Preventive care may seem optional if you have healthy teeth and good oral hygiene, but it saves money in the long run. I went without dental insurance for three years in my twenties, and did what most of my peers did in that situation – simply didn’t visit the dentist. Then I enrolled in a graduate program which required students to have medical and dental coverage. At my first dental visit, I had numerous cavities. Getting them all filled required nine or ten appointments in the nine months of my academic year.

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.

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.

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.
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.
Blue Cross Blue Shield has a plan called BlueCare that does not have a waiting period for preventative services and many non-surgical procedures. United Healthcare's United Health One is another. Major surgical treatments and restorative work do require some wait time, though that can be curtailed to some extent if you're coming off another dental plan.
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.
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Examples of dental costs with the Careington 500 plan are $15 for an oral exam, $31 for a cleaning, $483 for a crown and 64 percent off of dentures. The prices quoted on the website are in the Fort Worth, Texas area, with savings of 60 to 74 percent off dental services and 20 percent off orthodontia. Cost of procedures may vary depending on your location.
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.”
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.
© Delta Dental.This website is the home of Delta Dental of California; Delta Dental Insurance Company; Delta Dental of Pennsylvania; Delta Dental of New York, Inc.; Delta Dental of the District of Columbia; Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc.; Delta Dental of West Virginia, Inc. and their affiliated companies. For other Delta Dental Plans Association member companies, visit the Delta Dental Plans Association website. Delta Dental is a registered mark of Delta Dental Plans Association.
Your Current Dental Health – Do you have pending dental needs, such as needing dentures, extractions, crown replacement, etc? This is all about the state of your mouth, teeth, and oral tissue today and for the next six months. That time frame is important because many dental insurance policies have a waiting period before you can use their benefits. For most, that period is six months.
However, if your insurance does not cover cleaning and preventative care at 100%, then you will have to pay the remaining costs of your visit. This can cost anywhere from $20 to over $100 depending on the type of care you’re getting and the percentage covered. If you’re getting a PHMO plan, it is easier to estimate your costs since all procedures conducted in their network will have fees, but if you’re going to your own dentist then it will simply be a percentage of whatever they charge.
Like most kinds of health or ancillary medical insurance, there are deductibles involved in dental insurance. Generally, the deductibles are per individual or per family depending on your plan. Some companies require that you meet the deductible on each member of your family while others have a family amount that you have to hit – no matter who the person receiving the care was. Deductibles can range anywhere from $100 to $500 or more. Obviously, the higher your deductible, the less likely you’ll be to take full advantage of your insurance.
Another benefit is that you have more flexibility when it comes to choosing what type of plan you want. When you work for an employer, they choose which plan they believe would be right for the majority of their workers. But you might not need the same type of coverage as the person who works in the cubicle next to you. By buying an individual plan, you're able to customize and purchase exactly what you need. For that reason, your coverage can actually be less expensive than if you had an employer-sponsored plan – especially if you had to pay for part of your premiums.

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.


My plan covered cavity fillings, but an additional procedure (like a crown or an extraction) would have been costly even with insurance. Multiple appointments also took up a lot of time. I could have spared myself some of those cavities, and long hours in the dentist’s chair, if I’d got regular cleanings in earlier years (and, of course, flossed more often).
Find a local dentist, access your insurance cards, or provide your doctor with critical information on the go with the Dental Select Mobile ID app. We provide superior dental insurance for seniors, as well as individuals and families, and our mobile app makes it simple for subscribers and covered family members to get the information they need anytime, anywhere.

1DeltaCare USA is underwritten in these states by these entities: AL — Alpha Dental of Alabama, Inc.; AZ — Alpha Dental of Arizona, Inc.; CA — Delta Dental of California; AR, CO, IA, MA, ME, MI, MN, NC, ND, NE, NH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, VT, WA, WI, WY — Dentegra Insurance Company; AK, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, KS, LA, MS, MT, TN, WV — Delta Dental Insurance Company; HI, ID, IL, IN, KY, MD, MO, NJ, OH, TX — Alpha Dental Programs, Inc.; NV — Alpha Dental of Nevada, Inc.; UT — Alpha Dental of Utah, Inc.; NM — Alpha Dental of New Mexico, Inc.; NY — Delta Dental of New York, Inc.; PA — Delta Dental of Pennsylvania; VA – Delta Dental of Virginia. Delta Dental Insurance Company acts as the DeltaCare USA administrator in all these states. These companies are financially responsible for their own products. The plan is a dental HMO in CA and TX.
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