Pro Tip: To learn which dental procedures Medicare will help pay for, read our guide: Does Medicare Cover Dental?
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It goes without saying that as we age, our bodies require more attention. This is especially true of one facet of our health that we simply can’t afford to overlook: how we care for our teeth. However, Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care, which likely contributes to the nearly ten percent of older adults who don’t maintain their oral health due to costs.
While some people receive dental coverage through retirement plans, Medicare Advantage with dental, or employer-based plans, private insurance offers a surprisingly affordable way to pay for dental care, both routine and specialized. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the broad strokes of dental coverage for older adults, and then highlight three providers offering plan options that can work for seniors based on different needs.
Pro Tip: To learn which dental procedures Medicare will help pay for, read our guide: Does Medicare Cover Dental?
Navigating the dental insurance market can be a bit nerve-racking, not unlike going to the dentist. However, when evaluating plans, here’s how we chose the best options for older adults:
Savings Tip: If saving money is of the utmost concern, then take a look at our rundown of affordable dental insurance for seniors.
|Provider||Plans Offered||Annual Coverage Limit||Waiting Period||Deductible||Monthly Premium Estimate*|
|Cigna||3||$0 to $1,500||Up to 12 Months||$50||$25 to $56|
|Aetna||2||$0 to $1,250||Up to 12 Months||$50||$22.64 to $62.95|
|Delta||3||$1,250 to Unlimited||Up to 12 Months||Up to $90||$8.92 to $64.92|
|Humana||5||$1,000 to Unlimited||Up to 6 Months||$50 to $150||$21.99 to $59.99|
|UnitedHealthcare||4||$1,000 to $2,000||0 to 6 Months||$50 to $100||$51.89 to $76.80|
*Premium estimates are for a 65-year-old man living in California.
Cigna dental insurance for seniors offers three different plan options: Dental Preventive, Dental 1000, and Dental 1500, with the lowest estimated premium prices for those 65 and older starting at about $25 per month. Overall, they’re an excellent option for those seeking basic and preventive care.
|Cigna Dental Preventive||Cigna Dental 1000||Cigna Dental 1500|
Finding a Dentist: Cigna has a national pool of more than 93,000 in-network dentists to choose from, which can be easily searched on their website. Cigna also offers a “Brighter Score” tool, which rates practitioners on their affordability and patient experience rating.
Making a Claim: With Cigna, your in-network dentist can file claims for you, and online claims management and dedicated apps make it easy to track claims status.
Out-of-Network Coverage: Like most dental insurance plans, out-of-network coverage is available with Cigna, but prices will be higher for that care.
Restrictions: Certain restrictions exist for all of the plans. For example, the Preventive plan covers routine preventive care but nothing else. It’s best to consult the individual plans for a more detailed explanation of restrictions.
Waiting Periods: If you had consistent dental coverage for 12 months preceding Cigna care, you’ll be exempt from waiting periods. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait six months for basic procedures and 12 months for major ones such as crowns or root canals.
Cigna has something to offer for someone at every level of coverage, from those looking for basic preventive care to more advanced procedures. With an easy-to-navigate suite of services, a relatively large provider network, and low costs, they are among the best options available for dental insurance.
Aetna dental insurance for seniors offers three different plans to choose from. Aetna Direct Core PPO comes with lower premiums, and Direct Preferred PPO provides more favorable splits in payment for basic procedures like fillings and extractions. They also have Direct Preventive, which only covers the costs of preventive dental care.
|Aetna Direct Preventive||Aetna Direct Core||Aetna Direct Preferred|
Finding a Dentist: The Aetna portal is intuitive, allowing members to search from nearly 372,000 practitioners by specialty, area, and the number of miles they’re willing to travel.
Making a Claim: As an industry leader in health insurance, Aetna’s claims and customer service process is one of the best in the business, with a suite of tech tools and apps to help track your claims.
Out-of-Network Coverage: Aetna supports out-of-network coverage, but choosing an out-of-network provider will likely be more expensive as their costs don’t qualify under Aetna’s negotiated prices.
Restrictions: There are several procedures not covered by Aetna, so it’s best to consult their full list of restrictions. Also, it’s important to note that Aetna insurance is unavailable in Massachusetts.
Waiting Periods: If you’ve had insurance within 90 days of switching to Aetna, they will waive the waiting periods for coverage of basic and major procedures. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait six months for basic procedures and 12 months for major procedures.
Aetna’s strengths are its ease of use and the size of its network. With intuitive online portals, helpful customer service, and a pool of nearly 400,000 practitioners to draw from, Aetna is one of the best dental insurance providers around.
Delta Dental is the largest dental insurance provider in the U.S. – mainly because of its partnership with AARP – with a customer base exceeding 80 million Americans. Because of their relationship with AARP, Delta Dental offers specific services geared toward seniors, unlike most dental insurance providers. Let’s break down some of Delta’s offerings.
|DeltaCare USA CAA54||Delta Dental PPO Basic||Delta Dental PPO Premium|
Finding a Dentist: Delta Dental has an easy-to-use online portal to search for dentists in your area based on the dental insurance plan you have. You can even filter results based on specialty.
Making a Claim: The claims process for in-network care is handled by the practitioner, while out-of-network claims may need to be filed separately.
Out-of-Network Coverage: Delta Dental’s PPO plans don’t overcharge customers who receive out-of-network care, but prices will still be higher. DeltaCare USA is an HMO-style plan predicated on a customer receiving care from a dedicated primary care dentist, with little flexibility for out-of-network care.
Restrictions: Restrictions for Delta Dental are mostly limited to waiting periods, after which specific procedures are available. Additionally, their Basic PPO offers no coverage for major procedures. DeltaCare USA works primarily off itemized copays for specific procedures, which offer fixed costs on everything from cleanings to orthodontics.
Waiting Periods: Delta Dental requires no waiting periods for preventive care on any of their plans. Basic and major procedures require a six-month waiting period before coverage kicks in.
Humana dental insurance for seniors offers four different dental plans, with options for preventive care, vision coverage, and lifetime deductibles. With a nationwide network of over 270,000 dentists, they make it easy to find affordable care that works with their dental policies. Here’s a closer look at each of their plans.
|Humana Preventive Value||Humana Bright Plus||Humana Loyalty Plus||Humana Complete Dental|
Finding a Dentist: To find dental care with Humana, you can use their online “Find a Dentist” tool. Here you’ll be able to enter your ZIP code and find nearby dentists and other dental care professionals in their network.
Making a Claim: Submitting claims with Humana can be done either online or via traditional mail. In our experience, the electronic claims process is quick and simple, as long as you include all necessary National Provider Identifiers (NPIs) on your claim.
Out-of-Network Coverage: All four of Humana’s dental plans are PPOs, meaning you can use your coverage with any dentist; however, seeing an in-network dentist will result in discounts of about 30 percent.
Restrictions: Several of Humana’s plans have coinsurance that decreases the amount you pay in successive years. For example, with their Loyalty Plus policy, you’ll pay 60 percent of the cost of fillings in the initial year of your policy. This lowers to 45 and then 30 percent after the second and third years.
Waiting Periods: With Humana, waiting periods vary with each plan. Complete Dental requires a six-month waiting period on basic procedures and a 12-month period for major procedures. Loyalty Plus, however, has no waiting periods.
UnitedHealthcare dental insurance for seniors comes in the form of four different plans. Each plan comes with minimal waiting periods, hearing health benefits, and comprehensive coverage of preventive care. Currently, this provider can cover you in 44 states.
|Saver Dental||Basic Dental||Plus Dental||Deluxe Dental|
Finding a Dentist: To find an in-network dentist with UnitedHealthcare, you can use their online “Find a Doctor” tool.
Making a Claim: To make a claim with UnitedHealthcare, you can either file it through mail or through their online claims manager.
Out-of-Network Coverage: UnitedHealthcare’s dental plans are PPOs, which means you’ll be able to use any dental provider. However, you’ll save the most money by using an in-network dentist.
Restrictions: The main restriction with UnitedHealthcare is their scaled waiting periods. While you won’t need to wait for most services, coverage will increase over time. For example, with their Deluxe Dental plan, basic procedures will be covered 50 percent from day one; however, this increases to 65 and 80 percent after years one and two of your policy.
Waiting Periods: One of the best aspects of UnitedHealthcare dental is their immediate coverage. All of their plans have no waiting periods for preventive care, and some have no waiting periods for basic procedures. The most you’ll ever have to wait is six months for major procedures.
Oftentimes when we think of our teeth, it’s aesthetically (how they look), functionally (how they help us eat), or physically (if they’re causing us pain). However, we may be failing to realize how they’re affecting our overall health. Our mouths are significant sources of bacteria – which generally work on our behalf, depending on which kind. Our mouths are also the entry point for our digestive and respiratory systems. This means that infections from untreated dental and oral maladies can have wide-reaching implications for our bodies.
Think of dental insurance as you would standard health insurance: your chosen plan has a list of benefits, a provider network, copays, other out-of-pocket costs, and monthly premiums. Every dental insurance plan will have some sort of listed services that they cover. For example, routine checkups and cleanings may be generally covered, while higher-level procedures like root canals, fillings, extractions, and other care like dentures (prosthodontics) may be covered as part of a split between out-of-pocket and insurance-covered expenses. The split can be 50/50, 80/20, and so on, depending on the type of plan you select. Some dental plans even bundle vision insurance together to provide all the supplemental coverage you may need beyond your health insurance.
Another facet of dental insurance for seniors is what’s known as dental discount cards or savings plans. These cards are supplemental to dental insurance and not a replacement; instead, a cardholder will pay an annual fee instead of a monthly premium. A discount plan holder will receive special discounts and reduced prices on select procedures outlined in the plan.
While dental discount plans aren’t insurance, they could be a cheaper option for those who can’t afford insurance and instead pay for all dental work out of pocket. Discount plans, like insurance, give customers a limited list of providers to choose from. Practitioners who participate in the dental discount plan have agreed to the reduced pricing structure associated with the card. These discount plans are not insurance, and payment for dental procedures is given directly to dentists.
The five dental insurance providers we’ve highlighted are just a sampling of what’s available. Regardless of which one you choose, it’s important to remember that good dental health can save you from a host of more serious health risks. The dental insurance market can be difficult to navigate, but hopefully, with a little research, you’ll be showing your loved ones your pearly whites long into your golden years.
While AARP doesn’t issue or administer dental insurance themselves, they have a partnership with Delta Dental that offers multiple plans for seniors at a discounted rate for AARP members.
While some plans can be extremely expensive, there are affordable dental insurance options available to seniors that can catch potential health risks before they become serious. Dental health is an important aspect of overall physical health, and seniors who neglect it later in life can suffer from a number of related health risks.
Like most insurance, dental insurance is worth it if you use it. For younger people with healthy teeth, it may be more cost-effective to pay for dental care out-of-pocket because treatments are typically inexpensive and infrequent. However seniors, and those requiring more expansive dental care, may require procedures that can become quite expensive when not defrayed by insurance.
Since aging adults are more likely to need dentures, crowns, and root canals, we strongly suggest they consider dental insurance, as Medicare offers next to nothing in terms of dental care.
There’s no nationwide program for free dental treatment at any age. However, some local organizations (such as dental schools) offer free or discounted services to community members.
Medicare does not cover most dental procedures and routine care, so regardless of age, you will not receive free dental care.