Affordable Dental Care for SeniorsStaying healthy as you get older means being proactive about your dental care. Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover dental and most employers don’t include dental insurance in retirement packages, which means you’ll probably be paying out of pocket for dental care.
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If You Can’t Afford to Pay Anything for DentalIf your budget simply doesn’t allow you to see the dentist, look for free care opportunities in your community. A great place to start is Oral Health America’s “Tooth Wisdom” website. Oral Health America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help seniors get affordable dental care from local dentists, health care clinics and dental schools. Also check out the Dental Lifeline Network, a national charitable organization who helps older people connect with healthcare providers that have pledged to offer seniors low-cost or no-cost dental care. To find out more, visit their website.
Medicare and Dental InsuranceMany seniors are surprised to discover that Medicare does not cover dental, unless dental treatment is specifically required as part of a medical procedure. Even then, Medicare will only cover exactly what you need medically and no more. Medicare does cover:
- Medically required dental exams prior to getting kidney transplant or heart valve replacement procedures.
- Dental treatment as required for a jaw disease or injury (such as a fractured jaw).
- Severe oral infection requiring hospitalization.
- Dental procedures that must be conducted in the hospital due to an existing and life-threatening medical condition.
- A Medigap plan
- A Medicare Advantage plan
- Standard dental insurance
- A dental savings plan
Medigap and Medicare Advantage PlansMedigap is supplementary insurance that covers many of Medicare’s co-pays and co-insurance costs, reducing your out-of-pocket payments. Medigap does not cover dental, but some plans offer dental insurance as an add-on. A “Plan F” Medigap plan, which offers the most extensive coverage, is about $50 per month, and has a deductible of about $2000. Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance plans available to people who qualify for Medicare. These plans must provide all of all of the services that Original Medicare covers, except hospice care, and typically include coverage for issues that Medicare does not cover, such as dental. A Medicare Advantage plan costs about $30 a month. Medicare’s website has detailed information on Medigap and Medicare Advantage coverage. When comparing plans on the Medicare site, you can easily find plans that include dental by looking for a blue-colored circle marked with “D.” (Circles with “V” or “H” indicate plans that offer vision and/or hearing coverage.) You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or log into your MyMedicare account for more information.
Traditional Dental InsuranceDental insurance was designed to save people money on preventive dental care – specifically, regular checkups and cleanings. If your teeth and gums are healthy, and your dental care costs tend to be low ($300-$500 annually) dental insurance is a great option. Most dental insurance plans pay 100% of the cost of preventive care, 50% of the cost of basic care (such as a filling or root canal), and 20% of the cost of restorative care (such as dental bridges or dentures). You can purchase any standalone dental insurance plan that you choose, Medicare doesn’t cover dental so there’s no conflict. Dental insurance costs about $30 a month. But it’s important to remember that dental insurance typically has a deductible of $50-$$75 and an annual spending limit of $1000-$1500. After you exceed the limit, you pay full price out-of-pocket for dental care. Look at the prices below, and you can see that your dental insurance allowance can be exhausted pretty quickly! Average costs of dental care:
- Root canal: $700-$900
- Crown: $1000
- Dental bridge: $500 – $1200+
- Dentures: $1275-$2750 per upper or lower denture plate
- Dental implants: $1,700 per tooth