How does full-coverage dental insurance for seniors work?

Choosing the Medicare health plan that's right for you can be a chore, and you may be tempted to quit after selecting your medical plan. But don't forget your dental health!

Maintaining oral health may be more challenging for seniors and people with certain disabilities. This may be due to an inability to brush their teeth properly, as well as an increased use of medications.

Does Medicare cover dental services for seniors?

Unfortunately, Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not include coverage for services like dental exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, plates or dentures. There are some exceptions, such as when a hospital stay is involved, but otherwise you would have to pay out of pocket for any routine dental services. For some of us, those expenses could add up quickly.

Thankfully, there are several ways for people with Medicare to possibly reduce the cost of routine dental services.

Optional dental insurance plans for seniors

Choose a Medicare Advantage plan

Some Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) include benefits like routine dental, vision and prescription drug coverage. There are quite a few plans to choose from, with a wide range of premiums and coverage options.

Be sure to consider your current and future needs. For example, if you have dentures or think you may need them in the future, look for a Medicare Advantage plan that covers dentures.

Look for a stand-alone dental insurance plan

If you are eligible, it's possible to purchase a dental-only insurance plan. You'll have to pay a monthly premium, but the cost may be offset by lower out-of-pocket fees. Most of these dental plans require that you see an in-network dentist who may offer lower rates than out-of-network providers. Some plans let you go to any dentist (in or out of network), but you may have to pay more for their services.

Join a dental discount plan

Similar to a shopping club, you pay a fee that entitles you to discounted rates from a certain group of dentists. You make an annual or monthly payment for the dental discount plan and then pay a discounted rate directly to the dentist for any services you receive.

See if you can enroll in your spouse's dental plan

If your spouse is covered by a group plan through his or her employer, you may also qualify for coverage.

While Original Medicare does not cover routine dental services, dental coverage may be able to help. Thankfully, there are a number of options for finding the coverage you need.

Whether you choose a Medicare Advantage plan, a stand-alone dental plan or one of the discount plans available in your area, please take the time to find a plan that fits your needs and helps protect your dental health.

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