I will turn 65 in a few months and will be enrolling in Medicare, but I am concerned about my dental care coverage. Does Medicare cover dental procedures? If it does not, where can I get dental coverage?
Medicare's coverage of dental care is extremely limited. It will not cover routine dental care, including checkups, cleanings or fillings, or pay for dentures.
Medicare will, however, cover some dental services if they are required to protect your general health. Coverage may also be provided if the dental care is required in connection with another health service that is covered by Medicare. For example, if you have cancer and need specific dental services in order to undergo radiation treatment or if you need surgery to treat fractures of the jaw or face, Medicare will pay for these dental services.
Although Medicare's coverage of dental services is limited, there are other ways you can secure affordable care and coverage. Here are several options to consider:
Consider a Medicare Advantage plan: While dental services are mostly excluded under original Medicare, some Medicare Advantage plans do provide coverage for routine dental care. If you are considering joining a Medicare Advantage plan, find out what dental services, if any, the plan covers. Also, remember to make sure any Medicare Advantage plan you are considering covers the doctors and hospitals you prefer to use and the medications you take at a cost you can afford. See Medicare.gov/find-a-plan or call 800-633-4227 to research plans in your area.
Purchase dental insurance: If you have frequent gum problems or need extensive dental care, a dental insurance plan may be worth the cost. Expect to pay monthly premiums of $15 to $40 or more for insurance. To find dental plans in your state, go to NADP.org and use the "find a dental plan" tool.
Consider dental savings plans: While savings plans are not as comprehensive as insurance, they are a good option for those who cannot receive coverage. With a savings plan, you will pay an annual membership fee around $80 to $200 a year in exchange for 10 to 60% discounts on services and treatments from participating dentists. To find a savings plan, go to DentalPlans.com or call 888-632-5353 to search for plans and participating dentists, as well as to get a breakdown of the discounts offered.
Check veterans' benefits: If you are a veteran enrolled in the VA health care program or are a beneficiary of the Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), the VA offers a dental insurance program that provides you the option to buy dental insurance through Delta Dental or MetLife at a reduced cost. The VA also provides free dental care to veterans who have dental problems resulting from service. To learn more about these options, visit VA.gov/dental or call 877-222-8387.
Shop around: There are websites, such as FairHealthConsumer.org and HealthcareBlueBook.com, which allow you look up the costs of different dental procedures in your area so you can comparison shop. In addition, consider asking your regular dentist if he or she offers any discounts.
Try community health centers or dental schools: There are many health centers and clinics that provide low-cost dental care to those in need. In addition, most university dental schools and college dental hygiene programs offer dental care and cleanings for less than half of what you would pay at a dentist's office. Students who are supervised by their professors provide the care. See ToothWisdom.org to search for a center, clinic or school near you.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.