A carrier recently told us that many seniors expect to carry over their dental coverage from their employer. Yet, that rarely happens. What does happen is that about 90% of seniors on Medicare don’t have proper dental coverage (American Dental Association). After filling out the Medicare paperwork, most seniors put dental insurance on the back burner.  (And vision and hearing, too…we’ll get to those later.) And, why not? Your teeth are not hurting yet and they feel pretty good.

I could have paid the average of $360 a year for a dental policy in my twenties. Or I could have paid out of pocket for two dental exams, including cleanings and X-rays, which, in 2011, cost an average of $370 combined. In that case dental insurance wouldn’t have saved me much money. And if I went to a dental school or clinic for treatment, I could have saved even more on out-of-pocket costs.
My plan covered cavity fillings, but an additional procedure (like a crown or an extraction) would have been costly even with insurance. Multiple appointments also took up a lot of time. I could have spared myself some of those cavities, and long hours in the dentist’s chair, if I’d got regular cleanings in earlier years (and, of course, flossed more often).
Generally, the more complete the coverage that you are buying, the more expensive your monthly premiums will be. Dental savings plans tend to have lower monthly premiums but often not by as much as you would expect. While dental saving plans can cost under $10, there are affordable dental insurance plans that can start for as little as $20 per month and so they might be the better choice. You might have the option of paying your monthly premiums in an annual lump sum. If you can afford to do so, you generally pay a lower amount overall.

Medicare, the largest health insurance provider for adults 65 and older, does NOT provide coverage for routine dental care. Medicare only pays when dental care and medical needs intersect. Medigap, a private insurance plan that supplements Medicare coverage, doesn’t offer dental coverage, but some private Medicare Advantage managed care plans do offer dental benefits.
Like most kinds of health or ancillary medical insurance, there are deductibles involved in dental insurance. Generally, the deductibles are per individual or per family depending on your plan. Some companies require that you meet the deductible on each member of your family while others have a family amount that you have to hit – no matter who the person receiving the care was. Deductibles can range anywhere from $100 to $500 or more. Obviously, the higher your deductible, the less likely you’ll be to take full advantage of your insurance.
If you are a senior or are approaching retirement, you may be surprised to find out that Medicare does not provide coverage for routine dental care. Medicare mainly covers medical treatments, but does not provide any assistance for routine dental care such as bi-annual exams, cleanings, or even major services like bridges or dentures. This leaves it to seniors to search for a dental plan that can meet their coverage needs.
One of their popular dental plans is the DentalGuard Preferred Plan. It provides 100% coverage on preventative and basic services, and 0% coverage on major or orthodontic care. If you have a premium plan, you can receive 50% coverage on those services. They do have an annual maximum of $1,000 and limits on how many cleanings or maintenance procedures that you can have in a one year period.
Dental plans will usually cover a portion of your costs on different types of dental procedures. Some plans focus more on preventative and basic dental care, but offer less coverage on major dental procedures. It's important to understand what's best for your dental health. If you routinely need a root canal or get cavities, you'll want a plan that provides better coverage on those types of procedures. In contrast, if you have relatively healthy teeth then you might not need to pay for the extra coverage.
Dental Preferred Provider Organization (DPPO) plans: DPPO plans offer you more choice when it comes to dentists. PPO networks include a variety of dentists that agree to treat patients with DPPO insurance at lower rates. Typically, patients with DPPO have to pay a deductible. When seeing a dentist in your DPPO network, you will usually pay a percentage of the lower rate for treatment. Your insurance company will pay for the rest.
Generally dental offices have a fee schedule, or a list of prices for the dental services or procedures they offer. Dental insurance companies have similar fee schedules which is generally based on Usual and Customary dental services, an average of fees in an area. The fee schedule is commonly used as the transactional instrument between the insurance company, dental office and/or dentist, and the consumer.
There are few procedures that most insurance companies will not cover or only provide a discount for. Most individual dental insurance plans do not cover what might be considered cosmetic procedures such as tooth-colored fillings on molar or bicuspid teeth, dental implants or adult cosmetic orthodontics. The majority of dental companies will also limit how often certain appliances can be replaced and, in most cases, will not replace lost items. The limitations are published in the disclosures and contracts for the plan, many of which you can peruse online. Keep in mind that a new dental insurance plan is not going to cover an emergency you are experiencing right now; most have a waiting period of six to 12 months for major work. (However, some will waive the waiting period if you recently had dental insurance.) Dental groups that offer dental discount plans will let you use your benefits right away, but they only provide a discount and not full coverage. Full coverage plans will however cover your initial evaluation so you can start planning your dental procedures.
For those seniors who enjoy good dental health and are looking mainly for preventive care and basic services, Ameritas Dental may be a good option to consider. For those looking to save money, if you only need one preventive/maintenance checkup per year, you can buy a dental plan through Ameritas that will cost less than plans with more services. The company also offers a dental rewards program where you can roll over unused coverage from one policy term to the next if you did not use dental services during the year.
Because dental is not included in Original Medicare (unless medically necessary) or Medigap supplement plans, seniors must look elsewhere for dental coverage. So, dental insurance for seniors on Medicare can seem like a chore. But getting dental insurance when you’re using Medicare isn’t difficult, limited, or expensive. In fact, there are two different paths to take in order to find inexpensive coverage options.

Each plan will provide dental coverage for a variety of dental needs, but are not always the same. What they might or might not cover includes dental services such as root canals, deep cleanings, and restorative procedures. When they do cover these services they do so only partially and the senior must either pay out of pocket or have a secondary dental insurance plan. Most plans for seniors pay for routine care, such as an annual cleaning, but require a copayment or co-insurance for other services.
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This is more affordable than dental insurance and there are over 5,400 dentists currently in the Carrington network. The Carrington plan provides a discount that’s usually over 50% on preventative and routine procedures with smaller discounts on other types of procedures. The price for treatment will vary from state to state and affect the percentage of your discount, but some examples of discounts include 51% off a routine check up, 51% off the extraction of a tooth, 50% off a dental cleaning, and just 20% off adolescent braces.
Dental insurance plans typically cost more than discount plans, but they make actual plan payments to dental providers. Dental insurance plans usually have an annual benefit maximum of $1000 up to $3000 per year that can be paid out depending on the plan. Though insured dental plans may cost more than discount plans they may be a better solution if you need more dental care or have been accustomed to using dental insurance plans before.
UnitedHealthcare has a large number on in-network preferred providers, over 200,000, so you won’t have any trouble finding a dentist in the plan. Cleanings and X-rays are covered 100 percent. Here are the charges you pay for basic services: exam - $25; root canal - 50 percent; fililngs - 30 percent; extractions - 30 percent. The coverage has no age maximum limitations. Deductible limits are $50 - individual, $150 - family of three with a 6-12 month waiting period for certain services. Cleanings and X-rays are covered with zero co-pay or deductible twice yearly.
Copyright © 2011–2018 Delta Dental of Tennessee | All Rights Reserved | 240 Venture Circle, Nashville, TN 37228 | (800) 223-3104 The information provided on this site is for general education purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or a substitute for professional medical or dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your dentist or physician for information or treatment specific to you and your health.
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Our health benefit plans, dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans have exclusions, limitations, and terms under which the coverage may be continued in force or discontinued. Our dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans may also have waiting periods. For costs and complete details of coverage, call or write Humana or your Humana insurance agent or broker.
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