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 final kind of dental insurance is indemnity dental coverage. These plans allow you to visit any dentist and they will pay a fee for the procedures you have done. They calculate a set amount that they’ll pay for each type of procedure and any additional amount would have to be paid by you out-of-pocket. They also have an annual maximum which can sometimes be higher than other types of plans. One of the downsides is that you have to pay for all the services upfront and submit paperwork in order to get reimbursed.
Dental Health Maintenance Organization plans entail dentists contracting with a dental insurance company that dentists agree to accept an insurance fee schedule and give their customers a reduced cost for services as an In-Network Provider. Many DHMO insurance plans have little or no waiting periods and no annual maximum benefit limitations, while covering major dental work near the start of the policy period. This plan is sometimes purchased to help defray the high cost of the dental procedures. Some dental insurance plans offer free semi-annual preventative treatment. Fillings, crowns, implants, and dentures may have various limitations.
Since buying cheap dental insurance will mean that going to the dentist could cost you more, you might also be less likely to go to the dentist or you could put the visit off if you have a problem. This could lead to bigger issues with your dental health which could lead to more expensive procedures and treatment. For example, if you put off treating a cavity, you could end up needing a root canal.
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 many insurance companies that offer dental services to seniors. Many are part of the group of insurance companies that fall under Medicare part C. While every insurance company under Medicare Part C offers the same medical coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B, they sometimes offer additional services such as dental coverage. Even so, the types of dental coverages that they offer are not identical.
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.
The cost of not taking care of your oral health could be more. Those without individual dental coverage are less likely to get routine dental care, meaning they seek out a dentist only when they have a problem. By then, more extensive and more expensive measures may be necessary, and major problems linked to poor oral health (like heart disease and diabetes) are more likely to appear.2 Doing nothing now means you might pay more later.
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