by heather larson, next avenue contributor
As you age, your teeth become more susceptible to fracture and have a higher risk of cavities. Over time, old fillings weaken teeth. this is not a good time to put your dental health on hold, says dr. Robert S. minch, private practice dentist in lutherville, md.
And yet, many people in their 50s and 60s don’t have dental insurance because they’re self-employed, work part-time, or are retired. Medicare does not cover most dental care, such as cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, dental veneers, or other dental devices; Part A only pays for certain dental services you can get when you’re hospitalized.
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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes dental insurance for children one of the 10 required essential health benefits, but there is no dental insurance requirement for adults, says Don Silver, author of The Best Obamacare Guide. . so no help there.
While adult dental coverage isn’t required, you can buy it in every state except Washington if you also buy a medical plan through CA, says Jeff Album, vice president of government and public affairs for Delta Dental of CA. , ny, pa & affiliates.
album also encourages those without dental coverage to look into some possibilities they may not have considered. “aarp sells dental insurance to people over 50, costco offers it to their executive members, the tricare dental plan for retirees is for veterans and those who worked in the military, the veterans administration has a plan and ehealthinsurance.com can be a option for some,” he says.
If none of those routes work, you still have a variety of options to get good dental care at a reasonable cost:
1. find a dentist with a payment plan. Many dentists offer a payment arrangement that replaces insurance. You pay an annual fee, normally over time, without financing or interest.
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dr. John Addison, a private practice dentist in Miami, Fla., offers his patients affordable dentistry through a company called Quality Dental Plans (QDP).
“qdp cuts out the [insurance] middleman and directly and immediately generates savings for patients,” says addison. “There are no minimums, copays, procedures that are not covered, or coverage denials.”
For an annual individual membership fee of $299, addison patients receive the following free each year: two cleanings, one complete exam, one set of x-rays, one teeth whitening, and 20% off most other dental services.
great expressions dental centers, with more than 200 locations in nine states, have their own payment plan for the uninsured. one person pays $59 a year and receives a free annual exam and set of x-rays plus a 35% discount on dental care. you can use the coverage as often as you need with no limits.
If you can’t find a local dentist with an affordable payment plan, look for free services.
2. participate in a charity event. Members of the national nonprofit organization, the Dental Group Practices Association (DGPA), like Grand Expression Dental Centers, are committed to helping the communities in which they serve by organizing days of free service. Although DGPA members operate for-profit businesses, they also donate their time to help underinsured people in their area.
“For example, Pacific Dental Services’ annual Smile Generation ‘Day of Service’ generates more than $1.5 million in free dentistry,” says Quinn Dufurrena, executive director of DGPA in Denver, Color.
Collectively, dgpa members provide millions of dollars in free care annually to patients across the country and abroad, through activities ranging from mobile dental clinics to free weekend office visits. all 30 members of the dgpa participate in volunteer work. For example: Heartland’s Free Dentistry Day allows dentists to provide free care to more than 3,000 patients in need annually, says Dufurrena.
You can also search for events offering free or low-cost dentistry at Dentistry of the Heart, the Dentistry Care Foundation of America, or on your state dental association website.
3. go to dental school. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says that dental schools offer good quality dental treatment at a reduced cost. most have clinics where students gain experience treating patients while their work is supervised by trained dentists. You’ll find a list of accredited dental education programs on the American Dental Association website.
minch, who teaches dental school, says to keep in mind that when a supervising dentist reviews every phase of his students’ work, he’ll spend more time in the dental chair than if he visited a practicing dentist private or a retail group clinic.
4. chain clinics may not be the answer. At first glance, retail dental establishments like Bright Now Dental, Coast Dental, Gentle Dental and others may seem like a good option for those without dental insurance. they often wave banners or have large signs in their windows proclaiming free cleanings and exams. addison, who worked at coast dental for almost two years, says the opposite is true.
“These types of retail clinics offer low-cost services for people with insurance,” Addison says. “the advantage they offer is that they can work with multiple insurance plans, while some dentists can only accept patients who are insured by some of the major companies.”
5. take preventive measures. to reduce the number of dental visits you need, dr. Joseph Banker, a cosmetic dentist in Westfield, N.J., suggests upping your oral care routine.
Regular brushing (at least twice a day for two to three minutes) and flossing at least once a day can control plaque and bacteria, as well as reduce gum inflammation and protect teeth. caries teeth. by flossing, you speed up that task.
An electric toothbrush gives you a better clean, and when it brushes along the tongue and teeth, it prevents bacteria from building up on the tongue, says the banker.
rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash in the morning, he says, and a fluoridated one at night also helps prevent cavities.
Dental care for those going through midlife, Addison says, is just as crucial as it was in childhood, because teeth are vulnerable at both stages of life.