Oral healthcare is pricey, and it’s only getting pricier. The average per-capita spending on dental care increased by a lofty 81 percent from 1990 to 2016. Today, the average cost of a dental cleaning is about $90 to $120, and that number, of course, goes up depending on your oral healthcare needs.
Cleaning excessive plaque and tartar can easily tack on another $100, and if you need fillings, tooth extractions, dental implants, or more, you can expect to pay upwards of thousands of dollars by the end of your treatment.
If you’re one of the more than half of Americans who visit the dentist once every six months (or more if you need specific dental work done), you probably don’t want to be paying full price for dental services.
In fact, the reason so many Americans (59 percent) don’t visit the dentist for checkups as often as they’d like (or should) is because of the toll it can take on their wallets. But dental health is critical, and skipping routine dental care can ultimately lead to more expensive and more painful dental procedures down the line.
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Seniors (65 years old and up) are adversely affected by hefty oral healthcare bills. About 20 percent of seniors have untreated dental cavities, and a quarter are missing all of their natural teeth. But elderly Americans, more than other groups, report that high cost is a major barrier to getting routine dental services.
If you’re a senior, financial assistance is available. You may qualify for certain Medicare dental plans that can save you serious money.
It’s important to note that Original Medicare health insurance doesn’t typically cover more dental care, procedures, or supplies such as cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, x-rays, dentures, or dental plates. That’s largely why nearly two-thirds of Medicare enrollees don’t have any dental insurance at all—and why one in five haven’t seen a dentist in the last five years.
Nearly all (88 percent) of Medicare Advantage health plans provide at least some dental coverage. Many government-approved, private insurance companies offer Medicare coverage with dental services through these types of dental plans:
The dental services must be an integral part of a covered procedure, such as jaw reconstruction surgery following an injury, tooth extractions to prepare for radiation treatment for neoplastic diseases that involve the jaw, and oral examinations (but not treatment) that precede kidney transplants or heart valve replacements.
Medicare supplemental dental insurance also falls under Medicare; however, it does not include dental care.
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Medicare is generally available for anyone who is 65 of age or older, as well as some younger people with certain disabilities and those with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure that requires dialysis or a kidney transplant).
Almost all Medicare beneficiaries (97 percent) have access to a Medicare Advantage plan that provides dental coverage, among other health services, that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover.
To get dental coverage with Medicare, you can follow two simple steps:
Here are three top Medicare dental providers out there. It’s up to you to decide what specific dental insurance plan makes the most sense for your oral healthcare needs and budget.
If you are on a Medicare plan that works for you and does not cover dental coverage, you may consider several other options.
Purchase a separate or standalone dental plan: you can choose a separate or standalone dental plan from a private insurance company. There are various types of dental plans to select, typically with affordable monthly premiums.
Look for an affordable walk-in dental clinic: depending on where you live and what type of dental services you require, you may be able to find affordable treatment even if it involves paying out-of-pocket.
(DCD), Digital Communications Division. “What Is Medicare Part C?” HHS.gov, 21 Aug. 2015
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Meredith Freed, Tricia Neuman Follow @tricia_neuman on Twitter, and Mar 2019. “Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries.” KFF, 13 Mar. 2019
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