Dental health is often considered just as a cosmetic concern, whereas there is a great possibility of serious issues with teeth, gums, and jaws that can affect people’s overall health. Dental problems can cause a wide range of problems, right from chronic pain and discomfort to infections and the risk of septic shock. Thus, to keep a check on their dental health, people especially seniors should have dental insurance, which will help them afford dental care. Having dental insurance as per their need will keep their teeth healthy and strong for years to come. Unfortunately, seniors are often seen ignoring their dental insurance.
Seniors are at Higher Risk for Dental Problems
With growing age, people are more likely to develop different kinds of dental and periodontal issues, and they would require proper treatment to prevent further dental issues and other health issues resulting from it. Besides, there is an increased risk for dental and gum disease for people over 65, and without having adequate dental insurance, people may avoid obtaining dental treatment. There is a common tendency among seniors to deprioritize treatment for dental care, however, they forget that oral hygiene is the most common health concern of people over the age of 65.
Seniors struggle to Find Dental Insurance
On retirement, seniors lose access to a dental plan which they have enjoyed for years or decades offered by their previous employers. It becomes challenging for them to find affordable dental insurance on their own, as most of the seniors are unable to afford the costly dental and periodontal care they need. Luckily, there are few good dental insurance options out there. Seniors can find and choose from a variety of dental plans that are specially designed keeping in mind the retirees. These dental plans will considerably reduce the cost of going to a dentist and will help them in maintaining their oral health.
Why Dental Insurance is a Must for Seniors
It has been revealed through studies that among all the out-of-pocket health care costs, 27% of medical expenses are incurred on dental services. Due to the expense some seniors delay needed dental care, as dental insurance is generally not included in major medical health insurance plans. Seniors need to buy a stand-alone dental plan to cover some of their dental care costs. Seniors need to keep in mind that dental insurance requires a waiting period for expensive dental treatments, so seniors should not wait to have dental insurance only when they need it.
How can seniors access dental care if they are unable to afford dental insurance?
Seniors who don’t have dental insurance are unfortunately left with very few options. In most of the cases, they have the option to purchase a dental insurance plan from private dental carrier that is generally unaffordable for seniors who are on a fixed income. Seniors who are below the federal poverty level can qualify for Medicaid provided they live in a state providing some level of dental care benefit. However, seniors who are active and residing in an urban area do have some better choices, as they can visit community health centers or to a university dental school, where dental care costs are less than in private practice. Dental schools are an excellent option, as it offers high quality affordable dental care, with both general dental clinic and specialty clinics in one location.
Coverage in Standard Dental Plan
Seniors can obtain a standard dental plan at a low monthly premium, and these plans cover routine dental procedures. Some of the regular procedures covered under dental plans include:
Though it depends upon the type of dental plan a senior is having, but most of the dental plans provide complete coverage for dental x-rays or seniors may need to pay a copay. Some of the other x-rays may require a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible.
Regular cleanings and exams
Most of the dental plans available in the market provide coverage for a dental cleaning free of cost and also for the comprehensive exam twice a year.
Fillings & extractions
Most of the dental plans designed for seniors provide coverage for tooth fillings and extractions, though the plan requires a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible.
Standard dental insurance plans sometimes provide partial coverage on some restorative procedures like bridges, crowns, root canals, and deep cleanings. However, most of the dental plans come with a copayment, coinsurance, or deductible for these restorative procedures. However, if seniors want complete coverage for these expensive services then they will need to shop around for a dental plan that covers these services.
Coverage in Enhanced Dental Plans for Seniors
Seniors may not find standard dental insurance adequate for them, as they require coverage for dental services beyond routine exams and fillings. Thus, they need to shop for enhanced dental plans that provide at least partial coverage for expensive dental procedures. Some of the expensive dental procedures included in the enhanced dental plans include:
Treatments of periodontics require a specialist, as the treatment includes the placement of dental implants and treatment of inflammation.
Dentures generally require several extractions making it a major procedure that requires several visits to the dentist. Sometimes, people may need to visit specialty offices for a faster turnaround that may cost a little extra.
Though sometimes root canal or removal of the decayed tooth can be performed by the family dentist but chances are that seniors may be referred to a specialist.
Dental implants is a procedure that is most undergone by seniors who have lost teeth due to decay or accident. Seniors will need to visit a dental surgeon to get their implant done. This is an expensive coverage that seniors can afford only with the help of a dental plan.
Types of Dental Insurance Plans
Dental insurance plans are planned and designed exactly just like health insurance plans. Some of the popular types of dental plans available in the insurance market include:
Dental Health Maintenance Organization Plan
DHMO, or Dental Health Maintenance Organization is a type of dental plan in which policyholders are required to select a dentist or dental office to coordinate all of their dental care services. The selected dentist or dental office will perform all basic dental work and will also refer the insured to a specialist if required. The DHMO plan provides extensive dental care coverage to insured as long as they obtain dental services from their chosen dentist and their referred specialists. However, on visiting an out-of-network dentist, the insured will have to pay the full amount from their pocket.
PPO or Preferred Provider Organization Dental Plan
A PPO dental plan slightly differs from a dental HMO plan. In this type of dental plan, policyholders have access to a network of selected dentists and dentist offices and they are free to visit any dentist within the network. In case, if the insured visits a dentist outside of the network, then also they may be partially covered by their insurers.
Fee-for-Service Dental Plan
Fee for service is also called an indemnity dental plan in which the insured is either required to pay the full cost of the dental treatment at the time of service and get reimbursed by their insurers later, or in some cases they could be allowed to pay their copayment amount after the insured part has been estimated. In this scenario, the dental service provider will be paid their part by the insurance carrier. The percentage covered by the plan is based on the service type. For instance, routine dental cleaning might be 90% covered while a root canal might only be 50% covered.
Some of the Best Dental Plans for Seniors in 2020
Medicare doesn’t cover every dental procedure, as it provides coverage only for complicated, inpatient dental procedures in the hospital. However, for other denture procedures like cleanings, x-rays, implants, and dentures, seniors need to invest in another dental plan. Seniors often think that dental insurance is expensive and they decide to skip it altogether which often leads them to avoid necessary dental work. Some of the best dental plans available for seniors are:
United Healthcare Dental Insurance
United Healthcare Dental Insurance plan has a large coverage network with over 100,000 in-network providers in the country. The company offers an affordable dental plan that helps seniors get regular preventive care and other required dental procedures. There is no age limit to obtain this plan and seniors can easily find an online quote.
Ameritas Dental Plan
Backed by Ameritas Life Insurance Company, this dental carrier has one of the largest networks in the country, which offer discounts of dental services of 25% to 50% to over 470,000 members all over the country. Besides members of this carrier are also entitled to Ameritas Dental Rewards® that helps members pay for their future dental treatments. The dental plans of this carrier range from $36 to $74 per month and the maximum benefits range from $1200 to $5000. Some of the popular dental plans offered by this carrier for seniors include PrimeStar® Protect 1000, PrimeStar® Protect Network 1000, and PrimeStar® Protect 2000.
AARP® Dental by Delta Dental
AARP® Dental operated by Delta Dental is a members-only plan. Delta Dental is the U.S.’s largest dental insurance provider offering coverage to over 80,000 enrollees nationwide. The company has a robust network of dentists that comprises over 156,000 dentists, and the company has an excellent rating from AM Best. The company offers three dental insurance plan options, Delta Dental PPO Plan A, Delta Dental PPO Plan B, and DeltaCare® USA Plan.
Aetna is one of the oldest insurance carriers of America that has 13 million members all over the country and a PPO network of 372,000 dental providers. With some best dental plans for seniors, the company has earned an ‘A’ financial strength rating with AM Best and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. The company offers three dental plan options, Aetna Dental® Direct Preferred PPO, Aetna Dental® Direct Core PPO, and Aetna® Vital Savings Dental Discount Card. Based on the plan the seniors chose, they will receive coverage for services like oral surgery, crowns, root canal therapy, and dentures.
This dental carrier provides dental coverage to more than 1 million customers across all 50 states of the nation. The carrier has an extensive network of more than 100,000 dentists across the country. Though the company is not an insurance company but work to reduce the cost of dental care for people who may need to visit an out-of-network dentist.
Tips for Seniors
It has been advised by professionals that poor dental health greatly impacts the overall health of the seniors and may lead to heart disease and endocarditis. Besides, there are some more diseases that affect people as they age like osteoporosis, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. These diseases may cause dental problems that eventually become too painful to ignore. It is a fact that seniors require more dental care than younger generations due to soft bones and teeth or a dry mouth that may lead to several oral health problems. By having dental insurance they will pay regular visits to the dentist, thereby reducing the risk of painful dental problems.