The Best Dental Insurance for Seniors on Medicare in 2020

Keeping your teeth and gums healthy for life

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First Look

Searching for the best dental insurance for seniors on Medicare is no easy task. Seniors are the most frequent visitors to the dental office due to their age and its impact on oral health. In 2016, 65% of people enrolled in Medicare did not have dental care coverage, and 19% paid over $1,000 out of pocket for dental care. Original Medicare doesn’t cover dental care, which leaves many people unprotected. However, you can still get dental coverage with certain Medicare Advantage plans. We reviewed the best options to make sure you can find a plan that keeps you smiling.

Step 1: When You Sign up for Medicare, Decide If You Want to Purchase a Medicare Advantage Plan With Dental Coverage

Not all Medicare Advantage plans come with dental coverage, and because Original Medicare doesn’t cover oral health, you’ll want to double-check if your plan explicitly lists dental coverage—and what coverage it provides.

Step 2: Find the Medicare Advantage Plans in Your Service Area

Using either the plan finder on the Medicare website or your provider’s plan comparison, you’ll need to enter your ZIP code and possibly other personal information (such as date of birth) to see what plans may be available to you.

Step 3: Decide Which Dental Services You Think You Will Need 

Dentures? Tooth extraction? Regular cleanings? Not all dental care is created equal. If regular cleanings are all you think you’ll need, you may not require more intensive coverage, like that which covers dentures. It’s worth it to thoroughly investigate which plans cover what services.

Step 4: Compare the Difference in Cost Among Plans

Cost is always a determining factor, especially for insurance. When it comes to dental insurance, oral care can quickly get very expensive. Because different plans will offer coverage for various services, choose carefully—you don’t want to pay for care you won’t need. Consider the prices of different providers and different coverage levels, and consider your current level of oral healthcare when determining what you may need in the future.

Step 5: Get a Second Opinion From a Knowledgeable Resource

An insurance broker or consultant can be a valuable asset during your decision-making process. Not only do brokers have a wealth of knowledge and experience, but they sometimes have better access to more plan options or cheaper costs than you’d find elsewhere. The best part? Brokers are entirely free to use and are required to follow strict regulations, so they can’t provide you with more information than what you specifically inquire about.

A broker can help you break down the costs of different plans and different coverage levels, which can be overwhelming. They can also provide more personalized price comparisons between different providers.

Step 6: Enroll

You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan when you become eligible based on age or disability, or during the Open Enrollment period.

In 2020, Open Enrollment runs from October 15 through December 7.

We researched and reviewed the best dental coverage for seniors on Medicare based on their Medicare star rating, price, web usability, educational content, opportunity to compare plans, the availability of in-person agents, and more. All of the plans but one reviewed here cover at least 40 states.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Humana

Humana

Humana

Humana has a special offer through 2020, waiving all out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Advantage enrollees. Aside from that, Humana boasts very low premiums. Most of its Medicare Advantage plans do cover dental insurance and give multiple benefits, which are broken down very clearly.

Pros
  • Easy to compare prices

  • Out-of-pocket costs waived through 2020

  • Easily understandable plan breakdown with plenty of information available

Cons
  • Different plans have different maximum benefit coverage amounts, which can be low (especially for dental work)

  • Some plans have limits on how many times a year you can receive certain care

  • Some plans have higher monthly premiums, which can add up (especially in addition to Part B premiums)

Although Humana is waiving all out-of-pocket fees through the end of 2020, that doesn’t mean that all premiums are $0—although a couple of options provide coverage (including dental) for $0 a month. The Preventative Value PPO plan is the lowest cost plan, at under $18 per month, and has no waiting period. It does fully cover cleanings and exams and offers a 50% discount on fillings and simple extractions. The Bright Plus PPO plan, which costs under $24 per month, has a three-month waiting period. It fully covers exams and X-rays and offers a 60% discount on fillings and simple extractions. Procedures that are not covered by either plan include oral surgery, root canals, crowns, dentures, and orthodontics. Be sure to check the “Plan Details” closely, because even if dental coverage is listed on the comparison page, not all dental coverage is created equal.

Humana has more detailed coverage without being overpriced.

Best for ‘Just In Case’ Coverage: Aetna

Aetna

Aetna

If you’re looking into bundling even further with your Medicare Advantage plan to cover your dental (or dental and vision) bases, Aetna may be right for you. Bundling allows you to make one payment to cover all of your supplemental needs, instead of making payments to each provider separately. These bundles consist of riders, which give you additional coverage for certain health care costs not covered by Medicare alone. In this case, both riders come with an extra premium, but they do provide backup coverage to cover the gaps in your regular Medicare Advantage plan.

Pros
  • “Bundleable” riders can combine dental & vision, or just dental

  • Star ratings listed on plan comparison page (including some with a 4.5 rating)

  • Both dental options are available via affordable add-ons

Cons
  • Low maximum yearly coverage amount ($1,000 whether only dental or combined with vision)

  • No specific dental care covered (e.g. copays for routine care, fillings, etc.)

  • Few plans with any dental coverage at all

Aetna is good for you if you don’t see yourself needing intensive care for either oral or vision coverage. If you want the security of knowing you have the basics covered, like routine cleanings and x rays, but don’t think you’ll need a lot of bells and whistles, like coverage for crowns, extractions, or fillings, Aetna is the perfect option. Both the dental plan and the combined dental/vision plan are around $30/month, so they are fairly affordable, especially since the plan it comes with has a $0 deductible. While the options for dental with Aetna are limited, the Aetna Medicare Advantage Dental Rider PPO covers all in-network procedures that are listed here.

Best for Preventative Care: Cigna

Cigna

Cigna

Most of Cigna’s Medicare Advantage plans cover preventative dental care like cleanings and routine exams, and some cover comprehensive care as well, such as crowns and extractions. With most plans, preventive care does not have a maximum yearly amount. Cigna’s Medicare Advantage plan has built-in dental coverage through Part C coverage.

Pros
  • Variety of plans to choose from that include dental

  • Comprehensive dental care maximums range from $1,000 to $2,000 yearly

  • Plans also include vision coverage for exams, eyewear or contact lenses, and more

  • Average monthly premium is $144 (includes medical, vision, and dental coverage)

Cons
  • May not offer Medicare coverage in your state, but offers separate dental plans in all 50 states

  • Plans vary in other coverage, so be sure to compare medical, dental, and vision plans

Cigna understands that preventative dental care plays a huge part in your overall health. With most plans, you’ll find preventative dental care covered, and on some of those plans, you’ll also find comprehensive care coverage because preventive measures don’t always do the trick. However, the Medicare Advantage plans that this dental care comes with can vary wildly, not only in coverage but in monthly premiums, so make sure to review the “Plan Details” page carefully. Because the plans are combined with other riders for full coverage, the details of each plan will vary. Cigna Medicare Advantage HMO plans offer coverage within a set network of providers. Cigna Medicare Advantage PPO plans have a set network as well, but they also allow you to visit providers outside of your network for an additional charge or limited coverage. Cigna Medicare Advantage PFFS plans are flexible in the choice of providers, but as claims are determined on a case-by-case basis, you run the risk of being denied treatment by providers. Carefully weigh the benefits of each plan, in addition to the dental coverage, to make sure you’re picking the best, most comprehensive plan for you.

When choosing a Cigna Medicare Advantage plan, weigh the dental care, medical coverage, and prescription drug coverage separately, and then decide which aspect of the Medicare Advantage plan is most important to you. Don’t get caught without coverage in an area you may need.

Most Comprehensive Coverage: AARP

AARP

AARP

AARP’s Medicare Advantage plans, for the most part, all come with preventative dental coverage, and almost all of those plans also come with comprehensive dental care coverage as well.

Pros
  • Preventative dental care comes with most plans, to cover  cleanings, x-rays, etc.

  • Most plans also come with comprehensive dental care

  • Generally low premiums (ranging from $0 to over $100)

Cons
  • Most plans have a $1,000 maximum yearly limit for comprehensive care

  • Some plans give yearly maximum coverage amount for preventative and comprehensive dental combined

It’s nice to feel secure with your insurance. That’s what AARP provides—no matter what plan you choose, your pearly whites are covered. Most plans come with at least preventative care covered, and most also include comprehensive care covered, though admittedly at a $1,000 yearly maximum cap. (This is sometimes a combined total for both preventive and comprehensive.) That means you may not need to pay anything at the dentist, depending on the procedure you’re having done. However, if you think you’ll be having more intensive work done that would exceed the $1,000 maximum, it may be best to look into plans that have more detailed, broader coverage options available. The PPO Plan A offers the most comprehensive coverage with a $40 deductible and $1,500 in annual coverage. The PPO Plan B offers a lower monthly premium but a $90 deductible and $1,000 in annual coverage.

Best in Options: Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Talk about options—in addition to offering dental coverage with some of its Medicare Advantage plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield also gives you the choice of how much dental coverage you may want to apply for with a given plan. You can choose from the regular coverage, the bundled coverage, or the "enhanced" bundle, which provides greater coverage for more comprehensive and preventative care. A few of our favorites include the premier package, which covers major services like dentures, bridges, and crowns, after 12 months of coverage. These services are often excluded from many of the dental plans for seniors on Medicare from various providers.

Pros
  • More choice and opportunity for customization of care

  • Most affordable premium still offers 50% comprehensive care covered (e.g. root canal, crowns, etc)

  • $0 copay for up to two oral exams per year

Cons
  • Limits on comprehensive care (eg: extractions are limited to one per tooth per lifetime)

  • Relatively high premium for enhanced plan (about $40/month)

  • No enhanced dental plan without also including enhanced vision (and vice versa— enhanced plan only comes in a bundle)

While extra effort may be needed to find your specific state’s website for Blue Cross Blue Shield Medicare Advantage plans (rather than going through the main BCBS website), it’s worth it for the coverage and comparisons it offers. Dental Blue 65 Preventive is the lowest priced plan of BCBS, at under $24 per month, but only covers diagnostic and preventative services like cleanings and X-rays. The Dental Blue 65 Basic plan costs under $38 per month but includes basic services like fillings and extractions. The Dental Blue 65 Premier is the most comprehensive and expensive plan offered, costing just under $69 per month. But it includes all services including dental implants, crowns, bridges and dentures. According to the BCBS website, its plans offer you coverage with over 90% of practicing dentists and more than 350,000 provider locations nationwide.

Best for Low Costs: Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha

While Medicare Advantage plans from Mutual of Omaha aren’t available in every location (currently serving 23 states), the prices and coverage are good. There is a $0 monthly premium option that covers all preventive dental care, with just a $25 copay, and a $28 monthly premium plan called CareAdvantage, which covers comprehensive care at a $0 copay, up to $1,000 per year.

Pros
  • CareAdvantage plans offer lower or $0 copays on other products as well

  • Easy to compare the regular and CareAdvantage plans, with the differences clearly highlighted

  • Overall low cost for a decent amount of coverage

  • Care Advantage plans also cover hearing aids up to $750

Cons
  • Limited plan options overall

  • Plans not available in all states

  • Higher out-of-pocket maximums with both plan options ($4,700 for regular and $4,250 for CareAdvantage)

Mutual of Omaha keeps it simple, without crowding too many plans with too many choices into your options. Both plans offer some kind of dental care, but it depends on your situation and how much care you may need, to determine which Plan may be better for you. It’s wise to consider all the differences in coverage, but especially in dental, since the regular plan only covers preventative dental care (such as cleaning, X-rays, etc) and has a $25 copay. The CareAdvantage plan has a $28 premium compared to the regular plan’s $0, but it does include lower copays and full coverage for preventative dental treatment. The CareAdvantage plan offers a $0 copay on comprehensive care, though it does have a $1,000 maximum per year. Mutual of Omaha’s offerings are simple but basic; if you’re looking for many different care options for medical coverage, it may be better to look elsewhere.

How We Chose the Best Dental Insurance for Seniors on Medicare

When we reviewed the best Medicare Advantage Plans for dental coverage, we first considered the geographic service range. We looked at plans that serve at least 40 states or offered dental coverage in as many states as it offered medical coverage. Next, we compared premiums and copays, ease of website usability, coverage and care details, and more, all to provide the most people possible with the best dental providers for seniors on Medicare. We favored companies that included comprehensive dental and preventive care, as well as things like major services including implants and bridges. Our attention to cost detail allowed us to compare on both a monthly premium level and an overall cost based on deductibles to help you make the best choice for your budget.

What Dental Benefits Are Covered by Medicare?

Neither Original Medicare nor Medicare Advantage is required to cover dental care, but many providers will include dental and vision care in their Medicare Advantage plans.

Is It Less Expensive to Buy Dental Insurance Outside of Medicare?

It depends on what dental coverage you need. In addition to the various price points offered by these plans, if you purchase through Medicare, you can take advantage of bundles that lower the price point and give you the ease of paying just one provider. If you don’t need or want to get your dental coverage through your Medicare provider, it may be worth looking into separate dental coverage, especially if you have more specific needs than what Medicare Advantage plans can offer.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay for Dental Insurance on Medicare?

It varies based on coverage level, for both the medical aspect and the dental side. Medicare Advantage plans can be as low as $0 or over $100 per month, and some providers only offer dental at an added cost (anywhere from $14 to almost $100). These prices can also vary greatly depending on what prescription drug coverage you enroll in and what medications you’re prescribed because some plans add a premium for Part D prescription drug coverage. Many factors go into the overall cost of Medicare Advantage plans, but on the whole, total costs can be anywhere from under $100 per month to over $300 or more, depending on what level of care and coverage you select for each different aspect of your plan.

Is Dental Insurance via Medicare Advantage Worth the Money?

Depending on the plan, yes. If you don’t foresee yourself needing much in the way of dental care except maybe the occasional cleaning or X-ray, then a simple plan that covers preventative dental care may be right for you. If you know you’ll have certain dental needs (e.g., dentures), it’s worth shopping for different Medicare Advantage plans and exploring exactly what each plan covers because all Medicare Advantage plans that offer comprehensive dental care do not cover every single aspect of dental care. Some plans do, though, and it’s worth looking into the comparative costs of these plans, especially in the case of surgery and similar big-ticket expenses. However, most of these plans have a yearly maximum coverage amount, so if you know you have some big dental bills ahead of you, it might be worth it to look for a plan that’s built specifically for dental care. Prices may be more affordable for more detailed care.

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Article Sources
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  1. KKF.org. "Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries." Accessed October 16, 2020.