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.
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.

Savings plans are NOT insurance and the savings will vary by provider, plan and zip code. These plans are not considered to be qualified health plans under the Affordable Care Act. Please consult with the respective plan detail page for additional plan terms. The discounts are available through participating healthcare providers only. To check that your provider participates, visit our website or call us. Since there is no paperwork or reimbursement, you must pay for the service at the time it’s provided. You will receive the discount off the provider’s usual and customary fees when you pay. We encourage you to check with your participating provider prior to beginning treatment.


How you define “cost” is important. Generally a single plate – upper or lower- costs between $1,200 and $3,800. So, for a full set of dentures could cost in the $7,500 range. Those higher costs usually include other services such as extractions, mold production, and fittings. Again, the actual cost is dependent upon the senior’s oral health, and the amount of service needed. Don’t be afraid to shop around from one dentist to the next to see if there is a price break.
Another kind of dental insurance plan is a DPPO which is similar to a health insurance PPO plan. What they do is they work out lower rates with dentists that are in their network who are often referred to as their preferred providers. With this plan, you can visit a dentist outside of your network, but you will not be able to get these low rates and you will likely end up paying more. Many DPPOs provide coverage of preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures, but they only provide a percentage of this care for each.
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.

© Delta Dental.This website is the home of Delta Dental of California; Delta Dental Insurance Company; Delta Dental of Pennsylvania; Delta Dental of New York, Inc.; Delta Dental of the District of Columbia; Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc.; Delta Dental of West Virginia, Inc. and their affiliated companies. For other Delta Dental Plans Association member companies, visit the Delta Dental Plans Association website. Delta Dental is a registered mark of Delta Dental Plans Association.
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.
If you are a senior or are approaching retirement, you may be surprised to find out that Medicare does not provide coverage for routine dental care. Medicare mainly covers medical treatments, but does not provide any assistance for routine dental care such as bi-annual exams, cleanings, or even major services like bridges or dentures. This leaves it to seniors to search for a dental plan that can meet their coverage needs.
The best way to take care of your teeth is proper maintenance, and Dental Select’s senior dental plans cover 100% of preventative costs. This includes two professional cleanings each year, as well as exams and x-rays. Most of the costs of basic procedures are covered as well, such as fillings, dentures, and even oral surgery. Better yet, there are no waiting periods, meaning that your plan is effective on the first day of the month following your enrollment.
The best way to take care of your teeth is proper maintenance, and Dental Select’s senior dental plans cover 100% of preventative costs. This includes two professional cleanings each year, as well as exams and x-rays. Most of the costs of basic procedures are covered as well, such as fillings, dentures, and even oral surgery. Better yet, there are no waiting periods, meaning that your plan is effective on the first day of the month following your enrollment.
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.
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.
Dental plans will usually cover a portion of your costs on different types of dental procedures. Some plans focus more on preventative and basic dental care, but offer less coverage on major dental procedures. It's important to understand what's best for your dental health. If you routinely need a root canal or get cavities, you'll want a plan that provides better coverage on those types of procedures. In contrast, if you have relatively healthy teeth then you might not need to pay for the extra coverage.
Your Current Dental Health – Do you have pending dental needs, such as needing dentures, extractions, crown replacement, etc? This is all about the state of your mouth, teeth, and oral tissue today and for the next six months. That time frame is important because many dental insurance policies have a waiting period before you can use their benefits. For most, that period is six months.
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.

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.


The Mayo Clinic advises that poor dental health significantly impacts your physical health, including causing heart disease and endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining. Diseases which often affect us as we age like osteoporosis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few, frequently cause dental problems that eventually become too painful to ignore. Seniors often need more dental care than younger generations because of softening bones and teeth or a dry mouth, which can lead to an assortment of oral health problems. Regular visits to the dentist can save money down the road while reducing the risk of painful dental problems.
“Humana” is the brand name for plans, products, and services provided by one or more of the subsidiaries and affiliate companies of Humana Inc. (“Humana Entities”). Plans, products, and services are solely and only provided by one or more Humana Entities specified on the plan, product, or service contract, not Humana Inc. Not all plans, products, and services are available in each state.
×