OKLAHOMA CITY – Finding affordable dental care can be challenging for seniors living on a tight budget. Most retirees lose their dental insurance after leaving the workplace, and original Medicare does not cover routine dental care including checkups, cleanings, fillings, dentures and tooth extractions. While there’s no one solution to this problem, there are a number of options you can turn to that can help you get dental coverage and find affordable dental care.
Here are several to check into thanks to Savvy Senior Editor Jim Miller.
Consider a Medicare Advantage plan: While dental services are mostly excluded under original Medicare, some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans do provide coverage for routine dental care. To locate Medicare Advantage plans in your area that offers dental care, click here or call 800-633-4227.
If you’re currently enrolled in original Medicare you can switch to a Medicare Advantage plan each year during the open enrollment period, which is between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7.
Purchase dental insurance: If you have frequent gum problems and need extensive dental care, a dental insurance plan may be worth the costs versus paying for care yourself. Expect to pay monthly premiums of $15 to $40 or more for insurance. To find dental plans in your state, go to the National Association of Dental Plans website (NADP.org) and use the “find a dental plan” tool. Then review a specific plan’s website.
Consider dental savings plans: While savings plans aren’t as comprehensive as insurance, they’re a good option for those who can’t get covered. How this works is you pay an annual membership fee – around $80 to $200 a year – in exchange for 10 to 60 percent discounts on service and treatments from participating dentists. To find a savings plan, click here, or call 888-632-5353, where you can search for plans and participating dentists, as well as get a breakdown of the discounts offered.
Check veterans’ benefits: The VA offers a dental insurance program that gives eligible veterans the option to buy dental insurance through Delta Dental and MetLife at a reduced cost. The VA also provides free dental care to vets who have dental problems resulting from service. To learn more about these options, visit this website.
Shop around: FairHealthConsumer.org and HealthcareBlueBook.com lets you look up the cost of different dental procedures in your area, so you can comparison shop – or ask your regular dentist for a discount.
Use community health centers or dental schools: There are many health centers and clinics that provide low-cost dental care to those in need. And all university dental schools and college dental hygiene programs offer dental care and cleanings for less than half of what you would pay at a dentist’s office. Students who are supervised by their professors provide the care. See ToothWisdom.org to search for a center, clinic or school near you.