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.
This is more affordable than dental insurance and there are over 5,400 dentists currently in the Carrington network. The Carrington plan provides a discount that’s usually over 50% on preventative and routine procedures with smaller discounts on other types of procedures. The price for treatment will vary from state to state and affect the percentage of your discount, but some examples of discounts include 51% off a routine check up, 51% off the extraction of a tooth, 50% off a dental cleaning, and just 20% off adolescent braces.
I could have paid the average of $360 a year for a dental policy in my twenties. Or I could have paid out of pocket for two dental exams, including cleanings and X-rays, which, in 2011, cost an average of $370 combined. In that case dental insurance wouldn’t have saved me much money. And if I went to a dental school or clinic for treatment, I could have saved even more on out-of-pocket costs.
People buying their own dental insurance (as opposed to those covered by an employer's plan) sometimes get a nasty surprise when they sign up: a waiting period. Unlike regular health insurance, in which coverage usually starts immediately or at the beginning of the next month, dental plans often come with a delay between enrollment and the actual onset of coverage for some or all services. It could be six months to a year or more.
More than 90 percent of dental insurance policies carry a “missing tooth clause” or a “replacement clause.” Many include at least one of these clauses, but most have both. A missing tooth clause protects the insurance company from paying for the replacement of a tooth that was missing before the policy was in effect. For example, if you lost a tooth before your coverage started and later decided that you would like to have a partial, bridge or implant, the insurance company would not have to pay for that service if they have a missing tooth clause in the plan. A replacement clause is similar except that the insurance company won’t pay to replace procedures such as dentures, partials or bridges until the specified time limit has passed.