Dental Plans for Retirees

by Tim Plaehn
During a routine exam, a dentist checks for signs of cavities, gingivitis and abnormalities.

During a routine exam, a dentist checks for signs of cavities, gingivitis and abnormalities.

Many retirees rely on Medicare as their health insurance coverage once they turn 65 or older. However, Medicare and Medicare supplement insurance do not cover dental care except in a limited number of cases. A retiree will probably pay for his own dental insurance, so all options should be reviewed.

Coverage Into Retirement

Many working individuals have dental insurance coverage as part of an employer's overall benefits package. It can be a surprise to retire and find out dental care is no longer covered. One possible solution is to see if your employer coverage can be continued into retirement. The employer may offer dental insurance as a deduction from your monthly pension check or the dental insurance company may allow you to convert to an individual plan with similar coverage. However, do not automatically choose the coverage offered by your employer. The cost of the insurance may be higher than other plans available in your area.

Individual Dental Insurance

Compared to regular health insurance, it is not difficult for a retired person to buy individual dental insurance. Both national and local companies offer dental insurance plans for individuals and families. There are three basic types of dental insurance plans, which work much like their health insurance counterparts. A Health Maintenance Organization -- HMO -- limits users to dentists who are providers in the HMO. A Preferred Provider plan -- PPO -- also expects users to go to dentists contracted with the the plan, but may offer limited coverage outside of the plan. The major difference between HMO and PPO plans is how the dentists are paid. Traditional insurance plans allow you to go to any dentist and the plan will pay a set amount to the dentist based on your location and the type of procedure. This is the most expensive type of dental insurance for comparable coverage.

Comparing Insurance Plans

Research the different dental insurance plans available in your area. Some insurance companies offer separate plans for seniors. Make a list or chart to compare the costs, features and coverage of the different plans. Important considerations include which dentists are available with a plan, the out-of-pocket costs for routine coverage and the maximum coverage in a calendar year. As a retiree, you should make special note of the costs for items like crowns and new dentures. When your comparison is finished, you should be able to choose a plan with the best combination of cost and coverage for your situation.

Discount Dental Plans

So-called low cost dental discount plans can be another option. These plans are not actual insurance coverage. For a low monthly charge, often less than $10, these plans claim to save a large percentage off the cost of dental work. If you are considering one of these plans, make a copy of the plan information and talk to the office manager of a local dentist. Ask if the plan actually does save money. You may also find that an HMO or PPO dental plan with much better coverage does not cost much more than the discount plan payments.

About the Author

Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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