Bracing yourself: Medicare does not cover your teeth in retirement, but there are solutions.


Healthy teeth can help lead to a healthy life overall. But as many people look at retirement, they realize they will no longer have full dental insurance. That puts your teeth, and health, at greater risk. As your financial matters become a fixed concern in retirement that cannot and should not be avoided, good dental health becomes a cost-saving, whereas bad dental health can be a financial drain.

First, some facts. Medicare, seen by some as a catch-all, does not cover dental care. It does not cover the cost of regular teeth cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, bridges, root canals or crowns. According to a recent article in Kiplinger’s, about half of all Medicare Advantage plans do not cover any dental needs at all. And if they do, that coverage is most often limited to basic cleanings, x-rays and usually caps annual coverage to about $1,500. Judith Jones, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and an expert on geriatric dental care is quoted in the article: “More involved procedures like root canals will likely be out-of-pocket costs to the individual.”

Here’s a real-world scenario nobody should find themselves facing. That same Kiplinger’s article tells the story of Terry O’Brien from Pelham, New Hampshire, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. She never worried much about her teeth until she hit age 76. She had been paying $36 per month for individual dental coverage that spanned costs up to $1,000. But after a dental visit for a root canal and crown replacement that cost $2,000 out of her own pocket, she then needed an additional root canal and crown replacement on top of the initial procedure. Rather than have the second procedure done, she rationalized that her teeth weren’t really bothering her, so she decided to skip having it done at all.

The ironic reality is that our most drastic dental needs occur in our latter years, even counting teenage braces. More than 70 percent of adults 65 and older have some level of periodontal disease. Your gums also begin to recede with age. And this is at a time in our lives when medical insurance goes away, previously provided by our employers or our spouses’ employers. By avoiding treatment altogether, Terry O’Brien may require an even more drastic procedure down the road, plus it will likely involve a higher total cost to perform.

In the final analysis, good dental health is less expensive than neglected teeth. At the most basic level, as you segue into your well-earned retirement, you should speak to experts on the topic of supplemental dental insurance. Our experts are ready, willing and able to walk you through the various options available through your association and AMBA. And these plans come with the great groups rates you’ve grown accustomed to when you were working full-time. Make your mouth and teeth happy; click to learn more at www.myambabenefits.info.


1 – Mary Kane, Kiplinger’s, Retirees, Create a Plan to Pay for Dental Care. Retrieved from:  https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T027-C000-S002-retirees-create-a-plan-to-pay-for-dental-care.html

2 – U.S. Department of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Oral Health Strategic Framework, 2014–2017. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4765973/

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