If you don’t floss or brush every day, you will likely run into dental problems that everyone is susceptible to, including cavities, gum disease, tooth decay, and enamel erosion. However, there are some dental issues seniors are more at risk for than any other group of people. Seniors can develop these problems even if they properly take care of their teeth.
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.
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.
Many provide as much as 100% coverage preventative services and then less on basic procedures usually 50% to 80%, and usually 50% to 0% on major care or things like crowns. Often there is some fine print with these plans and they do not cover certain procedures. They also have a maximum annual benefit and a deductible that you have to pay before they start coverage. There also can potentially be waiting periods on certain types of procedures but you don’t always have to get a referral to see a specialist.
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.
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.
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.
These plans, sometimes called "Medigap" plans, are a type of insurance you can get to help cover costs like deductibles and coinsurance. You pay a monthly premium for the supplement, just as you would any kind of insurance. After Medicare pays its part, the supplemental insurance kicks in. You must have both Parts A and B of Original Medicare before purchasing a Medigap plan.
How you define “cost” is important. Generally a single plate – upper or lower- costs between $1,200 and $3,800. So, for a full set of dentures could cost in the $7,500 range. Those higher costs usually include other services such as extractions, mold production, and fittings. Again, the actual cost is dependent upon the senior’s oral health, and the amount of service needed. Don’t be afraid to shop around from one dentist to the next to see if there is a price break.
Gum Disease. Your gum disease risk increases as you get older. The New York Times notes that in a study of people over 70 years old, 86% had at least moderate gum disease and over a quarter experienced tooth loss. It’s important to properly take care of your teeth, have a healthy diet, reduce stress, and refrain from smoking to reduce your risk of developing gum disease. Systemic diseases and certain medications can also affect the health of your gums.
Fee-for-Service plans: Like DPPO plans, dental Fee-for-Service plans require you to pay a percentage of the cost of treatment. Your insurance company will pay for the rest. Fee-for-Service plans typically offer the most freedom when it comes to choosing your dentist or dental practice. Fee-for-Service plans may also be more costly, since dentists are not typically reimbursed at the same rate as DPPO dentists.
DentalPlans.com is one of the leading online marketplaces for finding dental savings plans. The company has been in business since 1999 and is affiliated with more than 30 dental plan companies and has over 100,000 participating dentists around the country. The benefit of using DentalPlans.com is it allows you to access the number of different dental plans to find out which is the best deal for you.
We understand that individuals and families are looking for dental insurance solutions to fit their specific needs. Our dental insurance plans include options for any budget and tailored coverage options offering dental care choices for individuals or families. With choices for higher maximum benefit amounts with more coverage if needed, options if your child needs braces, and immediate coverage on most services, we have a dental insurance plan for you. Discover more about our dental insurance plans below:
Aetna’s dental discount network includes over 161,000 dentists, and Careington says over 100,000 dentists participate in their plan. We searched for providers from a less populated location in the U.S. and found no dentists from the Aetna plan while the Careington plan had four dentists, although the offices were located 100 miles from the zip we used. If there are no providers available in a reasonable distance from your home, you can nominate dentists, and Careington will contact them to request participation. Dental providers usually join the network within 60-90 days.
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.
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.
AARP and its affiliates are not insurers. AARP does not employ or endorse agents, producers or brokers. AARP Member Advantages is the name for a collection of products, services and insurance programs available to AARP members from trusted third parties. AARP member benefits, including all goods, services and discounts on this site, are provided by third parties, not by AARP and its affiliates. Providers pay a royalty fee to AARP for the use of its intellectual property. These fees are used for the general purposes of AARP. Provider offers are subject to change and may have restrictions. Please contact the provider directly for details.
The cost of not taking care of your oral health could be more. Those without individual dental coverage are less likely to get routine dental care, meaning they seek out a dentist only when they have a problem. By then, more extensive and more expensive measures may be necessary, and major problems linked to poor oral health (like heart disease and diabetes) are more likely to appear.2 Doing nothing now means you might pay more later.