four cavities. It was frustrating not to be able to fix all four cavities simultaneously. I was limited to having only about one cavity or cleaning be done per appointment, and each appointment was booked 4-6 months apart. It took about a year to get three cavities fixed, but still, I had one cavity left. I showed up for the appointment for the last tooth, and I was told that they would not be able to fix the cavity that day and, instead, they would take x-rays because it was a year since the last ones. Then the next appointment would have to be cleaning (4-6 months out). Then I could book another appointment for the cavity (another 4-6 months after that). In summary, fixing a cavity identified a year earlier would take 8 – 12 more months. I realized that something was jamming up the system and blocking my access to needed dental care. I have been to multiple dentist offices over the years (not on Medicaid). No other dentist ever did one cavity at a time or demanded cleanings be done before cavities were fixed. Something was weird, so I tried another dentist on my Medicaid network. I was told it would be about six months until an appointment. I waited six months, and again the day before the appointment, the dentist’s office texted me to cancel. I called to reschedule, and they told me they could do nothing and that the next appointment was available in about six months. Without any other options, I decided to try the other location of this dental clinic to see if it was just the location causing the cancelations. I waited for the appointment, but the same thing happened, another cancellation by text the day before the appointment. At that point, I was feeling hopeless. I was disheartened by the entire system and confused and angry. There are not many dental options for me on Medicaid. Neither for my daughter, who is also on Medicaid (her story is below). Then bad tooth pain started. I called everyone on the list of providers on my Medicaid plan. Everyone was months out for appointments. One offered an option for a virtual appointment for pain meds, but I was looking to fix my tooth, not stay on pain medications for months. I was in so much pain so I paid out of pocket to see a private dentist and was told I needed a root canal. Medicaid does not cover root canals. I contacted another Federally Qualified Health Center but they said I could not be seen until the next year. After considering my options, I borrowed money to pay out of pocket. I spent hours/days trying to find a dentist to do a root canal timely so I could stop the pain. One dentist about 2 hours away was willing to do a root canal and a permanent filling rather than a crown because I could not afford a crown, but the wait was again several months. I had to drive out of state to Georgia to get the root canal done. The pain is finally gone, but now I am stuck. I cannot afford a crown, and the dentist who was willing to do a permanent filling is no longer willing to do it because I did not get the root canal done by him. I don’t know what I am going to do yet. With an extremely limited number of dentists in the Tallahassee area that takes my Medicaid plan, I contacted two more dentist offices, including a Federally Qualified Health Center and a dentist outside of the county I live in, to try to set up an appointment as a new patient. I am still waiting for someone to contact me back. What is causing the serious gap in the system that denies access to dental care for people like me? is it just Medicaid appointments being canceled and requiring another 6 months to reschedule? Look at the Google reviews, this did not happen to just me. When someone is in pain, why are clinics not able to book root canals until next year? This is crazy when it is the only option for some people. I understand that Medicaid covers extractions instead, but why not root canals? Why are those on Medicaid forced to have missing teeth instead of fixing them? Isn’t it better to give people their health and let them keep their dignity instead of having gaps in their mouths that cause them embarrassment? When I had private insurance, I never had any of these issues with any dentist. Now I am having all these problems with multiple dentists, and the only common factor is that I am on Dental Medicaid. My daughter’s story is a happier one than mine. Her Medicaid dental has limited options. Special needs child with a history of bad teeth from her parents. I brought her in at age two, and it was difficult. The dentist we attended, I guess, did not have the equipment to handle a child who refuses to open her mouth. With this place being one of the only options (extremely limited – more limited because of age), we decided that when enrollment came around to switch plans. The process of switching was easy! We now have a great dentist who knows how to handle her and has the equipment to take photos and review her mouth because she won’t let anyone near her mouth. She barely lets me. We are very happy with our Medicaid dental service. They give us appointments early in the morning when it is just her there, and she is in a good mood. I praise them and the Medicaid system for how the dental portion of Medicaid worked out for her.
Had neck cancer in 2014. Chemo and radiation totally destroyed my teeth was on a feeding tube for months lost lots of weight. All I have now is rotten stubs left for lower teeth.( Looks disgusting) and now as I have left over health problems and cannot work and cannot afford the high cost of insurance
Can no longer eat such things as apples, nuts or some meats and this in turn causes other dietary issues. It’s not like you have a choice you must eat to survive. I don’t understand how dental is not covered just like internal diseases. You need your teeth for more than a smile. They are needed for good health. We need treatment as a whole. Your body doesn’t come in parts – it all works together. A body can make up for some parts not fully functioning, but you must eat to survive. There’s nothing your body can do to cover for some issues caused by dental problems.
– D.C, Hillsborough County
My children weren’t able to see a dentist for 10 years. When the Medicaid changed their dental insurance policies, I couldn’t find anywhere that was accepting new patients with their insurance. I had put them on wait lists and never got calls back. I tried every avenue I could think of to find regular dental care. I finally got into Acorn dental because my boss knew one of the dentists and was able to get me in. Dental care for low income families is a problem in this county.
– Samantha R., Alachua County
I have had to travel an hour to Brandon to see dentist. The wait time to see a dentist for my 4 kids, husband and self has been of 4 to 6 months.
– Anonymous, Polk County
There is ONE dentist within 100miles that sees adults for regular care. UF dentistry says they do, but you can only register 2 times a year and the waits are MONTHS long, even for emergencies. I’ve waited 6 months to see the dentist for an extraction, end of April, And it’s ONLY a consult. I don’t know how long it will take after that. What’s the point?
– Shannon M., Suwannee County
What is wrong with this country? If a child has a broken arm, we fix it. Yet virtually every day I see children walking around with dental infections that are literally inches from their brain. I recently saw a young boy at an elementary school who was in so much dental pain that he was crying in a fetal position. He cried for 45 minutes until he finally fell asleep. Trying to find a dentist for children like him is challenging. He doesn’t have insurance, and the fact that he’s pediatric adds an additional layer of complexity. It’s truly heartbreaking because I can only do so much. Things have to change.We refer all of our patients to our Dental Centers. We work to get our urgent care children in to see the dentist, but the problem is there isn’t enough dental providers to address the dental access problem. Since our dental services are available to all ages and economic status we have a waiting list. Children are usually treated with an antibiotic and referred to specialists. Again, the children are faced with the challenge of finding a provider to treat them completely. It’s a continuous cycle.
— Betty Kabel Director of Dental Outreach North Florida Medical Centers
Dental and pediatricians for Medicaid is ridiculous to find one that cares. We literally get the bottom of the barrel in Healthcare. My grandchild had an abscess. They put her on antibiotics and she had a severe allergic reaction. I tried and tried to get her seen and finally got an appt in Williston over an hour from our home only to be cussed at by the front desk lady. She laughed and said, “Well good luck finding a dentist that will see her.” My grandson fell at school and the ER thinks he cracked his adult front tooth. This was over 2 weeks ago. Still can’t get him seen. They said not until the end of March or beginning of April. Absolutely ridiculous. I’ve looked into getting our own insurance and paying out of pocket. I called the number and they told me that I needed to keep them on Medicaid. We moved here from Georgia last year. They had wonderful Medicaid service there. We could go to any doctor we chose. I can’t even get referrals to allergists or cardiologists here in Florida. It’s horrible.
– Denise N. Suwanee County
I’m in so much pain with a wisdom tooth and they want thousands to do work plus waiting period there is no financial rescue on this . I live in Ruskin but I travel to Brandon seeking help. The sliding scale part is a little ridiculous I feel hopeless as the pain worsens
— Julio M. Hillsborough County
When you have an emergency on your body, you can go to the emergency room, with the exception of the dentist. The ER will give you an antibiotic, maybe pain medicine, and tell you to make an appointment with a dentist. You then get out the provider list, or the phone book if you don’t have insurance.
Most dental insurance doesn’t cover anything more than an X-ray and cleaning. You go to the dentist, they say root canal, crown, or maybe implant on one or more teeth. One tooth without insurance can be close to $2,500, and it’s much more expensive if it’s an implant.
The dentist will offer you CareCredit or something like that, but if you can’t afford it, your only other option is to pull the teeth. I personally have had to pull teeth from when I was younger and had no credit – not bad credit, just no credit and I could not qualify. I was in that position and it’s awful.
I actually had a dentist say, “Well, it’s unethical to pull a tooth that can be saved.” The ER wouldn’t pull it and the tooth had to come out. I didn’t have insurance so I ended up having to go to a dental surgeon who agreed to pull a molar. But I had to pay for X-rays again. You don’t have an alternative but to pay or pull, and it’s not affordable to repair. I take care of my teeth the best I can.
I wish instead of healthcare for all, the government would experiment and try it with dental care for all. I don’t know if a study has been done to see how many people die of tooth infections because they could not afford to get teeth repaired or pulled. Even pulling teeth is expensive – it’s close to $300 per tooth in a dentist office if you can get them to agree to pull it. The whole time, they try to make you feel awful about not having said tooth, but you know you can’t afford to keep it.
Maybe the hospital should have a dentist on call that will pull your bad tooth in an emergency. Just a thought.
— Ann T. Marion County Featured in Ocala-news.com
I went to my first dental appointment shortly after we moved here 9 years ago. I was told I had four cavities, I needed a root canal, and I needed four crowns as well as a deep cleaning. My total cost would be approximately $7,000. Being on a fixed income, I could not afford this. Of course, they have a financial company I could go through. They would not even give me a regular cleaning, which my insurance company would pay for. I went to a second dentist who said I needed a deep cleaning, and I had one cavity and needed 10 crowns. My bill would have been around $15,000. Of course, they told me I could get financing through a company they worked with. Once again, I couldn’t get just a cleaning. I desperately need dental work after all these years but cannot afford it.
— Kim E. Marion County Featured in Ocala-News.com
I am a 72 yr old on medicare/medicaid.I have a crown in the back of my mouth that came off.I spent way to much to have them try & reattach,to no avail.It has to come out,but it has to be a oral surgeon.I have exhausted every thing I have been advised to do.My teeth are very important to me.I don’t want to get an infection or have pain.My deductible for the dentist is $25.00 & I know this is nothing to most,but,for me it is a hudge chunk of my budget that church & family are helping me with.It has been shocking to those that are helping me.I just need someone to take medicare & my medicaid. Thank you for reading & hopefully finding a solution.
– Gail. A. Hillsborough County