Medicare, the federal health care program for Americans over age 65, covers only a very limited number of dental services in very serious situations.
How serious? Well, If you have cancer in your jaw and need teeth extracted to prepare for radiation treatment, that would be serious enough. Also, if you were preparing for kidney transplant, you can expect Medicare to help with the charges for a dental exam.
Additionally, the official Medicare website vaguely states that a non-covered dental service MAY be covered if it is the result of, or a necessary part of, a covered dental service as long as it is performed by the same Medicare approved dentist.
Other than these specific situations, dental services are not covered by Medicare. Even though dental treatments can be an important part of keeping you healthy and pain free, Medicare does not pay any part of your dental cleanings, fillings, crowns, root canals or dentures.
What about supplements? Don’t medicare supplements pay for the things that are not covered by Medicare?
No! Actually, Medicare supplement plans (aka Medigap plans) help you pay for a portion of a Medicare approved service, not unapproved treatments like dental care.
The only time you might see a Medicare plan offering some dental services is if it is provided as a bonus for people who sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan.
Medicare advantage plans are not supplementing Medicare, however. These plans (also known as Medicare Part C plans) are private contracts with insurance companies or other health care organizations that are replacing Medicare Part A and B, instead of just filling in the gaps. The plans are usually designed as HMO or PPO plans with doctors and hospitals enlisted as network providers. Such plans will commonly require that you use the network for health services, or discourage out of network services with significantly higher costs.
When a Medicare Advantage Plan does offer any dental service, you can expect it to be quite limited.
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