Senior citizens across the U.S. are seeking coverage to aid in reducing their dental expenditures. Teeth, like bones, can soften as time passes and grow significantly more susceptible to degeneration and breakage. This can mean that seniors are often in need of more oral care than younger Americans, as they deal with broken teeth, loosened implants, gum problems, or other issues.
Most full coverage dental insurance plans will cover two preventive maintenance visits per year without requiring a deductible payment. Most require a $50 deductible per person, per year to help cover costs beyond your preventive exams. If you need work done, most plans will cover a part of the costs. We looked at root canals specifically and found that the majority of dental plans will cover about half the cost, which may not seem like a lot, but paying half is better than paying upfront for an $800 root canal. However, keep in mind that most insurance policies, depending on your plan, top out at about $1000 to $1500 per year. Using conservative estimates that might be one or two root canals. If you need extensive work done you might have to pay the remaining amount out of pocket.
Many seniors have dental health issues, and hope that by purchasing a standard insurance plan they will be able to afford to get treatments that they have been delaying due to cost. Unfortunately traditional dental insurance often does not cover preexisting conditions, nor will it pay to replace teeth that were lost prior to purchasing the coverage.
Dental insurance almost always picks up 100 percent of the bill for routine checkups and cleanings. Coverage for common procedures like root canals and fillings are typically covered at 80 percent, although policies with higher premiums cover up to 90 percent. You are then responsible for the remaining 10 to 20 percent of the cost, called coinsurance. Most plans cover higher-priced and more involved procedures at 50 percent, so you should have some savings set aside for what your insurance does not cover. Still, with relatively low premiums, having dental insurance is far less expensive on average than paying cash for all dental procedures.
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PPO Plan A is the most comprehensive plan with the highest number of services covered and still has a modest premium. PPO Plan A covers three cleanings and exams per year at no additional cost when visiting an in-network provider. There are no exclusions for most pre-existing conditions and dental implants are available after 1 year of continuous coverage. The annual deductible is $50 with an annual maximum of $1,500. You are allowed to visit any licensed dentist but with save money through using a preferred in-network provider.
Since buying cheap dental insurance will mean that going to the dentist could cost you more, you might also be less likely to go to the dentist or you could put the visit off if you have a problem. This could lead to bigger issues with your dental health which could lead to more expensive procedures and treatment. For example, if you put off treating a cavity, you could end up needing a root canal.
But for many, the perceived high cost of dental insurance is one of the key factors that is keeping them from getting a policy. Luckily, there are a number of different options for people at different price points. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, the average annual cost of coverage in 2009 (the most recent year the survey was conducted) for a dental HMO plan was around $225 per year for an individual or $445 per family, the cost of a dental PPO plan averaged around $285 for an individual and $866 per family, and indemnity plans cost an average of $288 for an individual and $666 for a family.
Another option for dental care is Medicaid, which covers some kinds of dental procedures if you meet the requirements. Medicare does not provide dental coverage. The ADA Foundation has provided dental care to 5.5 million children since 2003. They will direct you to a dentist that is near you. Another option is the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It provides health coverage including dental coverage to over 7 million children under 19 years of age.

There are many insurance companies that offer dental services to seniors. Many are part of the group of insurance companies that fall under Medicare part C. While every insurance company under Medicare Part C offers the same medical coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B, they sometimes offer additional services such as dental coverage. Even so, the types of dental coverages that they offer are not identical.
The key to keeping your teeth healthy as a senior is properly brushing and flossing your teeth, as well as visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. You want to make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride, according to Colgate. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that fluoride prevents tooth decay and cavities.  It’s also important to floss once a day, says the ADA.
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.
Another kind of dental insurance plan is a DPPO which is similar to a health insurance PPO plan. What they do is they work out lower rates with dentists that are in their network who are often referred to as their preferred providers. With this plan, you can visit a dentist outside of your network, but you will not be able to get these low rates and you will likely end up paying more. Many DPPOs provide coverage of preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures, but they only provide a percentage of this care for each.
Another kind of dental insurance plan is a DPPO which is similar to a health insurance PPO plan. What they do is they work out lower rates with dentists that are in their network who are often referred to as their preferred providers. With this plan, you can visit a dentist outside of your network, but you will not be able to get these low rates and you will likely end up paying more. Many DPPOs provide coverage of preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures, but they only provide a percentage of this care for each.
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.
Dental Health Maintenance Organization plans entail dentists contracting with a dental insurance company that dentists agree to accept an insurance fee schedule and give their customers a reduced cost for services as an In-Network Provider. Many DHMO insurance plans have little or no waiting periods and no annual maximum benefit limitations, while covering major dental work near the start of the policy period. This plan is sometimes purchased to help defray the high cost of the dental procedures. Some dental insurance plans offer free semi-annual preventative treatment. Fillings, crowns, implants, and dentures may have various limitations.
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.
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.

The Dental Care Cost Estimator sometimes groups together, into "treatment categories," services that are often delivered together to address a particular dental problem. The description of different treatment categories, and the inclusion of particular services in a treatment category, is not advice that any particular treatment category is the right treatment for you or that you should not obtain any particular treatment. All of those matters are things that you should decide, in consultation with your dental care professionals. This cost estimator is intended for use in the 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. If you live outside the U.S., you may see information on this cost estimator about products or services that are not available or authorized in your country.
MyCigna Dental 1000 is another plan that they offer. It has a $50 individual deductible and a family deductible of $150. The plan provides coverage for preventive care, diagnostic, and restoration care. It provides up to $1,000 worth of benefits annually and you also receive discounts on orthodontic work if you use a dentist in their network – but they don’t provide orthodontic coverage.

AARP, Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, and Delta Dental are a few of the many insurance companies that offer dental plans to seniors. Each company may offer more than one type of dental plan and it is important to pay close attention to more than just the cost of the dental policy. Choosing the best dental plan for a senior is a balancing act between cost, affordability, and need. A good approach is to start by understanding what the senior’s dental needs are and then make a table so that as you begin to compare the different dental plans you can narrow down those plans that are good and remove those plans that are either too costly for the coverage they provide or that do not fit the senior’s dental needs.
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In either case, in our opinion, the purchase of dental insurance can be hard if you don’t do your homework. Why? The premiums aren’t in favor of the benefit. For example, if you are paying $100 per month for dental insurance which has an annual benefit of $1,000, that really isn’t in your best interest. You are paying $1,200 annually for a $1,000 benefit. In this case, it is better to simply negotiate a discount with the dentist or utilize a dental discount plan where appropriate (more on that below).
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.
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.

People buying their own dental insurance (as opposed to those covered by an employer's plan) sometimes get a nasty surprise when they sign up: a waiting period. Unlike regular health insurance, in which coverage usually starts immediately or at the beginning of the next month, dental plans often come with a delay between enrollment and the actual onset of coverage for some or all services. It could be six months to a year or more.
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.

More sensitive teeth. Your teeth can become more and more sensitive as you age due to the natural gum receding process. As your gums recede, they expose sensitive areas of your teeth that aren’t protected by enamel. Extreme temperatures may cause more pain and discomfort in these areas. Using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth should help. If your sensitive teeth continue to be a problem, you should visit your dentist, as your problem may be more serious.


There can sometimes be significant differences between the dental insurance plans that employers sponsor and those that you obtain as an individual. One big (and obvious) difference is that usually employers pay for part or all of the dental insurance plan, whereas if you're buying a plan by yourself you have to pay for the whole thing. Some employers are also able to get a better deal because they're buying insurance in in bulk for all their employees. But, if you shop around, you could potentially get a plan that is similarly priced or even cheaper.
If you are on a policy that requires you to go to a participating provider, you should not be charged the difference between these two prices. A contracted dentist generally has an agreement with the insurance company to write off the difference in charges. If the policy allows you to go to a dentist or pediatric dentist of your choice, check the insurance company’s UCR fee guide against the fees that dentist charges. You may be required to pay the difference out of your pocket, however, you cannot put a price tag on quality dental care.
The downside of using a dental school is that it can sometimes take a lot more time to get the work done since it’s a learning environment, the hours or days that they practice are limited, and it can be hard to get your insurance coverage to pay for work performed at a dental school if you have insurance. You’ll likely have to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket and get reimbursed later.
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