Unfortunately, Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not include coverage for services like dental exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, plates, or dentures. There are some exceptions, such as when a hospital stay is involved, but otherwise, you would have to pay out of pocket for any routine dental services. For some of us, those expenses could add up quickly.
A carrier recently told us that many seniors expect to carry over their dental coverage from their employer. Yet, that rarely happens. What does happen is that about 90% of seniors on Medicare don’t have proper dental coverage (American Dental Association). After filling out the Medicare paperwork, most seniors put dental insurance on the back burner.  (And vision and hearing, too…we’ll get to those later.) And, why not? Your teeth are not hurting yet and they feel pretty good.
Senior citizens across the U.S. are seeking coverage to aid in reducing their dental expenditures. Teeth, like bones, can soften as time passes and grow significantly more susceptible to degeneration and breakage. This can mean that seniors are often in need of more oral care than younger Americans, as they deal with broken teeth, loosened implants, gum problems, or other issues.
Before deciding to purchase dental insurance, talk with your dentist regarding the extent of your treatment plan. This way you can decide if you would be better off with or without dental insurance. A very important factor to remember regarding any dental insurance plan is that dental insurance is not at all similar to medical insurance. The majority of dental insurance plans are designed with the purpose of only covering the basic dental care around $1,000 to $1,500 (about the same amount that they covered 30 years ago) per year and is not intended to provide comprehensive coverage like that of medical insurance.
Another kind of dental insurance plan is a DPPO which is similar to a health insurance PPO plan. What they do is they work out lower rates with dentists that are in their network who are often referred to as their preferred providers. With this plan, you can visit a dentist outside of your network, but you will not be able to get these low rates and you will likely end up paying more. Many DPPOs provide coverage of preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures, but they only provide a percentage of this care for each.
Under the federal law, dental benefits are an optional service for state Medicaid programs. States can include adult dental benefits in their Medicaid programs. Many states do provide dental benefits for adults; however the status and extent of those benefits vary by state and by year, depending on the availability of state funds to support such benefits.
If you're wondering if the Affordable Care Act of 2014, also known as Obamacare, affects dental coverage – it does. You can buy health coverage through the online health insurance marketplace that includes dental coverage. You can also purchase a standalone dental insurance plan through the health insurance marketplace, but in order to do so you have to also purchase a standalone health plan through the marketplace.
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These plans, sometimes called "Medigap" plans, are a type of insurance you can get to help cover costs like deductibles and coinsurance. You pay a monthly premium for the supplement, just as you would any kind of insurance. After Medicare pays its part, the supplemental insurance kicks in. You must have both Parts A and B of Original Medicare before purchasing a Medigap plan.
Most full coverage dental insurance plans will cover two preventive maintenance visits per year without requiring a deductible payment. Most require a $50 deductible per person, per year to help cover costs beyond your preventive exams. If you need work done, most plans will cover a part of the costs. We looked at root canals specifically and found that the majority of dental plans will cover about half the cost, which may not seem like a lot, but paying half is better than paying upfront for an $800 root canal. However, keep in mind that most insurance policies, depending on your plan, top out at about $1000 to $1500 per year. Using conservative estimates that might be one or two root canals. If you need extensive work done you might have to pay the remaining amount out of pocket.
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.
Preventive care may seem optional if you have healthy teeth and good oral hygiene, but it saves money in the long run. I went without dental insurance for three years in my twenties, and did what most of my peers did in that situation – simply didn’t visit the dentist. Then I enrolled in a graduate program which required students to have medical and dental coverage. At my first dental visit, I had numerous cavities. Getting them all filled required nine or ten appointments in the nine months of my academic year.
*Examples only. These are the average costs the patient will pay per procedure with an in-network provider and are based on averages across Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Manhattan and Saint Louis. Actual costs and savings may vary by provider, geographic area, and service received. There are limitations and exclusions to the discount available. For example, general anesthesia, implants, and/or cosmetic dentistry are not discounted services. Upon purchase, refer to your policy for more information on the limitations and exclusions that apply. Coinsurance listed is for Prime Plan C.
© Delta Dental.This website is the home of Delta Dental of California; Delta Dental Insurance Company; Delta Dental of Pennsylvania; Delta Dental of New York, Inc.; Delta Dental of the District of Columbia; Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc.; Delta Dental of West Virginia, Inc. and their affiliated companies. For other Delta Dental Plans Association member companies, visit the Delta Dental Plans Association website. Delta Dental is a registered mark of Delta Dental Plans Association.
The best way to take care of your teeth is proper maintenance, and Dental Select’s senior dental plans cover 100% of preventative costs. This includes two professional cleanings each year, as well as exams and x-rays. Most of the costs of basic procedures are covered as well, such as fillings, dentures, and even oral surgery. Better yet, there are no waiting periods, meaning that your plan is effective on the first day of the month following your enrollment.

Our health benefit plans, dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans have exclusions, limitations, and terms under which the coverage may be continued in force or discontinued. Our dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans may also have waiting periods. For costs and complete details of coverage, call or write Humana or your Humana insurance agent or broker.
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