Medicare doesn’t cover dental work. What am I supposed to do?

Q: George in Newport: I just found out that Medicare doesn’t cover dental work. What am I supposed to do?

A: Unfortunately, we’ve seen a number of retirees get caught off guard by the fact most dental care – such as exams, cleanings, fillings, and crowns – is not covered under Original Medicare (Parts A & B). So, if you’re not yet Medicare-eligible, be sure to explore your Medicare Advantage Plan options since many of these plans offer dental coverage. If you’re already enrolled in Original Medicare, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage Plan during the open enrollment period that’s held each fall.

Another option? Buy standalone dental coverage. According to, the premium for this type of coverage is usually about $30 a month. The website eHealth can help you compare plans and costs. You could also look into joining a dental discount plan. You’ll be charged a fee, but in return you’ll receive discounted rates to use a certain group of dentists.

Be aware, however, that just because you get coverage doesn’t mean you’ll pay significantly less for services. According to a recent study in the journal Health Affairs, Medicare beneficiaries with dental coverage paid an average of $894 out-of-pocket in 2016 – while those who didn’t paid $928.

The Simply Money Point is that no matter what kind of dental plan you end up going with, be sure you understand what it actually covers. For instance, what’s the plan’s definition of “basic cleaning” and “x-rays?” Also be sure you understand the co-payment and co-insurance obligations.