Many retirees have questions about Medicare and what it covers — and doesn't. And the cost of dental care can come as a shock to many retirees who might be accustomed to having their oral health covered by employee-sponsored dental insurance.
Does Medicare cover dental care? Let's find out.
Does Medicare Cover Dental Care?
In most cases, no.
Original Medicare — Medicare parts A and B — doesn't cover most dental care and services like routine cleanings or dental procedures like fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, dental plates or other dental devices. For those services, you must pay 100% out-of-pocket or find a way to defray those costs.
There is one exception: Medicare Part A will pay for certain emergency or complicated dental procedures and services if you're admitted as an inpatient in a hospital.
Some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn't cover, including dental coverage. Your insurance agent or insurance provider can tell you which Medicare Advantage plans available to you include dental coverage.
Alternative Dental Coverage Options
How can you reduce your out-of-pocket dental care costs in retirement? Here are a few options to consider, depending on your financial situation.
- Medicare Advantage. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover routine dental work, diagnostic and restorative services and oral surgery. Benefits vary by plan, so review policies carefully before signing up.
- Private insurance. You can also takeout a stand-alone dental insurance policy to cover out-of-pocket expenses. Most private insurance plans charge with monthly premiums and carry annual maximums. The National Association of Dental Plans has more information and can point you toward a provider in your area.
- Dental schools or community programs. Some people have had success getting reduced-cost or even free dental care through local dental schools. If there's one in your area, see what services they offer. You could also check with the Wisdom Tooth Project, which offers free resources to seniors seeking affordable dental care.
- Estimate and plan for out-of-pocket costs. If additional insurance isn't right for you, you can always take the old-school approach and simply plan ahead by estimating the cost of upcoming dental work and saving for these expenses. Fair Health Consumers estimates what providers charge for dental procedure costs in different ZIP codes.
- Talk to your dentist. Many dentists offer financing plans or reduced costs to longtime patients.
Oral health is extremely important to your general health, especially in retirement. When planning for your nutrition, fitness and mental health needs, factor in how you'll pay for routine dental care as you age. Investigate the financial options available to you, and speak to a professional if you need any help with insurance plans.