Brighten Your Day with a Great Smile!

Dental care plays a more important role in one’s overall health and well-being than is generally realized.

We all like to have a bright smile.  Our self-confidence is boosted when we know we look our best.  The ability to eat nutritious meals without pain is of paramount concern to our over-all health.  Infection from the mouth can spread to other parts of the body, leading to many serious illnesses. Unfortunately, people over 65 typically have an increased risk of cavities and other oral problems such as gum disease and oral cancers. Yet, only one in four seniors have seen a dentist in the last five years.   Only 53% of Medicare beneficiaries have insurance to cover dental care.

The cost of dental care, much like medical care, may be out of reach for the average person without insurance.  Unfortunately, many retired people relied on company benefits for dental care.  After retirement, those benefits no longer exist.  Medicare may cover dental needs such as oral sleep appliances or major oral surgery following a life-threatening injury or illness, but Medicare does not cover dental exams, routine dental or oral health or dental appliances such as partial plates or full dentures.  Senior need and deserve good dental care. 

Find an Option that Works for You

You can start your search at, a site dedicated to helping older adults find health resources.  There is a “care locator tool”, which directs you to low-cost dental care in your area.  Choose your state and find a list of excellent resources.  It’s run by Oral Health American (OHA), a national non-profit based in Chicago.  It is primarily dedicated to connecting communities with resources to increase access to care, education and advocacy for all Americans, especially the vulnerable.

The Administration on Aging offers an Eldercare Locator that allows you to search for services by state or by service (health, transportation, legal, etc.) Speak with an information specialist if you have more questions by calling (1-800-677-1116) from Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST.

The United Way sponsors 2-1-1 Information and Referral Search that connects you to services in your area by providing trained professionals who will answer your queries or direct you to the right agency or organization. 

Medicare and Medicaid offer a program called PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) that helps meet healthcare needs of the community.  It can include dentistry.  To use PACE, you must be at least 55, a resident in the area where services are offered and deemed eligible for nursing home care. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is a federally-funded program that supports health centers for those with no insurance or limited income.  It uses sliding scale payments, based on what you can afford.  Call 1-888-275-4772.

Dental Life Network offers comprehensive dental service for people with disabilities, the elderly or medical at-risk.  Its flagship program, Donated Dental Services or DDS, has a nationwide network of over 17,000 volunteer dentists and 3,700 dental laboratories:  all offering dental treatments free of charge.  Call 303-534-5360 to find out if you may quality.

Dentistry from the Heart (DFTH) is a non-profit that provides free dental care to those in need.  Volunteer dentists and hygienists donate their time for events around the country.   Treatments only include cleaning, filling and extractions due to the number of patients serviced in every event.

United Way is also a non-profit with chapters across the U.S. and worldwide.  They may be able to help you find free or low-cost dental care.  Visit the website and click on your state to get started.

Dental schools and dental hygiene schools are good options for low-cost care as the clinics have students who get experience working on patients first-hand.  The American Student Dental Association has a listing of schools by state.  The students are monitored carefully by fully-qualified supervisors.  This allows you access to excellent essential dental care without the hassle of dental insurance and financing options.  It often requires several screening options before treatment begins so keep your calendar flexible.  Contact your local schools for information on their services, pricing and availability.

The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics is a non-profit that believes access to health care is a right and not a privilege.  The NAFCC works to broaden access to affordable care for the medically underserved.  They have over 1,200 clinics located all over the country.  Call 1-703-647-7427.

Look for private-care dental providers in your area if they offer discounts to seniors or a price reduction for cash payments.  Although they may not actively promote these discounts, they may give one to you if you ask.  So don’t be shy!

Ask local dental providers if they have an In-house dental plan.  These plans allow you to purchase care in advance at a discounted price.  The benefits are often the same type of coverage you get from a third-party insurer but there is no middleman.  It’s just between you and the dental facility.   A perk with this option is that private membership plans tend to save you money compared to third-party insurance policies because you’re only paying for what you need.

Some retires purchase an independent dental insurance policy similar to the plans offered by employers.  They offer tiers of coverage so choose what works best for you.  Bear in mind, however, that a policy with higher coverage on restorative dental care comes with expensive premiums or deductibles.  A lower tier plan may not cover much more than basic check-ups.  It is important to do some detective work to find the best plan for you.  Several plans that offer elderly dental include:

  1. Humana (Good Overall)
  2. Cigna (Good Coverage
  3. Spirit Dental & Vision (Loyalty Program)
  4. Guardian (Good Value)
  5. Careington (Non-traditional low-cost plans that offer discounts from participating dentists)
  6. Aetna (Comprehensive Plans)
  7. Delta (Best Vision and Dental Bundling)
  8. United Healthcare (Best Network of Providers
  9. MetLife (Best Reputation)

Carefully review a plan’s documentation.  You need to understand the “Certificate of Coverage, “limitations and Exclusions” and Plan Brochure associated with any dental insurance plan before you purchase.  Also check to see which dentists in your area are in-network, and how emergency care is covered.  When searching for an independent plan, there are some other important questions to ask:

  1. Is the dental insurance available in my state?
  2. What are the waiting periods for procedures like dentures or implants?
  3. Must I choose a primary dentist?
  4. Are pre-existing conditions such as broken teeth or bridge issues covered?
  5. Is the coverage domestic, international or both?

Many of these same companies offer dental benefits as a part of a Medicare Advantage Plan.  Compare these plans carefully during the open enrollment period that ends December 7. 

The truth about dental insurance is that most policy benefits have not increased with the cost of living in over 40 years.  If you have no coverage and tend to have fairly healthy teeth, it may be worth paying out-of-pocket for your check-ups instead of buying a private policy, unless it’s part of the overall Medicare Advantage Plan that you choose for your health and medication benefits. 

Even if you pay out-of-pocket, seeing your dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings is your first-line of defense against future financial drain, in addition to protection against common oral health issues such as tooth decay, bone loss, gum recessions, dry mouth, and systemic health risks associated with oral bacterial traveling through the bloodstream into other parts of the body.  These bacteria can become lodged in arteries, hearts and lungs and predispose you to a number of serious medical conditions; such as, pneumonia, heart disease, stroke, high blook pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Routine dental care and regular home dental care, like traditional brushing and flossing, contribute significantly to your overall health and well-worth the costs. 

Make a dental appointment today!

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Disclaimer:  This article is for informational purposes only.  Nothing in this article should be construed as being a recommendation.  All sources of information are from reputable sources such as Federal and State government sites, Insurance Company Information published to the public and WebMD in order to help seniors get solid information.  Please do due diligence in your research and make the choices that are best for you.