It's common for seniors to have dental problems, but few can afford to pay the full cost of dental care out-of-pocket. Yet good oral health contributes to an aging individual's overall state of health. Because of seniors' special dental needs, insurance companies often offer dental plans specifically designed with the elderly in mind.
Traditional Dental Plans
Individuals who enroll in a traditional dental plan pay $40 to $50 a month on average in dental premiums. Rates vary depending on the insurance company and plan you choose. Unlike dental HMOs, traditional plans allow you to choose your own dentist but cost you more. A traditional dental plan reimburses you for dental services you pay out-of-pocket. These plans usually cover from 50 to 80 percent of the cost. You pay the remainder. This type of dental insurance plan is not always the best option for seniors living on a fixed income.
Dental HMOs or managed care plans for seniors offer low-cost insurance coverage for individuals age 65 and older. Cheaper than traditional dental plans, HMO dental plans provide dental care at an affordable cost, but options are limited. Members must receive services from a network provider. Before enrolling, find out first what dentists and procedures a particular HMO covers in your area. A Medicare Advantage Plan is another option similar to an HMO. These plans sometimes offer extra coverage for vision, hearing and dental. You pay an added premium for any benefits in addition to standard Medicare coverage.
AARP Dental Insurance
If you are an AARP member, you may be eligible for group coverage at a low premium rate. AARP dental plans are for seniors who lose group dental coverage when they retire. The plans offer limited coverage for the first 12 months after you enroll. After a year, the plan becomes more comprehensive, covering dentures, treatment of periodontal diseases and major dental restorations in addition to preventative dental procedures. A few AARP dental insurance options are available to members and their spouses.
Discount Dental Plans
Discount dental plans are not insurance, yet individuals can save up to 60 percent on the cost of routine dental care. Dental providers contract with a discount plan provider to give patients quality dental work at reduced prices. You pay a low monthly fee to be a member of the plan. When you need dental services, you pay the dentist the full discounted fee directly. For seniors who no longer have access to employer plans or who have pre-existing oral health conditions not covered by other plans, discount dental plans are an affordable alternative.