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.
Another thing to consider when looking for dental plans for seniors is the waiting period some plans may have for certain services. For example, a plan may set a 3-month waiting period for an extraction. This means that if you get an extraction a week after enrolling in that plan, you usually won’t be covered. Some services may have longer waiting periods, such as 15 months, before the plan covers that service. This is why it is best to not wait until you have a dental emergency to enroll in a dental insurance plan.
A PPO, or preferred provider organization, is the most common type of dental insurance. This plan has arranged reduced rates with dentists. These dentists are called in-network because they will work with the insurance company. You can go out of network if you have a PPO plan, but you will not get the benefit of the reduced rates. It’s best to check to see if your preferred dentist is in-network before you buy insurance.
Choosing a plan that’s right for you depends on many factors, including the ages and number of people in your family, and whether you or a family member needs orthodontic care. Some dental plans provide low copays, while others provide discounts on services. No matter which plan you select, you’ll have access to a large network of dental providers.
No matter which type of plan you choose, we recommend that you carefully review your contract so you know exactly what your insurance will cover. Additionally, in most cases your dentist's office will be familiar with what your insurance may or may not cover. Since many dental offices will require you to pay the estimated uncovered balance upfront, you will need to make sure you know what that is in advance so you can plan your budget. If you cannot cover the remaining balance you may want to ask if your dentist provides financing.
When you near the age of 65, you need to sign up for Medicare. However, Medicare does not cover preventative dental care or other procedures such as fillings, tooth extractions, dentures or other dental devices. If you have a complicated or emergency dental procedure that requires hospitalization, Medicare Part A will likely cover the cost, but it is obviously preferable to avoid hospitalization if you can with regularly-scheduled dental care.
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).
Another benefit is that you have more flexibility when it comes to choosing what type of plan you want. When you work for an employer, they choose which plan they believe would be right for the majority of their workers. But you might not need the same type of coverage as the person who works in the cubicle next to you. By buying an individual plan, you're able to customize and purchase exactly what you need. For that reason, your coverage can actually be less expensive than if you had an employer-sponsored plan – especially if you had to pay for part of your premiums.
Guardian has dental plans for seniors that cover 100 percent of preventive services including cleanings, exams and X-rays. The only downside is it is not available in every state. For those states that are covered, seniors can obtain dental insurance that covers 100 percent of preventive services and up to 90 percent of other basic procedures such as simple extractions and fillings. Individual plans directly provided by Guardian are available to individuals living in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah with access through the healthcare exchange for residents of Florida, Texas, Illinois and New York.
Seniors have special dental needs that come with getting older such as root decay, gum disease, tooth loss and more. Even non-dental conditions common to seniors, such as arthritis, can affect dental health. For those coming off of an employee group health plan upon after retiring, coverage may not be extended after you leave your job, leaving you to find your own dental coverage. Most plans have a waiting period for coverage, so this can leave you without coverage for a period of time.
Most independent dental insurance plans will only pay for your dental services if you go to a contracted and participating in-network dentist. Find out if you are required to go to a participating dentist or if you can choose your own. If the plan requires that you see an In-Network Dentist, ask for a list of the dentists in your area with whom they are contracted so you can decide if they have a dentist you would consider seeing.