Dental providers contract with dental savings plans to provide the same quality dental work at reduced prices. The concept is a familiar one – it’s the same model used by discount clubs like Costco and Sam’s. Dentists realize that for many seniors, insurance is not the best option and, in many cases, doesn’t provide all of the coverage they really need. You benefit by gaining access to discounts of up to 60% on routine and major oral healthcare.
We evaluated 24 dental insurance companies and found the three top choices for seniors based on the cost of premiums, the number of in-network dentists and overall cost savings. Our top three picks are DentalPlans.com, Spirit Dental and 1Dental.com. In this guide, we will discuss what you need to look for in dental insurance, why seniors need dental insurance and we’ll share details about the top companies. We included helpful frequently asked questions about dental insurance as well.
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.
Does this sound good? Maybe. You’ll pay for everything…at a discount. How does this compare to traditional dental insurance? In our opinion, you may end up paying the same or less, generally speaking. While you have to pay for preventative care, it is at a discount. Compare with dental insurance, which the preventative care is free but you generally pay a higher monthly premium.
Another thing to consider when looking for dental plans for seniors is the waiting period some plans may have for certain services. For example, a plan may set a 3-month waiting period for an extraction. This means that if you get an extraction a week after enrolling in that plan, you usually won’t be covered. Some services may have longer waiting periods, such as 15 months, before the plan covers that service. This is why it is best to not wait until you have a dental emergency to enroll in a dental insurance plan.
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.
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.
Dental insurance almost always picks up 100 percent of the bill for routine checkups and cleanings. Coverage for common procedures like root canals and fillings are typically covered at 80 percent, although policies with higher premiums cover up to 90 percent. You are then responsible for the remaining 10 to 20 percent of the cost, called coinsurance. Most plans cover higher-priced and more involved procedures at 50 percent, so you should have some savings set aside for what your insurance does not cover. Still, with relatively low premiums, having dental insurance is far less expensive on average than paying cash for all dental procedures.
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 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.
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You may have a preexisting oral health condition that is not covered by your current dental policy. Because discount plans are not insurance, they have no waiting periods. You can sign up today and be at the dentist in 30 minutes. If you’ve reached your annual maximum, you can use a discount plan to pay for a procedure you have been reluctant to get because of the out-of-pocket expense.
Humana group medical plans are offered by Humana Medical Plan, Inc., Humana Employers Health Plan of Georgia, Inc., Humana Health Plan, Inc., Humana Health Benefit Plan of Louisiana, Inc., Humana Health Plan of Ohio, Inc., Humana Health Plans of Puerto Rico, Inc. License # 00235-0008, Humana Wisconsin Health Organization Insurance Corporation, or Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc., or insured by Humana Health Insurance Company of Florida, Inc., Humana Health Plan, Inc., Humana Health Benefit Plan of Louisiana, Inc., Humana Insurance Company, Humana Insurance Company of Kentucky, or Humana Insurance of Puerto Rico, Inc. License # 00187-0009, or administered by Humana Insurance Company or Humana Health Plan, Inc. For Arizona residents, plans are offered by Humana Health Plan, Inc. or insured by Humana Insurance Company. Administered by Humana Insurance Company.