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.
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
Dental insurance plans typically cost more than discount plans, but they make actual plan payments to dental providers. Dental insurance plans usually have an annual benefit maximum of $1000 up to $3000 per year that can be paid out depending on the plan. Though insured dental plans may cost more than discount plans they may be a better solution if you need more dental care or have been accustomed to using dental insurance plans before.

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.


Estimating your possible dental costs may help you decide whether dental insurance would be financially beneficial. Dental insurance companies will show you a quote online so you can easily see what your premiums might be. You may want to compare your estimated yearly premiums to the cost of a year of procedures you want to have done. You can estimate how much your dental expenses might be either by talking with your dentist, or by researching costs online. You can use the estimates to help you decide whether you should pay out of pocket or plan your dental expenses based on your insurance coverage. Two resources for looking up procedure costs are The Fair Health Consumer Organization and the Guardian Insurance website. Estimated costs are sorted by zip code and will show a low and high rate so you can see a range of what a procedure may cost in your area.
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.
For freedom of choice, there are a few types of plans to consider including PPO dental plans and Indemnity plans. PPO dental plans generally allow members to see any dentist, but they also include a listing of In Network dentists. With PPO’s you typically get more value if you see an In Network provider, but you can still choose to see an Out of Network provider too. Though Out of Network providers can bill for additional charges if they wish.
If you are on a policy that requires you to go to a participating provider, you should not be charged the difference between these two prices. A contracted dentist generally has an agreement with the insurance company to write off the difference in charges. If the policy allows you to go to a dentist or pediatric dentist of your choice, check the insurance company’s UCR fee guide against the fees that dentist charges. You may be required to pay the difference out of your pocket, however, you cannot put a price tag on quality dental care.
If you're struggling to find an affordable dental insurance, your state might offer some programs that could help you. Many states have assistance programs for those who are unable to pay for dental care themselves. To find out whether your state has a program, visit the National Association of Dental and Cranialfacial Research, as well as the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors. Their websites have links and information about how to get low-cost dental care in your state.
Blue Cross Blue Shield has a plan called BlueCare that does not have a waiting period for preventative services and many non-surgical procedures. United Healthcare's United Health One is another. Major surgical treatments and restorative work do require some wait time, though that can be curtailed to some extent if you're coming off another dental plan.
If you are changing insurance and want to continue with your current dentist, you can visit the websites of insurance companies you are thinking about signing up with and search to see if your dentist accepts the new type of insurance. However, sometimes these search results aren't updated or only show offices seeking new patients, so you'll want to verify by calling your dental office.
While we conducted extensive research, we cannot tell you exactly what your new dental plan premium will be or what it will cover. Premiums vary by zip code, age, plan type and other factors. Our reviews can tell you generally what to expect from the dental insurance companies we reviewed, but we cannot predict your exact situation. To calculate average premiums we gathered quotes from numerous areas across the nation; we chose zip codes from large metropolitan areas and from smaller cities of around 150K. We looked for premium rates for one, two and three persons. We made note of the lowest and highest premiums quoted and excluded dental discount plans and preventive-only plans. The sample terms and conditions are common scenarios, but again, these vary depending on the plans available in your area.
If you go to an out-of-network dentist, then the plan usually pays based on the UCR fee. For example, if the dentist charges $250 for the filling, but the UCR in your area is $150, you could end up paying more. In this case, $130 ($250 – $150 X (.80)). This also introduces the concept of balanced billing, which means paying the dentist the cost difference between their rate ($250 in this case) and the cost-sharing rate ($120).
For freedom of choice, there are a few types of plans to consider including PPO dental plans and Indemnity plans. PPO dental plans generally allow members to see any dentist, but they also include a listing of In Network dentists. With PPO’s you typically get more value if you see an In Network provider, but you can still choose to see an Out of Network provider too. Though Out of Network providers can bill for additional charges if they wish.
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.
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.
There are few procedures that most insurance companies will not cover or only provide a discount for. Most individual dental insurance plans do not cover what might be considered cosmetic procedures such as tooth-colored fillings on molar or bicuspid teeth, dental implants or adult cosmetic orthodontics. The majority of dental companies will also limit how often certain appliances can be replaced and, in most cases, will not replace lost items. The limitations are published in the disclosures and contracts for the plan, many of which you can peruse online. Keep in mind that a new dental insurance plan is not going to cover an emergency you are experiencing right now; most have a waiting period of six to 12 months for major work. (However, some will waive the waiting period if you recently had dental insurance.) Dental groups that offer dental discount plans will let you use your benefits right away, but they only provide a discount and not full coverage. Full coverage plans will however cover your initial evaluation so you can start planning your dental procedures.
Different companies provide various percentages of coverage in these areas. For example, one insurance provider might cover 100% of the cost of Class I services while another might only cover 80%. Yet another plan might not provide Class IV or orthodontic coverage, but provide coverage in all other areas. It’s important that you understand what services are covered before signing up for a plan.

The longer you stay with Spirit Dental, more each plan pays out and the higher your savings. For example, with one plan’s basic dental procedures are covered at 65 percent the first year, 80 percent the second year and 90 percent the third year. Major procedures on that plan follow the same timeline at 25 to 65 percent coverage. All plans cover preventative care at 100 percent. You can bundle EyeMed vision insurance for $7 per month with each plan.
Once you purchase a dental insurance plan and start paying your premiums, most preventive care like cleanings and check-ups are covered immediately. For more serious procedures, after you meet your deductible, you’ll only be responsible to pay your percentage of the cost. And we’ll pay the rest. Also, some dental plans have an out-of-pocket maximum to protect you from high costs throughout the year. On some plans, if you reach this maximum, we’ll pay the full cost of any additional care until your annual maximum benefit is met. 
More sensitive teeth. Your teeth can become more and more sensitive as you age due to the natural gum receding process. As your gums recede, they expose sensitive areas of your teeth that aren’t protected by enamel. Extreme temperatures may cause more pain and discomfort in these areas. Using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth should help. If your sensitive teeth continue to be a problem, you should visit your dentist, as your problem may be more serious.
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.
*The plan is insured by Delta Dental Insurance Company (Contract 1230) in AK, AL, DC, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, MT, NV, NY, PA, PR, TN, TX, UT, VI and WV, insured by Dentegra Insurance Company (Contract 1230) in AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, VA, VT, WA, WI and WY, and insured by Dentegra Insurance Company of New England (Contract 1230) in MA. The plan is administered by Delta Dental Insurance Company. For Texas residents your Master Policy Form number is TX-AMD-MC-DPO-D-DC(DELTAUSA1-2005). These companies are financially responsible for their own products.
Our dental insurance plans include options to see ANY DENTIST YOU LIKE or choose from 400,000 + access points nationally. The dentists and dental providers in the network dental insurance plans have agreed to provide discounts to our plan members for the same quality treatments and procedures that they provide to non-members. When you visit the dentist, you pay the discounted price and save!
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