Dental care is important at every age. So you may be surprised to learn that Medicare dental plans doesn’t cover most dental care for those eligible.
And some Medicare Advantage Plans can leave expensive gaps in coverage. A dental insurance plan can help reduce overall costs. Start with our guide to find the best dental insurance if you’re a senior.
The Best Senior Dental Plans
- Best Overall for Seniors: Smart Health Dental
- Most Affordable: Dentalinsurance.com
- Best for Claims: Careington
- Best Customer Service: Ameritas
- Best for Plan Options: DentalPlans.com
Dental Insurance for Seniors: Overview
It’s likely you left your medical and dental coverage behind when you left the workforce. Medicare is available for most seniors at age 65, but most dental care and dental procedures, like cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions or dentures aren’t covered by Medicare Part A or B.
There may be some rare exceptions in cases where other medical needs overlap with dental care. Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage Plans, may cover some dental care needs but benefits vary by insurer.
A dental insurance or dental savings plan with defined benefits can help you secure dental coverage no matter your age.
Types of Coverage Offered
Dental insurance and dental discount plans can both offer you coverage for dental service. Dental savings plans aren’t insurance, but the plans can manage your dental care costs with discounts on dental care. Some dental discount plans even offer free cleanings and free check-ups.
Dental insurance has its limitations but can still be a money-saving move. The biggest limitation is the annual maximum.
For health insurance, the annual maximum refers to your out-of-pocket costs. The annual maximum cost refers to the maximum amount the insurer will pay each year. Often the annual maximum is capped between $1,000 and $2,000.
It’s common for dental insurance plans to enforce a waiting period for some types of dental care. You often can’t purchase dental insurance on Tuesday because you have a toothache and then get a filling on Wednesday. You may have to wait up to 6 months for your coverage to pay for the filling. Other procedures may require an 18-month waiting period.
Most plans include routine care, like check-ups and cleanings at no charge or with a minimal cost to you. Coverage amounts can vary, and some plans exclude some procedures altogether. You’ll find the following dental procedures covered by many dental insurance plans:
- Preventive care
- Root canals
- Tooth extractions
- Prosthodontics (dentures)
Most dental insurance plans use a 100-80-50 coverage structure. This means the plan covers 100% of basic services like cleanings, 80% of the cost of basic procedures, like fillings and 50% of major procedures like crowns, oral surgery or extractions.
The remainder of the cost for partially-covered procedures is paid by the patient as well as any costs that exceed the annual maximum.
Average Cost of Dental Insurance
Your monthly cost can range from $10 per month up to $60 per month depending on the plan you choose. A cost of around $30 per month is common. Your age, the number of people covered and the type of plan you choose are all factors in the cost of coverage.
For dental insurance plans, you may have the option between:
- Preferred provider organization (PPO). This plan type gives you more freedom to choose your dentist.
- Health management organization (HMO). HMOs use specific dental care providers to help keep coverage costs low.
- Exclusive provider organization (EPO). These plans have fewer restrictions than an HMO and still offers cost savings when compared to a PPO.
Dental discount plans often cost between $10 to $20 per month for individual coverage. This option offers discounts on dental procedures ranging from 10% up to 60%, depending on the service performed.
An annual commitment is often required for both dental insurance plans and dental discount plans. An annual deductible can also apply for some plans.
How to Get Covered
Getting started with a dental insurance plan or a dental discount plan is easy. In some cases, you may be eligible for subsidies when purchasing dental insurance if your income is less than or equal to 400% of the federal poverty level. If this is the case, be sure to check your options on the Marketplace or your state’s healthcare portal.
The biggest hurdle is the waiting periods that are common for many procedures. Generally, you can expect nearly immediate coverage for basics like exams or cleanings. And some insurers specifically exclude coverage for some preexisting conditions.
In most cases, you can apply online and have a policy almost immediately. Some plans may have a short waiting period before the policy is effective.
You can purchase dental insurance at any time without date restrictions. Getting covered is the easy part. If you choose a plan that requires referrals or limits the coverage to in-network providers, that’s when your plan may require a bit more work.
What to Look for in a Company
Choosing the best dental insurance company and plan for you depends on your priorities, but here are some common considerations that can affect most people buying dental coverage:
- Network size or dentists included in the plan. If you have a favorite dentist, consider plans that include your dentist. Network size can also be a consideration because a larger network often provides more local choices for dental care.
- Affordable premiums. It’s possible to spend up to $80 per month or more for dental insurance. Learn what’s covered by the plan before buying. It’s possible that similar benefits are available from another plan with lower overall costs.
- Annual maximum. The annual maximum is the most your plan will pay for your coverage in a year. With low maximums, it can be easy to use all your coverage with a single procedure such as a crown. Higher maximums are generally better.
- Network type. Whether you opt for a PPO, HMO or EPO, the type of plan you choose can make a difference in how convenient your plan is to use and the monthly cost involved. HMOs are less expensive but limit coverage to in-network dentists. PPOs provide the most freedom in choosing dentists but tend to cost a bit more.
The Best Dental Insurance for Seniors
Dental insurance options for seniors parallel many of the options available for other adults. However, overall costs and out-of-pocket costs can be a bigger consideration if you have a fixed income or are concerned about making retirement savings last.
1. Best Overall: Smart Health Dental
Smart Health Dental (SHD) offers multiple dental insurance and noninsurance plan options. It has an extensive national network of more than 200,000 licensed dental providers.
Seniors have a choice between preventive and comprehensive coverage. The preventive PPO plan offers coverage for most routine procedures like cleanings, check-ups and x-rays.
There are no deductibles or waiting periods. Annual maximum coverage for preventive is $750.
The comprehensive coverage will get you coverage for major procedures, including bridges, implants and dentures. The maximum benefit starts at $750 and increases to $1,250 by year 3. Your also benefits increase from 80% to 100%.
Contact SHD for details and a complete quote. Service is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. Call 866-260-2402.
You can comparison shop and apply for dental insurance and discount dental plans online with Dentalinsurance.com.
Enter your ZIP code to find the plans available in your area. Dentalinsurance.com offer a range of dental plans. Choose from DMHO (dental health maintenance organization), PPO (preferred provider organization) indemnity plans or dental discount plans.
The site also provides education on how to care for your teeth and the ins-and-outs of how dental plans work. Enter your email to subscribe for oral health tips and news.
It’s easy to get started online, but you can also call customer service at 800-296-3800. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.
Careington Dental Insurance isn’t technically insurance — it’s a dental savings plan.
Enroll in a plan to access to dental care from participating providers at a reduced cost. You’ll find a large network of participating dentists, immediate coverage and no age limits.
Savings plans start at $8.95 per month and the most expensive is $12.95 per month. The most common Careington plan is the 500 Dental Savings Plan. This plan includes:
- 20% to 60% savings on routine dental procedures
- 20% off orthodontics such as braces
- Access to eDocAmerica, a free unlimited service to contact a dentists
Careington offers a customer service line at 800-290-0523 weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST.
Plan availability can vary but in many areas, you might find as many as 8 dental insurance plans from Ameritas, ranging from under $30 per month up to $60 per month.
Lower-level plans still provide standard coverage for preventive, basic and major services. These plans follow the 100-80-50 coverage percentage formula. The best savings are found with in-network services and annual maximum benefits range as high as $2,000.
While not a dental insurance provider, DentalPlans is a leading online portal for choosing dental discount plans. In most areas, expect to find a wide choice of plans available with discounts ranging from 10% up to 60% for most dental services.
Prices for preventive care range from free to about $20 per visit, depending on the plan you choose. The variety of plans available ensures that you’ll find plans that support several great dentists in your area.
With a dental discount plan, you pay a fixed (discounted) price for each service. A processing fee may apply when purchasing your plan.
Choose the Best Dental Insurance for You
Plan availability can vary by area — particularly with less-expensive HMO plans. Check plans available near you with our ZIP code search tool.
A traditional dental insurance or alternative dental savings plan can help you save on your dental care. Contact our recommended providers to learn more and find a dental plan today.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Q: How does dental insurance work?
A dental insurance plan charges a premium in exchange for covered benefits. Unlike health insurance plans, dental insurance plans usually have a cap on benefits, which means your plan may stop providing coverage once you reach the annual cap, often between 1k and 3K. Like other types of healthcare insurance, dental insurance focuses coverage on essential services, like cleanings, fillings, etc. Many plans don’t cover braces or elective cosmetic procedures. Get the cheapest premium here.
2) Q: Is dental coverage part of health insurance?
Some health insurance plans bundle dental coverage as well but, in many cases, dental insurance is a separate plan. Healthcare plans that are ACA-compliant are required to offer dental coverage to children but there is no requirement that adults have dental insurance coverage. Choosing a separate dental insurance plan can be a cost-saving step and helps make dental health costs more predictable. Check out our best providers for the cheapest rate.
3) Q: What kinds of dental insurance are available?
Your choices for dental insurance plans are similar to health insurance choices. You can choose from a dental HMO, which helps to keep premium costs low by keeping services within controlled network. Dental PPOs give more freedom to choose your dentist and care but cost more than HMO plans. A third option is called a dental indemnity plan, which pays a fixed amount or percentage for covered services. Compare quotes from our top providers for the best price.
Ready for a new smile that's affordable and convenient? It's easy with SmileDirectClub's custom smile plan. Just visit a SmileShop for an in-person scan or use SmileDirectClub's at-home kit to create impressions for easy-to-wear aligners. Not sure you'll be able to use your insurance to help pay for SmileDirectClub? You don't have to! SmileDirectClub's clear aligners are also covered by HSA, FSA and CareCredit. SmileDirectClub is in network with UnitedHealthCare and Aetna and it can also check for eligibility at Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Delta Dental, Humana, MetLife and more.