Does Medicare Cover Dental Costs?

Original Medicare doesn’t pay for most dental procedures, but you do have options for getting coverage elsewhere.

Written by Kat Tretina / April 1, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Dental problems worsen as you age, and caring for your teeth contributes to overall good health.
  • Original Medicare does not pay for routine dental care, restorative procedures or dentures.
  • Nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries don’t have dental insurance.
  • You can get at least some coverage through a stand-alone dental policy or a Medicare Advantage plan.

Tending to your teeth isn’t simply a cosmetic concern, and as you age, regular dental care becomes increasingly important: Having trouble with your teeth and gums can raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes and respiratory infections like pneumonia.[1] So as you switch to Medicare for your health insurance coverage at age 65, it’s natural to wonder, Does Medicare cover dental?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Original Medicare does not cover most dental procedures, a coverage gap that leads many seniors to skip seeing the dentist. One in five adults between the ages of 65 and 80 reported delaying or forgoing needed dental care within the past two years. Of those who put off visits, 77% said it was due to the cost.[2]

However there are some instances when Medicare will cover dental work. Here’s what you need to know about paying for dental care and finding alternative ways to get insurance coverage.

Inside this article

  1. Does Medicare pay for dental?
  2. Does Medicare cover dentures?
  3. How to get dental coverage
  4. If you don’t have insurance

Does Medicare pay for dental care and procedures?

When you sign up for Original Medicare (Parts A and B), assuming that you’re all set for dental care as well as health care is a common misconception. In fact, you’re on your own for most routine dental procedures.[3]

“Dental work for the sake of dental work is not covered,” says Melanie Musson, a Medicare expert with InsuranceProviders.com. “So, cleanings, exams, X-Rays, fillings, crowns and most other dental procedures and exams are not covered.”

And that kind of ongoing care can add up. Consider these typical costs:

  • Basic cleaning and polish: Up to $200

  • X-rays: Up to $200

  • Fillings: Up to $250 for a composite or ionomer filling

  • Simple tooth extraction: Up to $250[4]

Because Medicare doesn’t provide coverage, many people go without insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 47% of Medicare beneficiaries have no dental insurance.[5]

What Medicare will cover are dental services that are part of procedures that the insurance plan does cover, including:

  • Tooth extractions done in preparation for radiation treatment for diseases of the jaw

  • Oral examinations before a kidney transplant or heart valve replacement

  • Reconstruction of the jaw after an injury

Does Medicare cover dentures?

Dentures become more common as you age, and on average you’ll pay $1,300 for a set.[6] But Original Medicare doesn’t help with that cost either.

And if you’re thinking about getting dentures, you’re not alone. About a quarter of adults between the ages of 65 and 80 report wearing dentures, and nearly half of adults say they are missing teeth but do not have dentures or implants.[2]

Of course, there are ways to get dental coverage outside of Medicare, including via private insurance, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicaid. There are also other low-cost resources, which we highlight below.

How to get dental coverage if you’re on Medicare

Routine dental care is an essential part of staying healthy, so going without can be a costly mistake. If you’re on Medicare, you can get insurance coverage for your teeth one of three ways:

1. Buy dental insurance

“You can purchase a stand-alone dental insurance policy,” says Musson. “Most of these policies help offset dental costs, but don’t cover the total cost of dental work.”

Premiums are dependent on the provider network (some policies require you to stay within a network of providers), the size of the deductible and reimbursement limit.[7] In general, a stand-alone dental policy will cost between $15 and $50 per month.[8]

“Compare dental plans, and if you find one that covers routine cleanings, have the cleanings done as often as allowed,” Musson says. “That will help you avoid expensive dental work down the road.”

2. Switch to a Medicare Advantage plan

If you’re enrolled in Original Medicare, another option is to choose a Medicare Advantage plan instead. These plans combine your Original Medicare Part A and B benefits, then typically add on services that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, including dental procedures. According to Scott Maibor, a Medicare expert with MedicarePlans.com, dental care is one of the biggest advantages of enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan and the No. 1 reason people do so.

However, make sure you review the policy carefully. “Most people are disappointed in the coverage—the amount of coverage per annum, if they are required to use only network dentists, the cost sharing,” says Maibor.

Most Advantage plans include dental benefits at no cost, Maibor adds, so at a minimum you’ll be covered for a couple of cleanings.

Tip: Even though Medigap, also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance, covers some expenses not covered by Original Medicare, only a very small number of these policies pay for any dental procedures.[9]

3. See if you’re eligible for Medicaid

Some seniors may be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, the state-run health programs for low-income residents. If that’s the case, your state’s Medicaid program may include dental coverage.[10] Some examples:

  • Connecticut: Connecticut’s Husky Health program covers exams, cleanings, X-Rays, partial and full dentures, and oral surgery for qualifying Medicaid beneficiaries.[11]

  • Florida: In Florida, most Medicaid recipients are eligible for dental care. Coverage includes dental exams, dentures, extractions and pain management.[12]

  • Missouri: Medicaid in Missouri covers examinations, X-Rays, cleanings, fillings and extractions for eligible adults.[13]

Medicaid rules for dental care coverage vary by state, so contact your state Medicaid agency for details.

How to pay for dental care if you don’t have insurance

If you can pay out-of-pocket for routine and corrective dental care, see if your dentist will give you a discount; some do since they can avoid the hassle of working with an insurance company.

If you need assistance paying for dental care, you have a few options:

  • Visit a school: Some dental schools provide dental care to the public. Students are supervised by licensed dentists, and the cost is often much lower than what you’ll pay at a dentist’s office.

  • Find a community health center: To find centers that provide dental care near you, use the Health Resources & Services Administration locator tool.

  • Call 2-1-1: There may be nonprofit organizations in your area that offer low-cost dental care. To find out if there are programs near you, call 2-1-1 to reach a local agency that provides information and referrals to social services in your area, or visit 211.org.[14]

Article Sources
  1. “Importance of Dental Health for Seniors,” American Dental Group, https://www.americandentalgroup.org/blog/importance-of-dental-health-for-seniors.
  2. “Dental Care and Coverage After 65,” National Poll on Healthy Aging, https://www.healthyagingpoll.org/reports-more/report/dental-care-coverage-after-65-experiences-perspective.
  3. “Dental Services,” U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/dental-services.
  4. “Cost of Common Dental Procedures,” Humana, https://www.humana.com/dental-insurance/dental-resources/cost-of-dental-procedures.
  5. “Lacking Dental Coverage, Many People on Medicare Forgo Dental Care, Especially Beneficiaries of Color,” Kaiser Family Foundation, https://www.kff.org/medicare/press-release/lacking-dental-coverage-many-people-on-medicare-forgo-dental-care-especially-beneficiaries-of-color.
  6. “How Much Do Dentures Cost Without Insurance?” Cigna Dental Plans, https://www.cignadentalplans.com/dental-care/how-much-do-dentures-really-cost-without-insurance.
  7. “Types of Dental Plans,” American Dental Association, https://www.ada.org/resources/practice/dental-insurance/dental-plan-overview.
  8. “How Much Is Dental Insurance?” Guardian Direct, https://www.guardiandirect.com/dental-insurance/how-much-is.
  9. “Small Share of Medicare Supplement Plans Offer Access to Dental, Vision and Other Benefits Not Covered by Traditional Medicare,” The Commonwealth Fund, https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2021/small-share-medicare-supplement-plans-offer-access-dental-vision-and-other-benefits-not.
  10. “Does Medicaid Cover Dental Care?” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.hhs.gov/answers/medicare-and-medicaid/does-medicaid-cover-dental-care/index.html.
  11. “The Connecticut Dental Health Partnership,” CT.gov, https://portal.ct.gov/HUSKY/The-Connecticut-Dental-Health-Partnership.
  12. “Florida Medicaid Dental,” Agency for Health Care Administration, https://ahca.myflorida.com/medicaid/Policy_and_Quality/Quality/clinical_quality_initiatives/oral_health/index.shtml.
  13. “Low-Income Resources,” Missouri Dental Association, https://www.modental.org/public-resources/free-and-low-cost-dental-care.
  14. “Finding Low-Cost Dental Care,” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2018-08/FindingLowCostDentalCare-508.pdf.

About the Author

Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina

Kat is dedicated to teaching people how to pay down debt, boost their incomes and reduce financial stress. Her work has been published by Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, Forbes Advisor and more.

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