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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.
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.
First, you could enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Many Medicare Advantage plans include vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage. All of these benefits are coordinated together, so any premium costs will be included in your low (or non-existent) Medicare Advantage premium. Just be aware that dental benefits are usually limited to cleanings, exams, and bitewing X-rays. If you are looking for more comprehensive coverage, you may want to add on a stand-alone dental plan.
Spirit Dental is the online storefront for Direct Benefits, a company started in 2001 by Tom Mayer, who wanted dental coverage to be affordable for all Americans. While Direct Benefits serves as a broker for employee benefits and consultants, Spirit Dental is meant for online consumers who can buy coverage right on the website or talk to one of their many agents and providers nationwide.
Unfortunately, Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not include coverage for services like dental exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, plates, or dentures. There are some exceptions, such as when a hospital stay is involved, but otherwise, you would have to pay out of pocket for any routine dental services. For some of us, those expenses could add up quickly.
Some of the benefits of a Carrington dental plan are the low fees, the fact there is no waiting, and that you can choose your own dentist amongst their network. There are also no limits on your coverage and you don't have to fill out any paperwork. Some downsides are that you will likely end up paying more for your procedures than if you had one of the best dental insurance plans.
It's possible to purchase a dental-only insurance plan. You'll have to pay a monthly premium, but the cost will be offset by lower out-of-pocket fees. Most of these dental plans require that you see an in-network dentist who may offer lower rates than out-of-network providers. Some plans let you go to any dentist (in- or out-of-network), but you may have to pay more for their services.
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.
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.
As a Medicare beneficiary, you are free to shop for a stand-alone private dental plan for seniors. Some dental plan types are PPO plans* and others are indemnity plans. A PPO stands for preferred provider organization. This is a type of plan that contracts with dental providers to create a network of participating providers. If you want to use a dentist out of network, you usually can for an additional cost. An indemnity plan allows you to visit almost any dentist you like with the plan paying a portion of your total charges. Indemnity plans are also called “fee-for-service” plans.
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Dental savings plans are different than dental insurance. Dental savings plans provide you with a list of dentists who will give you a discount because you’re a member of the savings plan. Usually, these are quite generous discounts and can save you a significant amount of money on your dental care. Sometimes the discount can be well over 50% for things like preventative care, but it tends to be a little less for other types of care.
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.