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.

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.
Under the federal law, dental benefits are an optional service for state Medicaid programs. States can include adult dental benefits in their Medicaid programs. Many states do provide dental benefits for adults; however the status and extent of those benefits vary by state and by year, depending on the availability of state funds to support such benefits.

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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.
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.
More than 90 percent of dental insurance policies carry a “missing tooth clause” or a “replacement clause.” Many include at least one of these clauses, but most have both. A missing tooth clause protects the insurance company from paying for the replacement of a tooth that was missing before the policy was in effect. For example, if you lost a tooth before your coverage started and later decided that you would like to have a partial, bridge or implant, the insurance company would not have to pay for that service if they have a missing tooth clause in the plan. A replacement clause is similar except that the insurance company won’t pay to replace procedures such as dentures, partials or bridges until the specified time limit has passed.
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.

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.
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Dental insurance companies divide benefits, services, or procedures into categories and refer to them with American Dental Association (ADA) 3-4 digit code. As an example, Preventative and Diagnostic procedures often include exams (ADA code 0120), x-rays (ADA code 0210), and basic cleanings or prophylaxis (ADA code 1110). Basic procedures often include fillings, periodontics, endodontics, and oral surgery. Major procedures often are crowns, dentures, and implants. Procedures such as periodontics, endodontics, and oral surgery may be considered major, depending on the policy.
Aetna is based in Connecticut and was founded in 1853. They have over 30 million customers worldwide. They offer a number of different types of plans including DHMO plans where you pay a lower cost for your plan, but have to see a dentist in your network and need to get preauthorization if you need to be referred for specialty care. They also offer network option plans or PPO plans. These plans are more expensive and you have to pay 50% or more of the costs of your care. While you can see a dentist outside the network with these plans, they have many PPO dentist that you can use for a discounted rate. If you go out-of-network you will have to pay and get reimbursed later. You can also choose hybrid plans that offer some of the benefits of more than one plan.
After you are approved and sign up for a plan, you can often use it within 24 hours, but it can sometimes take up to 72 hours for it to go into effect. Some plans offer additional savings on things like prescriptions, hearing care, and vision care. Some plans also include discounts on things like cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics. These plans charge an affordable membership fee that can start as low as $10 per month. In order to get set up, you do have to pay a fee of around $15, but this cost is sometimes offset by giving you a free month on your plan.
If you read our article on discount dental plans, you may think we are 100% against dental insurance. We are not. We simply know seniors can get sucked into paying high premiums with equally high out-of-pocket costs with no major insurance advantage. But, affordable dental insurance for seniors is possible that balances the right premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and coverage.
These dental schools either offer discounts or provide free dental services in order to get patients they can practice on. While they do all sorts of different procedures, it’s probably best to go to them for more routine care like cleanings, check ups, x-rays, and small cavities. If you have a more complex procedure to get done, you might better off going to an expert instead.
You’ll want to go to an in-network dentist as they usually have better, contracted rates. We’ll show an example of that in a minute. Cleaning or preventative care visits are typically covered at 100%. Basic or major services visits are typically covered at 80% and 50%, respectively. What does this mean? If you go to an in-network dentist for a tooth filling (80%) whose contracted rate is $200, you’ll have to pay $40 out of pocket ($200 X (1 – .80)).
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.
The benefits of choosing MetLife are that they have a number of different plans available and they are well respected within the dental insurance industry. They have a broad network of dentists who work with them and they have significant coverage with a low deductible. The downside is that you have to visit dentists within their network in order to save.
In addition to companies listed here, you can check out other options by using a dental insurance search engine, such as the one available at the Dental Insurance Store. There you can plug in your age and ZIP code and get a list of plans available in your area. Along the left side of the screen, you can select various options that may be important to you – such as “no waiting period.”
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.

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Our health benefit plans, dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans have exclusions, limitations, and terms under which the coverage may be continued in force or discontinued. Our dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans may also have waiting periods. For costs and complete details of coverage, call or write Humana or your Humana insurance agent or broker.
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