Medicare Alternatives for Senior Dental Care

Medicare Alternatives for Senior Dental Care

Dental needs change as we age. Once you enter your 60s, you’ll need to approach dental care in a whole new way. Not only will how you care for your teeth change, but so will how you pay for dental visits and procedures.

Most seniors rely on Medicare, at least somewhat, to help pay for health care. But Medicare doesn’t cover most types of dental care. Instead, seniors need alternate ways to help lower their dental care costs.

How Do Dental Care Needs Change with Age?

The dental care techniques which successfully kept your teeth and gums healthy while you were young won’t always do the trick during your senior years. Instead, you’ll have to adjust your care routine based on your changing needs.

Seniors have an increased risk of developing a few different dental problems:

Dry mouth is a side effect frequently caused by prescription medications. Because seniors commonly take multiple medications, they have an increased risk of developing chronic dry mouth.

Tooth misalignment is another common dental issue which seniors face. Our teeth slowly shift position with age. By the time you’re in your 60s, your teeth will likely crowd toward the middle, which can cause problems with chewing, cleaning and functionality.

Reduced general mobility can also lead to a lack of daily oral health care. Arthritis, poor vision and other problems can result in infrequent or poor-quality brushing.

All of these factors combine to create an increased risk of developing cavities, gum disease, tooth loss, heart problems and more.

How Do Dental Care Costs Change with Age?

Most dental insurance is provided by an employer. However, most seniors are either retired or will be soon. Retiring can mean major changes in health and dental care access because the retiree loses employer-provided insurance.

Plus, changing dental needs require more frequent dental visits. Beyond twice-a-year check-ups, you also need to see dental specialists. For example, because it takes decades to develop, gingivitis is common in seniors, often requiring in a visit with a periodontist. Unfortunately, specialized care can mean increased costs.

Does Medicare Cover Senior Dental Care Needs?

Millions of Americans rely on Medicare for health coverage. Medicare is a federal program which provides health insurance for Americans over the age of 65 or with disabilities. However, while Medicare helps with medical bills, it provides almost no dental care.

Generally, Medicare only treats dental issues which are part of a medical emergency, such as an accident which damages your face. It doesn’t help pay for check-ups, fillings, crowns, orthodontics, and other basic and major procedures.

What Medicare Alternatives Exist?

Assuming they no longer have employer-provided health insurance, seniors have three major options for lowering their dental bills:

  • Medicare Advantage
  • Dental Insurance
  • Dental Savings Plans

Seniors enrolled in Medicare can augment their coverage with a Medicare Advantage Plan. Also known as Medicare Part C, it’s similar to a private insurance plan. Many Advantage Plans are available with different coverage levels, premiums and deductibles.

Additionally, seniors can purchase a traditional dental insurance plan through an insurer such as Cigna. Dental insurance is often ideal for preventative procedures such as check-ups and cleanings.

However, both Medicare Advantage plans and dental insurance have restrictions which pose potential problems for seniors – especially seniors with extensive dental care needs. Insurance policies have annual limits which are usually around $1,500 a year. Plus, most companies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, such as missing teeth or problems caused by crowded teeth.

Seniors with existing dental problems who want treatment right away often choose dental savings plans. These plans allow members to save directly at the time of service. For example, Cigna offers two types of plans which save members between 15% and 50% on preventative, basic and major dental procedures.

Seniors often love the flexibility. A dental plan can help you save on routine check-ups or even more complicated procedures like deep cleanings and dental implants. You can save on care from specialists (including periodontists). You can even save on treatments for dental problems you had before you purchased the plan, which is much less restrictive than dental insurance.

Also, dental savings plans are easy to use. For about $124 a year, members receive a discount card within a few days after joining. Simply present the card directly at the office of any participating dental professional for immediate savings. Over 110,00 dentists accept Cigna discount cards including a wide range of specialists. Even better, you can use the card as often as you like because there are no annual limits.

Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean your dental health has to suffer. Understanding how your dental care needs are changing is the key to preventing potential dental problems – and a Cigna Dental Plan can help make care more affordable today.    


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