Generally Original Medicare dental coverage is only for limited circumstances involving hospitalization. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) generally doesn’t cover most dental care, including cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, and dental plates. Hospital insurance (Part A) may pay for emergency or complicated dental procedures, for example the reconstruction of the jaw following an accidental injury, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS). According to CMS, Congress has not amended the dental exclusion since 1980, when it made an exception for inpatient hospital services when the dental procedure itself made the hospitalization necessary. If you have Original Medicare and want routine dental care, you will generally need to find a plan from a private insurance company.

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.

When shopping for the best dental plans for seniors, you should consider what services and treatments you might need, the costs of the plan, and what the plan covers. The dental needs of seniors could depend on the condition of their current teeth and their dental history. For example, if you already have full dentures, you may be more concerned about getting checked for oral cancer than in cavity treatment or bridges.
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.
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.
One example of a plan that is offered through eHealth is the Dominion Dental Services PPO Discount plan which has no deductible. They provide 100% coverage on most preventative and diagnostic procedures and 45% to 60% coverage on all other procedures including children’s orthodontics. They have no maximum annual benefit and they have no waiting period for things like cleaning, extractions, x-rays, and oral surgery but they have waiting periods but you have to use a dentist within their network.
Discount dental plans are not insurance. However they provide a low cost alternative to dental insurance plans. Dental discount plans have a small monthly fee that allows you to receive substantial discounts for procedures with the plans’ In Network dental providers. With discount plans, you only pay the specific discounted amount for the procedures you have. These discounts can be 40-50% off typical retail costs for services. If the cost of care is a significant factor you may want to consider a discount dental plan with a carrier like Careington dental.
One of their popular plans is the My Dental Plan that allows you to customize your plan for what you need. It has a $50 deductible per person. You can customize the plan for either one or two cleanings per year and choose to have preventative care covered at 80% or 100%. When it comes to basic care, they offer the choice of 50% coverage and 80% coverage. For major car, they cover either 50% or 0% depending on the plan you choose. Their annual maximums are either $500, $1,000, or $1,500.
First, you could enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Many Medicare Advantage plans include vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage. All of these benefits are coordinated together, so any premium costs will be included in your low (or non-existent) Medicare Advantage premium. Just be aware that dental benefits are usually limited to cleanings, exams, and bitewing X-rays. If you are looking for more comprehensive coverage, you may want to add on a stand-alone dental plan.
For the most part, Medicare does not cover dental services with the exception of those services that are required due to another covered medical issue. There are exceptions but seniors should not expect Medicare to cover routine dental care or services such as cleaning, extractions, dentures, or even fillings. If you have an alternative insurance to Medicare B then that policy might cover dental, but again, that only works in certain circumstances, such as if you are not yet retired even though you are age 62 or older.

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.
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.
AARP, Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, and Delta Dental are a few of the many insurance companies that offer dental plans to seniors. Each company may offer more than one type of dental plan and it is important to pay close attention to more than just the cost of the dental policy. Choosing the best dental plan for a senior is a balancing act between cost, affordability, and need. A good approach is to start by understanding what the senior’s dental needs are and then make a table so that as you begin to compare the different dental plans you can narrow down those plans that are good and remove those plans that are either too costly for the coverage they provide or that do not fit the senior’s dental needs.
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.
This information is provided by Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. (Ameritas Life). This provides a very brief description of some of the important features of this insurance policy. It is not the insurance policy and does not represent it. A full explanation of benefits, exceptions and limitations is contained in the Individual Dental Policy Form Indiv. 9000 Rev. 07-16 and Vision Policy Form Indiv. 9000 Ed. 07-16-V. Premium rates may change upon renewal. This policy is renewable at the option of the insured. This product may not be available in all states and is subject to individual state regulations.

In either case, in our opinion, the purchase of dental insurance can be hard if you don’t do your homework. Why? The premiums aren’t in favor of the benefit. For example, if you are paying $100 per month for dental insurance which has an annual benefit of $1,000, that really isn’t in your best interest. You are paying $1,200 annually for a $1,000 benefit. In this case, it is better to simply negotiate a discount with the dentist or utilize a dental discount plan where appropriate (more on that below).
The term “full coverage” can mean different things to different people. For some, “full coverage” means a dental insurance plan that covers basic services like routine checkups, cleaning and X-rays. Others expect a full-coverage plan to reduce the cost of any dental services they may need. The good news is that Humana has a range of dental plans, including both dental insurance and dental discount plans, so you can find the coverage that best fits your needs.
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