Dental treatments are expensive. A professional teeth cleaning can cost upwards of $500, fillings are around $200 a tooth, and, once you add reconstructions and dentures to the mix, those fees increase substantially.
These high costs are why so many patients avoid going to the dentist, allowing their condition to worsen in the process. That said, dental insurance can cover you and it is just as important for seniors as it is for all other age groups.
What do Dental Insurance Plans Cover?
Most dental insurance plans for seniors will cover the basics. This includes checkups, cleaning, X-rays, and other minor and necessary procedures. If your tooth cracks or chips, you should also be covered for the emergency costs required to fix it.
Your insurance plan may cover you for all the costs involved with these minor procedures, but for more complicated and expensive treatments, that’s rarely the case.
Coverage for treatments, such as root canals, crowns, fillings, and dentures, typically ranges from just 50% to 80%, leaving you to pay the rest yourself. It all comes down to the type of insurance that you purchase. Make sure you thoroughly read and understand your policy before signing.
Can You See Any Dentist?
The majority of dental insurance plans require you to choose from a pre-approved list of dentists. If you do not, you won’t be covered for the treatments provided.
Insurers work closely with dentists to negotiate prices and bring them down as much as possible. That way, when they are required to cover the costs of your treatment, they don’t pay through the nose.
Ask your insurer whether they have such a list. If you want to stick with your own dentist, ask them about any specific insurance plans they offer.
Questions to Ask About Your Dental Plan
Before agreeing to anything, get answers to all of the following questions and make sure you’re choosing the plan that is right for you and your budget:
- Which Treatments are Covered and to What Extent? Find out which treatments will be partially covered, and which will be covered in full. You can judge whether the answer is right for you or not based on your current and anticipated needs.
- What’s the Deductible? Many plans require you to pay a deductible before your insurance takes effect. You may be asked to pay this amount every time you have treatment covered by your insurance, so it’s important to know how much will be out of pocket.
- How Much is Partial Coverage? A lack of complete coverage isn’t always a huge turn off, especially if the partial coverage provides you with nearly 80% of the costs. After all, while dental treatments are expensive, they are considerably more manageable when someone else is footing 80% of the bill.
- Is There a Cap? Does the insurance plan place a cap on how much treatment you can receive during any given year? If so, you’ll need to cover all the extra treatments yourself, which can get very expensive very quickly if you need extensive work.
- Can You Choose Your Dentist? Does the insurer allow you to choose your own dentist or are you required to work from a pre-approved list? If you have established a relationship with a local dentist or don’t have many options in your area, this question is crucial.
- Do You Have a Choice? Are you required to always choose the cheapest option available or are you allowed to climb the pay scale? With some treatments, there is a massive difference between the cheapest option and the most expensive, so it’s important to know whether you’re allowed to choose or not.
- Have you Done Your Research? You don’t have to accept the first offer that you receive. There are many different providers of senior dental plans out there and they all offer something a little different, so do your research, run some comparisons, and see which one works best for you.
- Do You Have the Right Plan? As tempting as it is to cut corners, increase deductibles, and remove coverage, all with the hope of saving a few bucks, it’s very important to ensure you have the right coverage as you age.
- Older adults are more exposed to serious and expensive dental problems and need to be prepared when these arise.
- Did you Read the Small Print? Last but not least, have you read the small print and do you understand what you’re agreeing to?
Does Medicare Cover You for Dental?
Medicare Part A and Part B will not cover you for dental treatments such as fillings, cleanings, crowns, and dentures. There can be exceptions, such as when the treatment follows an accident and a hospital stay, but generally you won’t be covered.
However, you can get cover through some Medicare Part C plans. These plans vary considerably and include numerous different coverage options. Most plans will cover you for routine treatment, but as with traditional insurance plans outlined above, it’s important to do your research and make sure you know what you’re getting into.
You have other options, as well. One of the most affordable is to add yourself to your spouse’s plan. If they have coverage through a group plan, such as those provided by employers, you may be covered for some basic treatment options.
Whatever you do, look into these dental plan options, otherwise, things can get very expensive for you as you get older.
Over 10% of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have no remaining teeth, and many individuals in this age group have lost a substantial number of teeth. They reach a point where it becomes painful to eat or they are forced to change their habits to adapt to their dental problems.
In such cases, expensive treatments are required, ranging from complete reconstruction and dental implants to dentures. Without insurance, these treatments can be crippling.
Look into your options, calculate what you can afford, and stop putting off visits to the dentist because you’re worried about the bill!