When you near the age of 65, you need to sign up for Medicare. However, Medicare does not cover preventative dental care or other procedures such as fillings, tooth extractions, dentures or other dental devices. If you have a complicated or emergency dental procedure that requires hospitalization, Medicare Part A will likely cover the cost, but it is obviously preferable to avoid hospitalization if you can with regularly-scheduled dental care.
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
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.
You’ll want to go to an in-network dentist as they usually have better, contracted rates. We’ll show an example of that in a minute. Cleaning or preventative care visits are typically covered at 100%. Basic or major services visits are typically covered at 80% and 50%, respectively. What does this mean? If you go to an in-network dentist for a tooth filling (80%) whose contracted rate is $200, you’ll have to pay $40 out of pocket ($200 X (1 – .80)).
Another option for dental care is Medicaid, which covers some kinds of dental procedures if you meet the requirements. Medicare does not provide dental coverage. The ADA Foundation has provided dental care to 5.5 million children since 2003. They will direct you to a dentist that is near you. Another option is the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It provides health coverage including dental coverage to over 7 million children under 19 years of age.
There are many insurance companies that offer dental services to seniors. Many are part of the group of insurance companies that fall under Medicare part C. While every insurance company under Medicare Part C offers the same medical coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B, they sometimes offer additional services such as dental coverage. Even so, the types of dental coverages that they offer are not identical.
1DeltaCare USA is underwritten in these states by these entities: AL — Alpha Dental of Alabama, Inc.; AZ — Alpha Dental of Arizona, Inc.; CA — Delta Dental of California; AR, CO, IA, MA, ME, MI, MN, NC, ND, NE, NH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, VT, WA, WI, WY — Dentegra Insurance Company; AK, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, KS, LA, MS, MT, TN, WV — Delta Dental Insurance Company; HI, ID, IL, IN, KY, MD, MO, NJ, OH, TX — Alpha Dental Programs, Inc.; NV — Alpha Dental of Nevada, Inc.; UT — Alpha Dental of Utah, Inc.; NM — Alpha Dental of New Mexico, Inc.; NY — Delta Dental of New York, Inc.; PA — Delta Dental of Pennsylvania; VA – Delta Dental of Virginia. Delta Dental Insurance Company acts as the DeltaCare USA administrator in all these states. These companies are financially responsible for their own products. The plan is a dental HMO in CA and TX.
Senior citizens across the U.S. are seeking coverage to aid in reducing their dental expenditures. Teeth, like bones, can soften as time passes and grow significantly more susceptible to degeneration and breakage. This can mean that seniors are often in need of more oral care than younger Americans, as they deal with broken teeth, loosened implants, gum problems, or other issues.
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).
Since buying cheap dental insurance will mean that going to the dentist could cost you more, you might also be less likely to go to the dentist or you could put the visit off if you have a problem. This could lead to bigger issues with your dental health which could lead to more expensive procedures and treatment. For example, if you put off treating a cavity, you could end up needing a root canal.