What dental care options are available for low income seniors?

Linda Leslie | 02.07.2013

What dental care options are available for low income seniors?

If you or a loved one have dental problems now:  Your first step is to have an exam by your local dentist, including x-rays and a cleaning.  This is worth the money. Your dentist will give you a written TREATMENT PLAN with the costs and alternatives.   You can now figure out how much it will cost you to get healthy. 

If you or your loved one is dentally healthy, it will save you money if you keep up with regular care: This means dental cleaning, x-rays and exam at least once a year. Dental x-rays will find any problem in your mouth and allow the dentist to fix it before it becomes an expensive and complicated problem. 

DENTAL INSURANCE:

Don't get hung up on having insurance. There are discount insurance plans, and there are Medicare Dental Advantage plans available. Please look carefully at these. They often do not pay out enough in treatment each year to cover what you pay in premiums. There are also waiting periods before you can get any work done. Dentists must sign a contract with insurance companies, so your choice of a dentist may be limited.  Talk with your dental office before choosing a plan.

Know that Medicare does not cover routine dental care.

OTHER OPTIONS:

1.  Alternative treatment and financing: Depending on your health, there may be more than one way to solve a dental problem. Ask your dentist what other treatment will work for you. Most offer some type of payment plan and many will do some things at reduced prices, based on your needs. You can check with more than one dental office. Be sure to take a copy of your x-rays.

2. County Public Health Department: Type in your county, state, and ‘public health’ for an internet search;  or see the ‘Government Pages’ in the front of your phone book under your county and ‘Health Department’. If your county has a Dental Clinic there may be a waiting list for adult care.

3. Community Clinics: There are many local programs for dental care. Your Social Services office will have information on this. You can also contact the United Way by dialing 211 or go to http://www.211.org

4. Dental School: If there is one in your area, this may be an option. You will get excellent care for low cost. Be prepared for long appointments and it may take many visits to get all the work completed, BUT IT IS WELL WORTH IT! To find a dental school, click here. A local dental hygiene school is a good choice for x-rays and cleanings.

5. Donated dental services: This is a national program of volunteer dentists who will treat needy patients. It is very limited and you must meet specific requirements. For more info, click here and choose your State.

6. Veteran's benefits: If you are a Veteran, you may be eligible for dental benefits provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

7. Nursing home residents: Incurred Medical Expense is a possible payment option to get dental services for seniors living in a nursing home.

Linda Leslie

American Dental Hygienists' Association, Member

Special Care Dentistry Association, Member

Greater Orlando Dental Assistant School, Program Director