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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.
Dental plans will usually cover a portion of your costs on different types of dental procedures. Some plans focus more on preventative and basic dental care, but offer less coverage on major dental procedures. It's important to understand what's best for your dental health. If you routinely need a root canal or get cavities, you'll want a plan that provides better coverage on those types of procedures. In contrast, if you have relatively healthy teeth then you might not need to pay for the extra coverage.
Although discount plans are also sold by private companies, they are not insurance plans. There are no copays, coinsurance, or deductible amounts. That also means that there are no pre-negotiated rates or free yearly checkups and cleanings. A participating dentist simply agrees to offer discounts (often a percentage off from the total price) for certain medical services. Then, seniors who choose discount plans will pay their dentist directly for the cost of services (after the discount).
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
Seniors have special dental needs that come with getting older such as root decay, gum disease, tooth loss and more. Even non-dental conditions common to seniors, such as arthritis, can affect dental health. For those coming off of an employee group health plan upon after retiring, coverage may not be extended after you leave your job, leaving you to find your own dental coverage. Most plans have a waiting period for coverage, so this can leave you without coverage for a period of time.
The downside of using a dental school is that it can sometimes take a lot more time to get the work done since it’s a learning environment, the hours or days that they practice are limited, and it can be hard to get your insurance coverage to pay for work performed at a dental school if you have insurance. You’ll likely have to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket and get reimbursed later.
All dental insurance plans or dental savings plans will charge a different monthly premium. These will vary depending on the number of individuals that you're enrolling in the plan, the type of plan you’re applying for, and the level of coverage you need. Most affordable dental insurance plans will charge you different prices for individuals and children and then, after a certain number of individuals, they just charge a flat family fee.
A PPO, or preferred provider organization, is the most common type of dental insurance. This plan has arranged reduced rates with dentists. These dentists are called in-network because they will work with the insurance company. You can go out of network if you have a PPO plan, but you will not get the benefit of the reduced rates. It’s best to check to see if your preferred dentist is in-network before you buy insurance.