5 Things You Should Know about Dental Health and Medicare

Beyond preventive services, members usually have to pay a larger portion of the cost for crowns, dentures, extractions, implants, root canals and treatments for gum disease. The most common coinsurance amount that KFF found was 50 percent for more extensive services. Cost sharing ranged from 20 percent to 70 percent in the plans studied.

Coverage caps averaged $1,300 in 2021 but varied significantly. You may find higher limits if you shop around, but expect to pay higher premiums than for plans with lower limits, Freed says.

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Find out more about Medicare Advantage plans in your area by typing your zip code into the Medicare Plan Finder. You’ll see a green check mark ✓ beside Dental if a plan includes dental coverage. Click Plan Details | Extra Benefits to see summaries of preventive and comprehensive dental coverage.

“If dental care is important to you, you need to look at the plan’s summary of benefits or evidence of coverage to see what the plan will cover as part of its dental package,” Freed says. Usually, this information is on a plan’s website.

Since you can switch Medicare Advantage plans every year during open enrollment from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 with coverage starting Jan. 1, check the fine print on your policy if you expect to have extensive dental work during the next calendar year. Consider that, too, when choosing a Medicare Advantage plan, along with coverage for your doctors, prescription drugs and health care needs. Some plans have dental provider networks, so make sure your dentist is included.

2. Stand-alone dental policies aren’t all alike

Even though Medicare Advantage is the most common way for Medicare beneficiaries to get dental coverage after retirement, you have other options.

“Cost, benefit coverage, deductibles, waiting periods and annual maximums vary across the different types of dental plans by insurance carrier or provider and by state,” says André Richards, spokesman for Delta Dental. The largest U.S. dental insurer for all ages sells individual and group dental plans, including an AARP-branded plan.

Premiums for stand-alone dental policies vary based on coverage level and location. Policies generally don’t have preexisting condition exclusions but may require a waiting period before covering some expensive procedures, says Gregg Ratkovic, chief business officer for insurance broker eHealth. They can also have an annual coverage cap.

Stand-alone dental policies for people 65 and older generally cost $20 to $50 a month, Ratkovic says. These plans typically cover checkups and cleanings, but you’ll often pay 20 percent to 50 percent plus an annual deductible of $50 to $100 for work to restore teeth. Some plans won’t cover replacing a previously covered missing tooth. You should check to see if your dentist is in network.

3. Other options for dental coverage

You may be eligible for dental coverage from other sources:

Dental discount programs. These programs typically charge an up-front annual fee and provide discounts such as 30 percent to 40 percent off cleanings, crowns, exams and fillings. You may be required to use certain dentists.


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