We evaluated 24 dental insurance companies and found the three top choices for seniors based on the cost of premiums, the number of in-network dentists and overall cost savings. Our top three picks are DentalPlans.com, Spirit Dental and 1Dental.com. In this guide, we will discuss what you need to look for in dental insurance, why seniors need dental insurance and we’ll share details about the top companies. We included helpful frequently asked questions about dental insurance as well.
- Make sure you know what your dental insurance policy limits are
- Be aware and of dental procedure costs and be realistic about possible dental costs vs. premiums
- Ask about pre-existing condition restrictions (most dental insurances have none)
Tips for a Wise Buyer
The Mayo Clinic advises that poor dental health significantly impacts your physical health, including causing heart disease and endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining. Diseases which often affect us as we age like osteoporosis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few, frequently cause dental problems that eventually become too painful to ignore. Seniors often need more dental care than younger generations because of softening bones and teeth or a dry mouth, which can lead to an assortment of oral health problems. Regular visits to the dentist can save money down the road while reducing the risk of painful dental problems.
While general dental care like regular cleanings is not expensive, you could be out thousands of dollars for dental implants, dentures, bone grafts, tooth extractions or other procedures. Our best dental insurance companies offer affordable insurance plans that help with managing dental costs as you age.
Government Dental Insurance Plans
When you near the age of 65, you need to sign up for Medicare. However, Medicare does not cover preventative dental care or other procedures such as fillings, tooth extractions, dentures or other dental devices. If you have a complicated or emergency dental procedure that requires hospitalization, Medicare Part A will likely cover the cost, but it is obviously preferable to avoid hospitalization if you can with regularly-scheduled dental care.
Medicaid, if you qualify for it, is unlikely to cover dental costs as well. The Center for Healthcare Strategies released a fact sheet dated January 2018 that reveals only 17 states offer full dental benefits via Medicaid, and just 14 of those states do so if the individual was eligible for Medicaid as a low-income adult without children.
How Dental Insurance Works
Dental Insurance is affordable for most seniors but it has varying levels of coverage, called class of service, within one policy. You will receive some procedures at no cost beyond your premium but will share the expense of others with your insurance company.
Dental insurance almost always picks up 100 percent of the bill for routine checkups and cleanings. Coverage for common procedures like root canals and fillings are typically covered at 80 percent, although policies with higher premiums cover up to 90 percent. You are then responsible for the remaining 10 to 20 percent of the cost, called coinsurance. Most plans cover higher-priced and more involved procedures at 50 percent, so you should have some savings set aside for what your insurance does not cover. Still, with relatively low premiums, having dental insurance is far less expensive on average than paying cash for all dental procedures.
Orthodontia is another class of service, and typically has a lifetime rather than an annual maximum. You can buy dental insurance that excludes this coverage if it is doubtful that you will need it.
Is Dental Insurance Worth the Cost?
Dental insurance often pays off for seniors
Dental insurance can be had for under $100 a month, paying out a maximum of $1,000 to $5,000 annually.
We used independent non-profit FAIR Health Consumer to get cost estimates of some dental procedures and came up with the following chart. Your costs may be higher or lower because costs vary across states and regions. Keep in mind that one dental procedure can include multiple fees, like X-ray and fillings for example.
|Dental Procedure||Uninsured Cost|
|Bridges and Implants||$1,000 and up|
|Fillings||$177 to $278|
|Simple Adult Cleaning||$97|
|Root Canal, Molar||Around $2,000|
|Dentures||$1,700 and up|
|Dental X-rays||$50 to $200|
PPO, HMO or Dental Discount Plan
Know the type of plan you’re buying
Dental insurance companies use a variety of strategies to fine-tune coverage that meets your needs for care and your budget. Part of that strategy involves how the dental providers are structured.
A PPO, or preferred provider organization, is the most common type of dental insurance. This plan has arranged reduced rates with dentists. These dentists are called in-network because they will work with the insurance company. You can go out of network if you have a PPO plan, but you will not get the benefit of the reduced rates. It’s best to check to see if your preferred dentist is in-network before you buy insurance.
An HMO, or health maintenance organization, is typically not a suitable dental insurance plan for seniors. While it is a very low-cost alternative, it covers little to nothing other than routine visits and cleanings.
A dental discount plan is a newer concept being rolled out by insurance companies. With this plan, you pay a minimal premium and choose from a select group of dentists who have agreed to a reduced payment schedule. You pay the dentist the reduced rate at the time of service.
Questions to Ask About Dental Insurance
Dont be afraid to ask questions to get the right coverage
Before you buy dental insurance, ask all the questions you need to until you understand what the policies you are considering cover and how the claims process works. Here are some essential questions to ask if you can’t find the answers in dental plan documents.
- Are there a reasonable number of in-network dentists in your area?
- Is your current dentist in-network?
- What services does the insurer need to approve before receiving treatment?
- Is there a limit on the number of exams, cleanings and bitewing x-rays that will be covered by the plan each year?
- How often is a full series of x-rays covered?
- How much will the insurance pay for each class of service?
- Are there any waiting periods or existing condition exclusions?
- What are the time limits on the replacement of crowns, bridges, dentures and similar appliances?
- If the insurance company elects to cover a lower-cost procedure than your dentist recommends, what would your out-of-pocket costs be if you decided to go ahead with the dentist’s original plan of care?
Our Search For The Best Dental Insurance For Seniors
1. We searched for an extensive list of 24 companies.
2. We evaluated dental insurance companies based on our expert-guided buying criteria: cost of premiums, the number of in-network dental care providers and overall cost savings.
3. We provided you the three best dental insurance companies to choose from.
Dental Insurance Company Reviews
There are over 100 dental insurance companies or brokers selling policies to seniors. Knowing where to start with getting quotes can make you feel like your head is spinning. Fortunately, we narrowed down the best dental insurance companies by focusing on value to the consumer, industry reputation, levels of coverage and other criteria.
After our evaluation, we chose the best dental insurance and discount plan providers: DentalPlans.com, Spirit Dental, and 1Dental. Each of these companies stood out as dental insurance companies selling policies directly to seniors.
Most Affordable |
Guardian dental offers affordable dental insurance with a large in-network selection of dental professionals. The low premiums in their Guardian Direct plan often resembles those available only through group coverage.
With an extensive network of more than 100,000 participating dentists at more than 300,000 locations nationwide, there is likely an in-network dentist in your area. When you combine the ability to choose your preferred dentist with the kind of comprehensive coverage available through one of the largest providers in the dental insurance sector, you’ll find Guardian dental is tough to beat.
Read our comprehensive Guardian dental review.
Best Network |
DentalPlans.com plans provide coverage to more than 1 million Americans by servicing nearly all 50 states, with the exception of South Dakota and Vermont. More than 100,000 dentists practicing in the U.S. are in-network with DentalPlans.com and the company can save plan holders 10-60% on dental services.
DentalPlans.com isn’t an insurance company, but they work with dental service providers to reduce the cost to see an out-of-network dentists. In this way the company gives access to some of the same dental benefits offered by employers through typical group insurance, but more closely resembles a prescription discount card. For example, the estimate we received for a 6-month checkup was only $15. The annual cost for the plans range from $100 – $175 depending on the location and number of people covered.
Read our comprehensive DentalPlans.com review.
Spirit Dental Review
Best Loyalty Benefits |
Spirit Dental is a broker for Ameritas dental plan and is backed by Ameritas Life Insurance company, which receives the highest ratings for financial stability from AM Best and Standard & Poor’s. There is no waiting period for basic, preventative or major dental services like crowns or bridges. Orthodontia has a waiting period in some states.
Other features of Spirit Dental plans:
- All applications are accepted
- Three free dental cleanings and two exams per year for seniors
- 30-day guarantee
- Use an out-of-network dentist, although at a higher premium
- $100 lifetime deductible
Spirit Dental insurance plans for seniors are available for two people, meaning you do not have to sign up for a more expensive family plan. We completed a quote for a senior resulting in six options with costs from $36 to $74 per month. Maximum annual benefits ranged from $1,200 to $5,000, and each policy included a $100 lifetime deductible.
The longer you stay with Spirit Dental, more each plan pays out and the higher your savings. For example, with one plan’s basic dental procedures are covered at 65 percent the first year, 80 percent the second year and 90 percent the third year. Major procedures on that plan follow the same timeline at 25 to 65 percent coverage. All plans cover preventative care at 100 percent. You can bundle EyeMed vision insurance for $7 per month with each plan.
Best Discounts |
Screenshot: Dental Access Plan.
1Dental.com offers what is probably the most affordable senior dental discount plan, which is an alternative to regular dental insurance. With 1Dental plans, you pay a membership fee to receive big discounts from dentists who participate in the Careington International network, or plan partners like Aetna.
Annual membership fees for seniors are $99 for an individual to $179 for a family of three or more, with a $20 processing fee. If you need to make monthly payments, the processing fee rises to $30, and payments are from $9.95 to $17.95 per month. Memberships include these benefits:
- Use benefits immediately, including major procedures
- Immediate acceptance
- No pre-existing condition exclusions
- 30-day cancellation for refund, less $5 processing fee
Examples of dental costs with the Careington 500 plan are $15 for an oral exam, $31 for a cleaning, $483 for a crown and 64 percent off of dentures. The prices quoted on the website are in the Fort Worth, Texas area, with savings of 60 to 74 percent off dental services and 20 percent off orthodontia. Cost of procedures may vary depending on your location.
The Aetna Dental Access prices quoted are based on national averages, so your costs could be higher or lower. Aetna Dental Access offers 50% off dentures, an oral exam is $30, cleaning is $59 and a crown is $757.
Aetna’s dental discount network includes over 161,000 dentists, and Careington says over 100,000 dentists participate in their plan. We searched for providers from a less populated location in the U.S. and found no dentists from the Aetna plan while the Careington plan had four dentists, although the offices were located 100 miles from the zip we used. If there are no providers available in a reasonable distance from your home, you can nominate dentists, and Careington will contact them to request participation. Dental providers usually join the network within 60-90 days.
1Dental and Careington both have an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, with EyeMed vision insurance included with each plan.
Additional Dental Insurance Companies
Aetna offers three dental insurance plans and a dental discount plan. Read our full Aetna Dental Insurance review.
Additional Dental Insurance Resources
If you’re over 65 and looking for dental coverage read these important things to know about dental insurance before making a selection.
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires kids to have dental insurance, it’s optional for adults. Dental insurance companies work with the ACA to meet this requirement and give you, the adult, options for coverage as well. Read about dental insurance and the ACA.
If you’re concerned about paying for dental procedures, here are nine affordable dental care options.
Frequently Asked Questions about Dental Insurance for Seniors
Why does dental insurance have a waiting period?
Most dental insurance companies have a waiting period after your application is accepted. This practice is so the customer doesn’t wait until they have accumulated the need for several procedures to buy and use dental insurance to cover the costs. Most plans have a waiting period for some procedures but not others, like a regular checkup. One of our best dental insurance companies has no waiting period for just about any procedure.
How long does it take to get a dental insurance application approved?
Some dental insurance companies approve your application immediately, while others take up to two or three weeks to notify you of approval.
What if I need a dental procedure during the waiting period?
Contact the insurer to see if you can appeal the waiting period. It is unlikely that they will accommodate you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Alternatively, talk to your dentist about getting the work done at a reduced rate for a cash payment or setting up a payment plan that you can manage. Most dentists will work with you.
What is coinsurance on a dental plan?
Coinsurance is the term used for the portion of a bill that is your responsibility. For example, if your dental insurance covers 60 percent of the cost of a root canal, you must pay for 40 percent of the bill for the procedure.
What if I expect to need extensive dental work?
Be sure you know the benefits and how service levels work before you buy a policy. The limit for all dental expenses covered in one year can be as low as $500 on an inexpensive policy. If you are sure you will have high dental bills down the road, it is almost always worth it to pay a higher monthly premium to get a higher annual maximum.
Does dental insurance include coverage for oral surgery?
Whether or not dental insurance or medical insurance covers oral surgery can be confusing. Do not assume that surgery around the teeth is a dental issue. For example, medical insurance often covers wisdom teeth extractions, but sometimes dental insurance covers this surgery.
Surgery to correct an abscessed tooth is usually considered a health issue and medical insurance covers the cost. Procedures to correct trauma to the mouth are considered medical and not dental, even if lost teeth are involved. Our best advice is to talk to both your medical and dental insurance carriers to determine where coverage falls, so you are prepared for out of pocket costs.
Conclusion on Dental Insurance
Cost and coverage are the two most important factors to consider when searching for dental insurance companies.
Our top three choices offer an excellent selection of policies and discounts that can protect your savings without requiring you to pay excessive premiums. The companies service almost all markets in the U.S. Remember that you can probably go out of network to see the dentist you prefer, but you will pay more out of pocket for doing so. If you have a favorite dentist, call their office to ask what dental insurances consider them in-network.
Senior citizens are very likely to have dental care expenses that could increase as the years go by and they currently can’t rely on Medicare to cover the costs. Dental insurance and dental discount memberships are an affordable way to manage these costs but know what you are buying and understand the levels of coverage before you buy a plan.