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.

The key to keeping your teeth healthy as a senior is properly brushing and flossing your teeth, as well as visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. You want to make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride, according to Colgate. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that fluoride prevents tooth decay and cavities.  It’s also important to floss once a day, says the ADA.


Although discount plans are also sold by private companies, they are not insurance plans. There are no copays, coinsurance, or deductible amounts. That also means that there are no pre-negotiated rates or free yearly checkups and cleanings. A participating dentist simply agrees to offer discounts (often a percentage off from the total price) for certain medical services. Then, seniors who choose discount plans will pay their dentist directly for the cost of services (after the discount).

Almost all dental insurance companies use what is called a Usual, Customary, and Reasonable (UCR) fee guide. This means that they set their own price that they will allow for every dental procedure that they cover. This is not based on what a dentist actually charges, but what the dental insurance company wishes to cover. For example, your dentist may charge $78 for a dental cleaning, but your insurance company will only allow $58 because that is the UCR fee that they have set.
After you are approved and sign up for a plan, you can often use it within 24 hours, but it can sometimes take up to 72 hours for it to go into effect. Some plans offer additional savings on things like prescriptions, hearing care, and vision care. Some plans also include discounts on things like cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics. These plans charge an affordable membership fee that can start as low as $10 per month. In order to get set up, you do have to pay a fee of around $15, but this cost is sometimes offset by giving you a free month on your plan.

Each plan will provide dental coverage for a variety of dental needs, but are not always the same. What they might or might not cover includes dental services such as root canals, deep cleanings, and restorative procedures. When they do cover these services they do so only partially and the senior must either pay out of pocket or have a secondary dental insurance plan. Most plans for seniors pay for routine care, such as an annual cleaning, but require a copayment or co-insurance for other services.
Humana individual dental plans are insured or offered by Humana Insurance Company, HumanaDental Insurance Company, Humana Insurance Company of New York, The Dental Concern, Inc., CompBenefits Insurance Company, CompBenefits Insurance Company, CompBenefits Company, CompBenefits Dental, Inc., Humana Employers Health Plan of Georgia, Inc., Humana Health Benefit Plan of Louisiana, Inc., or DentiCare, Inc. (DBA CompBenefits). Discount plans are offered by HumanaDental Insurance Company, Humana Insurance Company, or Texas Dental Plans, Inc. For Arizona residents: Insured by Humana Insurance Company. For Texas residents: Insured or offered by Humana Insurance Company, HumanaDental Insurance Company, or DentiCare, Inc. (DBA CompBenefits).
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.
Since all dental insurance carriers are different, it is important to clarify which dental procedures fall under each specific category. This is important because some insurance plans don't cover major procedures and others have waiting periods for certain procedures. If you know that you will need major dental work that is not covered by a given plan, you should probably look elsewhere to find one that suits all of your needs.
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.
Surgery to correct an abscessed tooth is usually considered a health issue and medical insurance covers the cost. Procedures to correct trauma to the mouth are considered medical and not dental, even if lost teeth are involved. Our best advice is to talk to both your medical and dental insurance carriers to determine where coverage falls, so you are prepared for out of pocket costs.

Although discount plans are also sold by private companies, they are not insurance plans. There are no copays, coinsurance, or deductible amounts. That also means that there are no pre-negotiated rates or free yearly checkups and cleanings. A participating dentist simply agrees to offer discounts (often a percentage off from the total price) for certain medical services. Then, seniors who choose discount plans will pay their dentist directly for the cost of services (after the discount).
Depending on the type of insurance you’re looking at, the network of your dental insurance provider could be crucially important. Check to see how many dentists they have in their network and if your current dentist is in it or if there is a dentist who has an office near you that you would want to go to. Another thing to consider is whether the insurance provider will let you go see dentists outside their network, what the costs will be, and whether you need a referral when you need to see a specialist.
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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.

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.
Gum Disease. Your gum disease risk increases as you get older. The New York Times notes that in a study of people over 70 years old, 86% had at least moderate gum disease and over a quarter experienced tooth loss. It’s important to properly take care of your teeth, have a healthy diet, reduce stress, and refrain from smoking to reduce your risk of developing gum disease. Systemic diseases and certain medications can also affect the health of your gums.
The cost of not taking care of your oral health could be more. Those without individual dental coverage are less likely to get routine dental care, meaning they seek out a dentist only when they have a problem. By then, more extensive and more expensive measures may be necessary, and major problems linked to poor oral health (like heart disease and diabetes) are more likely to appear.2 Doing nothing now means you might pay more later.
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