How to Make Dental Coverage More Accessible to Older Americans

July 31, 2017

Experts agree that steps must be taken to make dental care coverage more accessible and affordable for older Americans. Fortunately, there are several solutions available.

The Crisis

A 2016 Oral Health America report states that retirees are less likely to seek dental care if they have no dental insurance. At the same time, those who do have coverage are two and a half times more likely to regularly visit a dentist.

Private insurance only covers a portion of dental care costs. Dental insurance usually provides “100-80-50” coverage, which means it pays 100 percent of the cost of routine preventive and diagnostic care; 80 percent for basic services; and 50 percent for major procedures.

Low-income adults have access to Medicaid, but coverage varies from state to state. Forty-two percent of the states that offer Medicaid provide no dental benefits or only emergency coverage. Retirees have access to Medicare coverage, but less than one percent of dental services are covered.

Regular dental care is critical because it reduces the high risk of oral diseases and other problems, including strokes and heart attacks.


Solutions usually focus on what states and the federal government can do for older Americans. An example: Congress considered the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2013, which would extend comprehensive dental coverage to all individuals covered by Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.

Other recommendations include:

  • Labeling adult dental coverage and services as “essential health benefits” under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Sustaining or advocating for Community Water Fluoridation. Most water has some fluoride, but usually not enough to prevent cavities.

  • Promoting community outreach and education about the need for good oral health.

The good news is that private dental insurance is probably far more affordable than you’d think! We can help you with your healthcare needs. Contact your local Alera Group firm for more information.