The Mayo Clinic advises that poor dental health significantly impacts your physical health, including causing heart disease and endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining. Diseases which often affect us as we age like osteoporosis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few, frequently cause dental problems that eventually become too painful to ignore. Seniors often need more dental care than younger generations because of softening bones and teeth or a dry mouth, which can lead to an assortment of oral health problems. Regular visits to the dentist can save money down the road while reducing the risk of painful dental problems.
As time passes, many seniors leave dental coverage (and vision and hearing) behind. Then, when they need it, it is too late. Waiting can be devastating in some cases as many insurances have waiting periods for certain services. For example, a routine filling for a cavity typically requires a 6-month wait. If you can’t wait that long, you will have to pay the cost in full.
The reason why so many are uninsured might be because the economy is shifting towards more contract work, consultants, and freelancers. That’s left many people without an employer to pay the bill for things like health insurance and dental insurance. At the same time, many employers are cutting back on the benefits that they’re offering or shifting their benefits. Dental plans, which used to often be paid completely by the employer, might now be optional or require the employee to pay a significant portion of the costs. In that case, it could make more sense for you to shop for a plan that is a better fit for your needs and pay for your insurance yourself.
Yes. Plans vary by state and not all discount or low-cost senior dental plans cover the same services. Some have limited services or only pay so much per year before they max out on benefits. Some may not cover routine care, such as cleanings. It is important to compare dental plans and look for value rather than just for lower monthly premiums. Your goal is always to find the best plan that fits your dental needs and budget.
Dental insurance companies sort the different types of dental procedures into different classes. There are five different types of classes. Class I is for diagnostic and preventative care which include things like x-rays, exams, and cleanings. Class II is for basic care and other procedures such as fillings. Class III dental care usually refers to major care and procedures such as dentures, bridges, implants, and crowns. Finally, Class IV dental procedures are orthodontics.
If you go to an out-of-network dentist, then the plan usually pays based on the UCR fee. For example, if the dentist charges $250 for the filling, but the UCR in your area is $150, you could end up paying more. In this case, $130 ($250 – $150 X (.80)). This also introduces the concept of balanced billing, which means paying the dentist the cost difference between their rate ($250 in this case) and the cost-sharing rate ($120).
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.
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.
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.
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