Why you may want to consider dental insurance as a retiree

If a $100 toothache turns into a $1,000 root canal, would you be prepared for that unexpected expense?

Why you may need dental insurance

When we talk about paying for healthcare in retirement, we often talk about the “big stuff”: an unexpected hospital stay, the rising cost of prescription drugs, long-term care.

But sometimes even the little things can throw a monkey wrench into our finances. Like a toothache we ignore because we don’t have dental insurance.

Simply put, Medicare generally doesn't cover most dental care, like cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, dental plates or other dental devices. And the need for more complex—and more expensive—dental care may increase as you grow older.

Dental health in older adults may be further complicated by things like bone loss, dementia, stroke (which can affect swallowing), poor nutrition and more.1 Many older adults are on multiple medications, which may also affect oral health.

And for some, it’s not just a health issue. The stigma of “bad teeth” can affect us socially, as well. Reluctance to smile or the discomfort of sharing a meal with friends without badly needed dentures can lead to isolation.

We all want a smile we can be proud of, and dental insurance may give you something to smile about.

Your options for dental insurance

  • Many Medicare Advantage plans include coverage for preventive and routine dental care.
  • A dental savings or discount plan can offer discounted rates for services from participating dentists.
  • Stand-alone dental insurance plans, opens new window offer coverage ranging from routine cleanings and exams, X-rays and fillings to more serious procedures like extractions, root canals, crowns and dentures.

Budgeting for dental care in retirement

When it comes to oral health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Weigh all your dental insurance options. This will help you find a plan that provides the most coverage while keeping out-of-pocket expenses low. Find what works to keep your smile in step with that brilliant and bright retirement of your dreams.


  1. “Oral Health Topics: Aging and Dental Health,” American Dental Association, last accessed July 9, 2019, https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/aging-and-dental-health, opens new window.

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