Sometimes plaque and tartar can build up to the point where the accumulation irritates the gums. The irritation can result in tooth loss. A dentist might recommend a dental implant to solve the problem.
If you’re one of the many people who need dental implants and you have Medicare insurance, you probably have a lot of questions such as, “What are dental implants,” and, “Does Medicare cover dental implants?”
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth with a titanium post that’s surgically attached to the jaw. About 450,000 people have dental implants every year.
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage Dental Coverage
Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) does not cover dental implants or routine dental care. However, private insurance policies called Medicare Advantage (MA) plans can offer coverage for additional services Original Medicare does not, including dental services.
If you need dental insurance, an agent with Medicare Plan Finder can work with you to find a MA plan in your area that offers dental coverage. Some plans also offer coverage for vision, hearing and even fitness classes along with all of the services that Original Medicare covers.
Some people may find that their Medicare Advantage plan does not cover all of their dental needs. Those people may need additional dental coverage from private policies called commercial dental insurance plans to cover major procedures such as dental implants.
Does Medicare Supplement Cover Dental Implants?
Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans can help pay for financial items such as copays and coinsurance that can come with Original Medicare.
Unlike Medicare Advantage plans, Medigap policies do not offer additional benefits. That means that a Medicare Supplement plan will not pay for routine dental care or dental implants. You cannot have both a Medicare Advantage policy and a Medigap plan at the same time, so it’s a great choice to learn the difference between the two.
A licensed agent with Medicare Plan Finder can help you determine what you need, and what’s available in your area. To learn more, call 1-844-431-1832 or click here to use our Medicare Plan Finder tool!
Does Medicaid Pay for Dental Implants?
Medicaid is both federally and state-funded. The program helps people who qualify to pay for their health insurance. Every state has different rules about dental coverage. While most states provide at least emergency dental services for adults, not all states provide comprehensive dental coverage.
If you qualify for Medicaid and have questions about what services your state covers, contact your local Medicaid office.
Elderly Dental Problems and Their Solutions
Tooth loss is not an inevitable part of aging, but many seniors can develop diseases which can make dental implants or other solutions a necessity. Conditions that affect older adults include dry mouth, gum disease, and oral cancer.
Many medications that treat common senior conditions have dry mouth as a side effect. Dry mouth can lead to cavities, which ultimately lead to gum disease. If you have dry mouth as a medication side effect, talk to your doctor about what drugs you take and the dosages.
Your doctor may change your prescriptions or recommend over-the-counter oral moisturizers or drinking more water. In order to further prevent cavities, your dentist may apply fluoride treatments.
Periodontal, or gum disease results from bacteria in plaque irritating the gums. The gums become swollen and are more likely to bleed. Periodontal disease is widespread among older adults because it’s often painless until it becomes severe and many people don’t have regular dental exams.
If gum disease goes untreated, the gums can recede from the teeth and form spaces that can collect food particles and more plaque. Advanced periodontal disease can destroy the gums and the bones and ligaments that support the teeth. Your dentist can treat or help you prevent gum disease, so it’s important that you have regular check-ups.
Oral cancer is an uncontrollable growth of invasive cells that causes damage to the mouth, tongue, and throat. It can be life-threatening if it’s not treated early. Along with regular dental visits, you can prevent oral cancer by avoiding tobacco or heavy alcohol use.
Other risk factors include a family history of cancer, excessive sun exposure and having HPV. About 25 percent of oral cancer cases are people who don’t smoke or who only drink occasionally. Treatment for oral cancer involves surgery to remove the cancerous cells, or radiation and chemotherapy.
Does Medicare Cover Dentures or Other Alternatives to Traditional Dental Implants?
Some people may not be able to receive dental implants. For example, if your jaw cannot support an implant, a dental specialist will have to find an alternative. Dental implant alternatives include:
- Bridges: This alternative uses artificial teeth supported by crowns that attach to the natural teeth to solve the dental issue.
- Full or Partial Dentures: Full dentures are a dental implant alternative for people who have lost most of their natural teeth. They are removable artificial teeth secured to a support piece in the mouth. Partial dentures are for people who have most of their natural teeth still, and they attach to natural teeth with metal clasps.
- “Teeth in a Day”: Traditional dental implants require a lengthy recovery period that can last up to two years. “Teeth in a Day” is a procedure that uses computer-guided technology to find the best placement for implants and accurately insert new posts in an hour.
Dental Health for Seniors
If you take care of your teeth, you can avoid many of the issues that contribute to tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. A strong oral hygiene routine includes:
- Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
- Flossing between your teeth every day to remove plaque
- Limiting alcoholic beverages
- Refraining from smoking or chewing tobacco
- Regular dental visits even if you have no natural teeth or you have dentures
- Visiting your doctor or dentist if you experience abrupt changes in taste or smell
- Working to control diabetes, which will decrease the risk of gum disease and other conditions
Many older adults will need assistance with everyday grooming and self-care. If you’re a caregiver, you can help the people you care for avoid gum disease by flossing and brushing their teeth every day and bringing them to their dentist visits.
Let Us Help You Find Dental Plans That Cover Dental Implants
Even though Medicare does not cover dental implants, the right Medicare Advantage plan or commercial dental insurance plan can help pay for the treatments your dentist recommends. Call 833-438-3676 or contact us here to arrange an appointment with a licensed agent.
This post was originally published on June 12, 2019, and updated on January 7, 2020.