Maintaining oral health can be more challenging for seniors and people with certain disabilities. This may be due to an inability to brush their teeth properly, as well as an increased use of medications. Plus, as we grow older, our teeth become less sensitive, so we may not notice a problem until it is too late. All of these factors make it even more important to protect your dental health as you age.1
There can sometimes be significant differences between the dental insurance plans that employers sponsor and those that you obtain as an individual. One big (and obvious) difference is that usually employers pay for part or all of the dental insurance plan, whereas if you're buying a plan by yourself you have to pay for the whole thing. Some employers are also able to get a better deal because they're buying insurance in in bulk for all their employees. But, if you shop around, you could potentially get a plan that is similarly priced or even cheaper.
There are few procedures that most insurance companies will not cover or only provide a discount for. Most individual dental insurance plans do not cover what might be considered cosmetic procedures such as tooth-colored fillings on molar or bicuspid teeth, dental implants or adult cosmetic orthodontics. The majority of dental companies will also limit how often certain appliances can be replaced and, in most cases, will not replace lost items. The limitations are published in the disclosures and contracts for the plan, many of which you can peruse online. Keep in mind that a new dental insurance plan is not going to cover an emergency you are experiencing right now; most have a waiting period of six to 12 months for major work. (However, some will waive the waiting period if you recently had dental insurance.) Dental groups that offer dental discount plans will let you use your benefits right away, but they only provide a discount and not full coverage. Full coverage plans will however cover your initial evaluation so you can start planning your dental procedures.

Different companies provide various percentages of coverage in these areas. For example, one insurance provider might cover 100% of the cost of Class I services while another might only cover 80%. Yet another plan might not provide Class IV or orthodontic coverage, but provide coverage in all other areas. It’s important that you understand what services are covered before signing up for a plan.


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.
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.”
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.
Medicare, the largest health insurance provider for adults 65 and older, does NOT provide coverage for routine dental care. Medicare only pays when dental care and medical needs intersect. Medigap, a private insurance plan that supplements Medicare coverage, doesn’t offer dental coverage, but some private Medicare Advantage managed care plans do offer dental benefits.
One of their popular plans is the My Dental Plan that allows you to customize your plan for what you need. It has a $50 deductible per person. You can customize the plan for either one or two cleanings per year and choose to have preventative care covered at 80% or 100%. When it comes to basic care, they offer the choice of 50% coverage and 80% coverage. For major car, they cover either 50% or 0% depending on the plan you choose. Their annual maximums are either $500, $1,000, or $1,500.
While some financial planners suggest dental insurance may not be worth paying for, we did the math to discover that it is usually worth it, provided you attend all of your allowable preventive exams and cleanings. We also learned that if you need any type of work such as a root canal or filling, you will definitely notice a cost savings. However, premiums vary greatly, not only by the type of plan, but by location and age. So you'll want to obtain a few quotes for insurance companies that provide coverage in your area. You'll also want to verify that your dentist accepts your chosen insurance before you sign up with a new provider.

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.


Coverage begins at enrollment; there’s no waiting period. All applicants are accepted, even if you have previous dental work or ongoing issues, you’re guaranteed acceptance in the plan. You can even bundle a vision plan with it, for another $14 per month. All rates are guaranteed not to change for at least 12 months, but you can cancel any time you like.

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.


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Choosing a plan that’s right for you depends on many factors, including the ages and number of people in your family, and whether you or a family member needs orthodontic care. Some dental plans provide low copays, while others provide discounts on services. No matter which plan you select, you’ll have access to a large network of dental providers.
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