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.
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.
Most Medicare or Medicare Advantage Plans provide no dental coverage or only provide minimal dental coverage. Those that do provide coverage, usually only cover preventive services so many seniors find the need to buy a dental insurance policy. Some top considerations for seniors purchasing a dental insurance plan include in-network providers, types of services covered, deductibles and co-pays. We done some comparisons and come up with some of the best dental insurance options for seniors in 2018.
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.
Estimating your possible dental costs may help you decide whether dental insurance would be financially beneficial. Dental insurance companies will show you a quote online so you can easily see what your premiums might be. You may want to compare your estimated yearly premiums to the cost of a year of procedures you want to have done. You can estimate how much your dental expenses might be either by talking with your dentist, or by researching costs online. You can use the estimates to help you decide whether you should pay out of pocket or plan your dental expenses based on your insurance coverage. Two resources for looking up procedure costs are The Fair Health Consumer Organization and the Guardian Insurance website. Estimated costs are sorted by zip code and will show a low and high rate so you can see a range of what a procedure may cost in your area.
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.
For the most part, Medicare does not cover dental services with the exception of those services that are required due to another covered medical issue. There are exceptions but seniors should not expect Medicare to cover routine dental care or services such as cleaning, extractions, dentures, or even fillings. If you have an alternative insurance to Medicare B then that policy might cover dental, but again, that only works in certain circumstances, such as if you are not yet retired even though you are age 62 or older.
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.
The key to keeping your teeth healthy as a senior is properly brushing and flossing your teeth, as well as visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. You want to make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride, according to Colgate. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that fluoride prevents tooth decay and cavities.  It’s also important to floss once a day, says the ADA.

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.
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.

They have a popular dental PPO plan called MetLife 2-9 Dental. They negotiate fees within their network of dentist which are lower than average and cover over 400 procedures. They offer 100% coverage on preventative care, 80% coverage on basic care, and 50% coverage on major care with a $50 deductible. Their annual maximum coverage amount is between $1,000 and $1,500.
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.

Another downside of buying your own dental insurance is that you might not be able to afford the same type of coverage, which means that you could potentially have fewer benefits than you would if you had gotten it through your employer. That might mean that you have less access to certain types of treatment or that in order to get an affordable plan with good coverage, you’ll have to choose one where you have to stay within the plan’s network.

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.
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).

A dental plan is not dental insurance, but is instead a way to get discounts on the care you need. Their dental plans offer savings of anywhere from 10% to 60% on dental procedures with no limits or wait times to get care. With dental plans, you also do not have to fill out time consuming paperwork - you can simply go to a dentist that you choose within their network and get the services you need.

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.

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