This site is not affiliated with the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.

Medicare Dental Plans | How They Work & How To Enroll

An elderly lady smiling in the dentists chair.

With millions of Americans receiving Medicare benefits, many wonder about their dental coverage on Medicare. Dental care is critical to one’s overall health care, so visiting the dentist for routine cleanings and exams should not stop simply due to age. Although Original Medicare does not include a dental plan, there are still several ways to get dental coverage while on Medicare. Keep reading as we tell you everything you need to know about enrolling in dental coverage on Medicare. We will give you all your options, plus explore some of the best Medicare dental plans available today.


Does Medicare Cover Dental Care?

No, Original Medicare does not cover dental care. This applies to nearly all routine dental services, like cleanings, fillings, crowns, extractions, dental x-rays, dental implants, and dentures. If you have a dental procedure performed, you will be responsible for paying the entire amount of the bill out of your own pocket. That is, of course, unless you have an alternate method of dental insurance. We will discuss more in the next section the available options for you while enrolled in Medicare.

So, what dental services are covered by Medicare? It is worth noting that there are a couple of exceptions to the Medicare rule on dental services. While Medicare does not cover basic dental care, there is at least one situation under which Medicare will pay for dental services. If the service is medically necessary to treat a condition covered by Medicare, then Medicare will pay for the dental service. This is usually most common in the case of accidents or emergencies. For example, suppose that you are in an accident and require emergency jaw surgery. If a tooth extraction is required to perform that surgery, then Medicare will pay for the extraction.

Similarly, your Medicare Part A hospital insurance will pay for a hospital stay that results from a dental procedure. Imagine that you have oral surgery and require a stay in the hospital as a result of the surgery. Even though Medicare will not pay for the oral surgery, your Part A benefits will pay for the resulting stay in the hospital.


How To Get Dental Coverage On Medicare

An elderly lady in the dentists chair talking to her dentist.

If Original Medicare does not provide dental benefits, then how can you get dental coverage while on Medicare? There are several different options available. You can use one of these options to get coverage and help pay your dental provider when you receive treatment.


— Medicare Advantage Plan

Medicare Advantage plans, or Medicare Part C, can be a great way to add dental coverage to your Medicare benefits. These plans are managed by private insurance companies that contract with Medicare to offer these plans. By law, each Advantage plan must offer at least the same minimum level of coverage as Original Medicare. However, most Advantage plans offer many additional benefits. These extra benefits often include dental coverage, vision coverage, gym memberships, and other great benefits. Some plans do not even require the payment of a monthly premium! If you are a Medicare beneficiary who needs dental coverage, then a Medicare Advantage plan might be the best choice for you.


— Dental Supplemental Insurance

Since Original Medicare coverage does not include dental benefits, many people look for other ways to add a dental plan. If you are looking for a plan that covers routine dental care, like cleanings, fillings, and root canals, then supplemental dental insurance for seniors might be right for you. Instead of selecting a Medicare Advantage plan that might have costs and benefits you don’t need, you can choose to add a dental-only plan to your Medicare coverage. This kind of dental insurance plan would be in addition to your Original Medicare coverage, and it would allow you to maintain your oral health without incurring huge out-of-pocket expenses. Since each plan is managed by a private insurance company, the details of each plan will be different. This means that they will have different premium amounts and cost-sharing models, like deductibles, copays, and coinsurance amounts.


— Medicare Part A Emergency Services

We previously touched on this coverage earlier in this article, but there is a way to get your Medicare Part A hospital insurance to pay for dental services. However, the exclusions covered by this rule are pretty limited. Even though Medicare will not cover preventive services at your dentist or routine services, like fillings, your Medicare Part A plan covers emergency care that is medically necessary to treat a Medicare-covered condition. For example, suppose that you are in an accident and require emergency surgery to repair your jaw. If a tooth extraction is medically necessary to perform the jaw surgery, then your Medicare benefits will cover the tooth extraction in addition to the surgery.


— Pay Out-Of-Pocket

Paying out-of-pocket is basically your last option for dental coverage. If neither your Part A nor Part B benefits will cover the service, and you don’t have a Medicare Advantage plan or supplemental dental policy, then you will be forced to pay for your dental expenses on your own. Remember that Medigap will not cover these expenses either since they are not covered by Medicare. You might find that your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan will cover some prescription costs, even for dental procedures. Those could include antibiotics, pain medications, or other medicine that might be necessary when you obtain dental treatment. However, the amount owed to your dental provider will be incurred as out-of-pocket costs for you.


Best Medicare Advantage Plans For Dental Care

An elderly man sitting at a desk on his laptop computer.

So, which Medicare Advantage plans offer the best dental coverage? Here are the best Medicare Advantage plans if you are looking for dental coverage.


— Humana

Humana offers plans in all 50 states, and its online capabilities are some of the best available. You can easily manage your plan, find a provider, or perform other tasks through your online account. In addition to dental, Humana also offers the Silver Sneakers program and other benefits that can be extremely helpful for seniors.


— Kaiser Permanente

If you are looking for the best customer service, then Kaiser Permanente is the plan for you. This company consistently ranks at the top of the list for customer service, and they have some of the highest-rated Medicare Advantage plans on the market. In addition to dental, you also receive vision and hearing coverage with most of these plans. The main drawback is that these plans are only available in a handful of states.


— United Healthcare

United’s plans offer the largest network of providers of any of the plans out there. Plus, you get access to many AARP benefits as well. They have plans available with a wide range of premiums to meet your needs, and you can also choose to add other benefits, like hearing or vision coverage. While these plans are available in most states, they are not available everywhere. So, you should check to determine whether they are available in your area.


— Cigna

If you have special dental needs, then Cigna is the likely choice for you. They offer a wide range of plans for seniors with special dental needs. Their plans often include coverage for more extensive procedures, and they offer flexible plans that allow for coverage of both regular checkups and more intense visits with dental specialists. If you are wondering, “Does Medicare cover dental implants,” then you might want to consider a Cigna plan. The Cigna plans are available in roughly half of the states today, so check your area to determine whether you can qualify for one of these plans.


Enrollment In A Dental Insurance Plan

Now that you’ve decided you want to enroll in a dental plan, how can you get signed up? The answer may vary a little depending on which type of plan you decide on. If you want to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan, you will need to enroll during your initial enrollment period or the Medicare annual enrollment period each year. During this time, you can sign up for a new plan or change your existing plan. Unfortunately, you cannot decide to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan at any time during the year. It must be done during one of the enrollment periods. Some supplemental dental plans may have enrollment periods, but many of them allow you to sign up at any time.

Once you select a plan option, simply contact the insurance company that manages the plan. Make sure that you have closely examined all the coverage options and details, as well as the list of network providers. Once you are certain you have chosen the right plan for you, the insurance company will gather your information and issue an insurance card. You will present that card to your dentist when you have services performed, and they will bill your insurance company. You will then be responsible for any costs not paid by your insurance plan. The process works much the same as traditional medical insurance once you get signed up.


Cost Of Medicare Dental Plans

So, how much does a Medicare dental plan cost? The cost of a plan varies greatly depending on the type of plan and coverage details. There are many different plan options available, like HMO and PPO. Some Medicare Advantage plans that include dental coverage have zero monthly premium. However, make sure you read the fine print. They may have a very limited number of network dentists, and the cost-sharing expenses might be extremely high.

On average, a quality dental plan will cost you anywhere from $20 to $50 per month. If you opt for a Medicare Advantage plan with dental coverage, you can expect to pay $50 to $150 per month. Again, you might find cheaper plans, but those usually do not offer the same level of benefits as the plans that include higher premiums. If you need assistance selecting the right plan for your situation, you should consult a licensed insurance agent in your area. They can assist you with finding the right plan for your situation by balancing overall cost with the level of benefits provided. Remember that the monthly premium is not the only cost associated with the plan. You are also responsible for deductibles, copays, and coinsurance amounts when you receive service, so you must take those costs into account.


The Bottom Line

Although Original Medicare does not provide dental benefits, there are several ways that you can enroll in a dental plan while on Medicare. Many people opt for a Medicare Advantage plan that includes dental coverage, while others choose a dental supplement plan to add to their Medicare coverage. Remember that your traditional Medigap, or Medicare supplement insurance, will not cover dental services either. There are a few limited circumstances under which your Medicare emergency coverage will pay for dental services, but you will usually need to pay out-of-pocket for dental expenses unless you have added another type of dental policy.


Frequently Asked Questions


Who is eligible to receive Medicare dental plans?

Anyone who is eligible for Medicare can choose to enroll in Medicare dental coverage through Medicare Advantage or through a supplemental dental policy. There are no other eligibility criteria that must be met in most cases. Unlike traditional health insurance, there is usually very little underwriting that must be done before you can enroll in a dental plan.


What are the benefits of Medicare dental plans?

The main benefit of a Medicare dental plan is that your out-of-pocket dental expenses should be lowered. Since the plan pays for some services, like cleanings, fillings, or other dental work, you will no longer be responsible for paying 100% of the cost of the service out of your own pocket. The coverage details will vary depending on your specific plan, but most plans will cover at least 40% of the cost of dental services. This can save you quite a bit of money. You should also be aware that most plans have an annual limit on how much money they will pay. Once you hit that limit, you will have to pay for all services on your own for the rest of the year.


Can you use a Medicare dental plan to receive your dental coverage?

Absolutely! Remember that Original Medicare does not include dental coverage, and it also provides no option for dental coverage. Medicare does not cover dentures, dental implants, or even regular checkups. If you wish to add Medicare dental insurance, you will need to select a Medicare Advantage plan that has this benefit or add a supplemental dental policy. Either of these options can be a great choice depending on your personal situation.