When money is tight, it's easy to let some things slide, and dental care is often one of the first things to go. Some people don't see a dentist for years until there's a crisis, and dental visits can be expensive if you don't have insurance.
While inadequate dental care is a problem nationwide, it's especially critical in Arizona, which has higher rates of oral disease than the national average. Both children and seniors are chronically underserved, and a 2015 survey by the Arizona Department of Health Services paints a pretty alarming picture:
- 30% of Arizona children have no dental insurance.
- 52% of Arizona children have a history of tooth decay. The national average is 36%.
- American Indian and Hispanic children in Arizona have a significantly higher prevalence of untreated decay compared to non-Hispanic white children.
- 29% of older adults receiving home-delivered meals and eating at meal sites in Arizona had dental work done outside the U.S., primarily in Mexico.
Fortunately, Arizona is also blessed with a number of good dental schools and clinics, where students provide quality dental care at affordable prices. While open to all, wait times for appointments can be long, and many of the clinics require screenings before accepting new patients. So while travelers might want to plan ahead to schedule dental work during longer stays in Arizona, pop-in visitors on short trips will likely find it tough to get in.
The Schools and Clinics
Dental schools with affordable clinics open to the public are found in several cities around the state. These are among the best:
- Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ASDOH), Mesa: Part of A.T. Still University, ASDOH is located on the school's Mesa campus. A visit with a student dentist costs about half the price of a regular dental visit, and the school outlines specific fees for patients prior to their treatment. Licensed dentists and specialists perform x-rays, mouth examinations and review oral health history. Procedures are performed by third- and fourth-year dental students under close supervision by licensed faculty.
- Bob & Renee Parsons Dental Clinic, Phoenix: Housed at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix in South Central Phoenix, the Parsons clinic provides low-cost dental care to economically disadvantaged children from ages 5 to 18 who do not qualify for dental insurance. The full-service facility offers comprehensive oral examinations, x-rays, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealant, fillings, extractions, root canals, and emergency treatments. Open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Mesa Community College Dental Hygiene Clinic (MCCDHC), Mesa: Located in East Mesa, the MCC clinic offers a full range of low-cost dental hygiene services during convenient evening hours at the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health. All student work is supervised by professional dental hygienists and supervising dentists. Open Monday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., from late August through mid-May.
- Midwestern University Dental Institute, Glendale: One of three community clinics operated by Midwestern University, the Dental Institute's team of university faculty and students uses the latest technology and treatment to provide quality care at about half the standard price. Dentists overseeing patient care have an average of 20 years of experience in private practice. Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Phoenix College Dental Hygiene Clinic, Phoenix: If you are a new patient, your first visit to this clinic in Central Phoenix will be for screening purposes only. During that appointment, a supervised dental hygiene student will gather data to determine your eligibility to receive care at the clinic. Patients seeking care should make an appointment early in the fall semester since the schedule fills up quickly and the facility is closed approximately five months per year. Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., during the school's fall and spring semesters.
- Rio Salado College Dental Clinic, Tempe: Open to Tempe community members and their families, Rio Salado's clinic specializes in preventive dental care and offers reduced-price oral exams, dental cleanings, gum screenings, x-rays, and other preventive services. All new patients must be screened to be accepted into the dental hygiene program. Open Monday through Friday during the fall and spring semesters. See the website for hours, which vary.
All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.