If you don’t floss or brush every day, you will likely run into dental problems that everyone is susceptible to, including cavities, gum disease, tooth decay, and enamel erosion. However, there are some dental issues seniors are more at risk for than any other group of people. Seniors can develop these problems even if they properly take care of their teeth.
AARP, Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, and Delta Dental are a few of the many insurance companies that offer dental plans to seniors. Each company may offer more than one type of dental plan and it is important to pay close attention to more than just the cost of the dental policy. Choosing the best dental plan for a senior is a balancing act between cost, affordability, and need. A good approach is to start by understanding what the senior’s dental needs are and then make a table so that as you begin to compare the different dental plans you can narrow down those plans that are good and remove those plans that are either too costly for the coverage they provide or that do not fit the senior’s dental needs.
Generally Original Medicare dental coverage is only for limited circumstances involving hospitalization. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) generally doesn’t cover most dental care, including cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, and dental plates. Hospital insurance (Part A) may pay for emergency or complicated dental procedures, for example the reconstruction of the jaw following an accidental injury, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS). According to CMS, Congress has not amended the dental exclusion since 1980, when it made an exception for inpatient hospital services when the dental procedure itself made the hospitalization necessary. If you have Original Medicare and want routine dental care, you will generally need to find a plan from a private insurance company.
DHMO's are similar to HMOs in that their plans connect you with a network of dentists who give you care for a low monthly premium. With DHMO plans, you are required to go see dentists who are in their network, but in return you have lower costs, and no claim forms to fill out. DHMOs are great for preventative care and basic procedures. Some downsides include that there can be wait times if you need major or restorative dental care and some DHMOs don’t cover this types of treatment. You also need to go see your primary care dentist and get a referral to a specialist in order to get some specialized care.
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.
In general the dental insurance companies at the top of our review list provide a range of plan options to numerous areas of the country. We also considered average yearly preventive care costs across numerous zip codes and compared that number to possible yearly premium costs. This helps predict whether the premium costs would, on average, be less than the cost of preventive care paid out of pocket. Keep in mind that co-pays and other small fees might also determine whether you will break even by paying for dental insurance, but our numbers can give you a general idea of what you can expect. It was not surprising to learn that those who charge a higher premium may cover more and those with a lower premium might cover less. This means that if you pay more monthly you might receive more complete coverage, and if you pay less per month you might be expected to pay a bit more during the time of treatment. So you'll need to decide whether you want to pay more per month or make up a bit of the difference when you visit your dentist.
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.”
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).
The term “full coverage” can mean different things to different people. For some, “full coverage” means a dental insurance plan that covers basic services like routine checkups, cleaning and X-rays. Others expect a full-coverage plan to reduce the cost of any dental services they may need. The good news is that Humana has a range of dental plans, including both dental insurance and dental discount plans, so you can find the coverage that best fits your needs.