Medicare

3 Best Medicare Dental Plans for Seniors

3 Best Medicare Dental Plans for Seniors

Find Cheap Medicare Plans in Your Area

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Original Medicare does not provide comprehensive dental care, and Medicare Part A will only cover select dental services that require hospitalization. For most types of dental care, such as cleanings, X-rays or root canals, you'll need dental coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, a standalone dental plan or Medicaid.

Best Medicare dental coverage for seniors

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Which parts of Medicare cover dental care?

Medicare plan
Dental coverage
Medicare Part A (hospital insurance)
No, except for extremely limited situations when dental services require hospitalization

Medicare Part B (medical insurance)

No

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

Yes, included in 94% of plans, but sometimes there's an extra fee for dental coverage

Medicare Part D (prescription drug plan)

No

Medicare supplemental plans (Medigap)

No

Standalone dental plan

Yes
Medicaid
Yes, if you are eligible for dual enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid, you could have access to dental care. Coverage varies by state.

What dental care does Medicare Part A cover?

Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) won't cover dental services such as cleaning, fillings, root canals, crowns, extractions or dentures.

However, if you have an emergency or complicated dental procedure where you need to go to the hospital, Medicare Part A can cover your hospital care. This could include jaw surgery, tooth extractions before cancer radiation treatments, splints for facial fractures, an oral exam before a kidney transplant or other major treatments.

In these situations where you need hospital treatment for your jaw, mouth or teeth, we recommend that you check the billing codes for each service to confirm your coverage.

How does Medicare Advantage dental coverage work?

Medicare Advantage plans are the primary method for dental coverage under Medicare.

What’s usually covered:

  • Cleanings
  • Exams
  • X-rays
  • Crowns
  • Fillings
  • Root canals
  • Bridges
  • Tooth extractions
  • Implants

Medicare Advantage are bundled plans that combine add-on benefits such as dental or vision with Original Medicare (Part A and B) and additional cost-sharing for medical needs. About 94% of Medicare Advantage plans offer the option for dental coverage. However, sometimes there is an additional fee to include dental coverage in your plan.

For example, the standard Medicare Advantage plan from Kaiser Permanente does't include dental care, but if you upgrade to the Medicare Advantage Plus plan, you'll get dental, vision and hearing coverage.

The level of dental coverage with Medicare Advantage plans varies. Some have an annual payout limit, such as only contributing $1,500 to your dental care each year. Other plans could have coverage specifications on the number of cleanings per year or denture coverage.

When should you get a standalone dental plan?

If you're not signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan that gives you unified coverage across medical and dental, a standalone dental plan is the next best way to get coverage.

You can purchase a plan directly from a private insurance company, and most let you sign up for dental insurance even if you don't have medical insurance through the company. This plan won't be connected to your other coverage through the Medicare program, but it can help you get cost-savings benefits so you get the dental services you need.

Benefits of standalone dental plans:

  • Choose the level of coverage you want, with plans ranging from basic or preventative coverage to plans that cover more extensive dental treatments.
  • Select the insurance company that has your preferred dentists in its network of providers without this choice influencing your medical plan.

Dental plans for seniors include Dental HMOs, which generally have lower monthly costs but only cover care from an in-network dentist. If you'd rather have the flexibility to see any dentist, choose a Dental PPO plan that provides broader coverage but generally costs more each month.

How could Medicare dental coverage change in 2022?

In 2021, a bill was introduced in the House to add dental coverage to Medicare Part B.

Known as the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act, the idea has support from the White House as part of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda. Specifically, the fiscal year 2022 budget proposal for the U.S. government indicates the intent for "improving access to dental, hearing, and vision coverage in Medicare."

This is not the first time it has been proposed to offer dental coverage to Medicare beneficiaries, and it's an important health care issue. About 47% of those on Medicare don't have dental coverage.

The legislative process will determine if Medicare benefits are expanded in 2022 to include dental. However, there is political incentive because adding dental, vision and hearing is cheaper than other proposed Medicare extensions, such as adding nursing home coverage.

Best Medicare plans for dental coverage

If you want dental coverage to protect your teeth and oral health, choose between these recommended Medicare Advantage plans or standalone dental plans.

Option 1: Medicare Advantage plans with dental coverage

Dental coverage varies widely by Medicare Advantage plan. In some cases, you have to pay extra to have dental care included in your plan. There could also be options for basic or premium coverage, letting you choose the dental plan that works for you.

Look for plans that offer low-cost or free preventative services. If you need more expensive treatments, pay attention to the plan's cost-sharing percentage and the cap on how much the plan will cover each year.

AARP: largest network of dentists
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Aetna: cheapest Advantage plans
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Highmark: best for customer service
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Among our picks for the best Medicare Advantage plans, Aetna has the cheapest monthly costs. The company reimburses policyholders for in-network dental coverage, and it provides the option for expanded dental benefits at an additional monthly cost. This can be a great way to manage your expenses if you need significant dental services in the upcoming policy year.

If you're signing up for a new Medicare Advantage plan, you can choose your dental coverage options during the plan selection process. If you're already enrolled in Medicare Advantage, talk to your provider about what dental coverage options are available to you, and if there is no add-on coverage available, you may be able to enroll in a standalone dental policy.

Option 2: Standalone dental plan for seniors

Some health insurers offer dental coverage for seniors as standalone dental plans. These add-on plans are a great choice for dental coverage if you only have Original Medicare or if you have a Medicare Supplement plan.

When selecting a plan, compare coverage details and plan specifics because there is a broad range of policies on access and restrictions. Each plan will specify how much it covers for preventative dental care, basic services or major services. Most plans have a network of providers, and checking this list can make sure you have access to your preferred dentist.

DentaQuest: best customer satisfaction
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Aetna Dental: best for plan flexibility
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Humana Dental: best for no waiting period
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Remember to compare plans based on the waiting period, and some policies may not cover major services until you've had the policy for several months. Humana is a great option if you need dental care immediately because most plans have no waiting period for major services like root canals, crowns and dentures.

Many providers may also offer an alternative to dental insurance called a dental discount program. These dental network programs aren't the best fit for everyone, but we recommend them as one of the five ways to get a cheap dental cleaning without insurance.

Frequently asked questions

How do you get dental coverage when on Medicare?

The most common way of getting dental coverage while on Medicare is to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that bundles dental coverage with Original Medicare and other medical benefits. You can also get dental coverage through a standalone dental insurance plan or through Medicaid if you qualify for dual enrollment.

What are the best Medicare dental plans?

Our top three recommendations for Medicare Advantage plans with dental coverage are AARP for its large network of dentists, Aetna for the cheapest plans and Highmark for the best customer service.

Will dental care ever be covered by Medicare?

Adding dental coverage to Medicare Part B is on the legislative agenda for 2022. This type of initiative has previously failed, but there is currently more support for it than ever before. There are no details yet about the proposed plan benefits or costs.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.