Research Hours


Companies Considered 


Companies Selected 


Total # of Plans Surveyed 


60+


16+


8


Over 45 


Dental health can have a profound influence on other parts of the human body, including the heart and lungs, yet many seniors do not have access to dental care through their insurance. For many Americans, dental insurance is tied to employment and ends at retirement, and replacing that insurance can seem like a low priority in the midst of other major life changes associated with retirement.

For seniors who no longer have or never had dental coverage, the importance of dental insurance may be easy to miss. The American healthcare system treats it as a side benefit, and it’s not included in many major health plans or in most government assistance programs. However, for seniors, regular preventative care and prompt treatments are crucial. As the American Dental Association explains, poor oral health, including painful teeth or gums, can impact a person’s ability to take in adequate nutrients. Furthermore, common conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease put seniors at risk for worsening oral health. 

Seniors that recognize the importance of regular access to dental care may not know where to start when it comes to shopping for dental insurance. There are over 1,700 dental insurance companies in the U.S. market, and most companies offer numerous plans. Seniors need to distinguish between plan types and find the benefit level that makes the most sense for them. This article includes extensive explanatory information, a list of the best companies for seniors, a buyer’s guide, and provides guidance to help seniors make the best choice. 

The Basics of Dental Insurance

Cost Sharing

Cost sharing is splitting the cost of services between the insurance company and the patient according to the plans’ schedule of benefits. Usually, you’ll need to meet a deductible (often $50) before the company starts sharing costs. 

Common Forms of Expressing/Defining Cost Sharing:

  • Coinsurance: The customer pays no more than a specific percentage (50%, for example) of the cost of the service. 
  • Copayments (copays): The customer pays no more than a flat amount (such as $100) for a specific service. 

Many plans use a mix of the two. In some plans, the cost sharing may be expressed in terms of what the company is liable for, rather than what the patient is liable for. Language is very inconsistent across companies, so it pays to read your policy documents carefully.

UC, UCR, Balance Billing, and Write-Offs

Beyond copays and coinsurance, there are several important financial concepts at work in dentistry. A firm grasp of these often conflated concepts will prepare you to ask intelligent questions about your financial liability as a patient. In brief, a Usual and Customary (UC) charge is what the dental office charges as a standard fee for the service, regardless of who is paying. On the other hand, a Usual, Customary, and Reasonable (UCR) charge is what the insurance company considers a maximum reasonable fee for the service. The insurance company will usually stipulate what percentage of the URC it will pay and what percentage of it the patient will be liable for under the insurance plan. Note that the UCR may also be called the “allowed amount” in some instances, though the terms are not always interchangeable.

The UC and URC don’t always match. If the dental office’s UC is higher than the insurer’s URC, the dental office might bill the patient for the difference. This practice is referred to as balance billing. However, if you see only in-network dentists, then you’re unlikely to be billed for the extra amount due to contracts that in-network dentists sign with dental insurance companies restricting them from balance billing. 

Annual Maximums

In many plans, the insurance company states an annual maximum amount of coverage (such as $1,000). Typically all services, including preventative ones, count toward the maximum. If the patient’s dental bills surpass the maximum, the patient will have to pay the remainder out-of-pocket until the maximum resets in the next year of coverage.

Networks

Networks are groups of dental offices with which the dental plan has signed a contract. Often, dentists in the network have agreed to offer discounted procedures and abide by coverage rules that the plan dictates. Providers are called participating/preferred/in-network or non-participating/out-of-network depending on whether or not they have joined your plan’s network. Different plans from the same company may have different networks. In some plans, you can only go to one dentist called a Primary Care Provider (PCP). In such cases, you’ll need referrals to see dental specialists.

Popular Dental Plan Styles

There are four common dental plan styles, though a few other styles of plans do exist. Note that the legal definitions of most plan types are broad enough that there are many variations in the market. “Often but not always” is a caveat that applies to many of the descriptions in the table below. Furthermore, many plans can be modified to include perks like vision or hearing benefits, and some plans come with that coverage automatically.

Dental Plan Style


Qualifies As Dental Insurance? 


Description


PPO


Yes


-Offered virtually everywhere
-Wide price range (about $15-$70 monthly)
-No PCP or referrals needed
-Coverage provided in-network and out-of-network
-Patient pays less when getting care in-network
-Waiting periods, deductibles, and annual coverage maximums included
-No balance billing in-network


Indemnity/Fee-For-Service (FFS)


Yes


-Available nationally
-Fairly wide price range (about $25-$70 monthly)
-Less common than PPOs
-No network, or the same level of coverage is offered for in- and out-of-network care
-Typically have waiting periods, deductibles, and maximums
-Customer pay fully upfront and are reimbursed by insurance later (most cases)
-Dental offices can use balance billing


HMO


Yes


-Unavailable or hard to find in many states
-Very low premiums (about $8-$20 monthly)
-PCP and referrals required
-Coverage never provided for out-of-network care*
-No waiting periods, deductibles, or annual maximums
-No balance billing on covered services 


Dental Discount


No


-Widely available
-Very low premiums (about $6-$20 monthly)
-Access to discounts is the only benefit (no reimbursements)
-Should never be marketed as insurance (strictly an alternative method for saving money)
-Patients make payment in full for their own dental care
-Billing practices dictated by dentists/local laws
-Discounts can be up to 60%
-Services that are specialty, cosmetic, or otherwise hard to get covered often included 


*There are some exceptions for urgent dental emergencies. Can vary according to state laws. 

How We Selected The Best Companies

How We Selected The Best Companies
  • PPO Options: PPOs account for 82% of all dental policies, indicating their popularity with customers. Since this plan style is likely to be one that many seniors are interested in, we made sure that all companies on our list offer at least two different PPO options. 
  • “Individual” Coverage: We only selected companies that are able to serve seniors who want to buy a plan that isn’t tied to employment. Plans that aren’t offered through employers are called “individual” or “individual and family,” as opposed to “group” insurance, in most cases.
  • Rating: Insurance companies take on great financial liability when they agree to cover expensive dental treatments in the future. Consumers should be able to feel confident that the company will be good for its word. We sought out only companies that had an A- rating or better for financial stability from the rating agency AM Best. You can review rating standards in this guide.

The 8 Best Dental Insurance Companies for Seniors in 2021


Company 


Estimated PPO
Premium Range*


Plan Types


Number of Plans*


Highest Yearly Maximum**


AM Best Rating


Cigna


$19-$35+


-PPO
-Dental Discount


7


$1,500


A


Guardian


$25-$36


-HMO
-PPO


4


$1,000-$1,500


A++


Renaissance


$28-$54


-PPO
-Dental Discount


7


$1,000-$3,000


A


Independence American
Insurance Company
(IAIC)


$25-$35


-PPO
-Indemnity


9


$1,500


A-


Humana


$16-$45


-HMO
-PPO
-Dental Discount


7


$1,250-$1,500


A-


MetLife


$17-$45


-HMO
-PPO
-Dental Discount


6


$2,000


A+


Surebridge


$15-$44


-PPO


3


$1,500-$2,000


A-


Aetna


$19-$55


-PPO
-Dental Discount


4


$1,250


A


*Note: The number of plans listed in the table refers only to plans offered to those who don’t have access to employment benefits, such as retirees. Most of the above companies also have a stake in the employee benefits market. 

**Note: A range in this column indicates that some plans have loyalty components with coverage increasing with time or that different coverage levels are available in different sales venues due to affiliate partnerships.

Cigna

Most Insurance Industry Experience

By membership, Cigna is the fourth largest medical insurance company in the United States, and it’s also a major player in the global health insurance market. In 2019, this company ranked number 13 on the Fortune 500 list. Although best known for its health plans, this Bloomfield, Connecticut-based company is also a popular choice for dental insurance both through employers and on an individual basis. Cigna itself formed in 1982 from a merger, but it traces its corporate ancestry all the way back to 1792, making it the company on our list that has the most experience in the insurance industry. With a dental network of 93,000 dentists and 297,000 dental locations, Cigna offers great care options and a proven track record with its popular dental plans. 

Overview of Cigna Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$19-$35+


Plan Types


-PPO
-Dental Discount


Number of Plans 


7


Highest Yearly Maximum


$1,500


AM Best Rating


A


Direct Dental Plans Offered by Cigna

With four plans that qualify as insurance and three discount plans that are alternatives to insurance, Cigna offers a fairly simplified catalog on its own website. Those shopping Cigna should also be aware that its dental plans are available on the healthcare.gov marketplace in some states, and they may have different names and/or coverage terms on the marketplace. 

PPO

  • Cigna Dental Preventative 
  • Cigna Dental 1000
  • Cigna Dental 1500

Dental Discount

  • Cigna Dental Savings
  • Cigna Dental Savings for Families
  • Cigna Dental Savings for Seniors

Affiliate Plans (PPO)

  • Cigna Dental Value 1000 Plan (in partnership with USAA, select states)

Notable Plans from Cigna 

Cigna Dental 1500

This is Cigna’s PPO with the highest level of coverage. Premiums for this plan start at $35 ($420 annually) but can be higher. This plan conforms to industry standards with a $50 deductible and 100% coverage/no wait for preventative care, 20% coinsurance/6 month waits for basic restorative services, and 50% coinsurance/12 month waits for major restorative services. One of its best features is its $1,000 lifetime maximum for orthodontic coverage in adults- a rare adult dental benefit. This plan and all other Cigna PPOs have extensive lists of exclusions/limits that you should read carefully. If you have been previously insured for dental, ask about Cigna’s waiting period waiver.

Cigna Dental Savings

This plan, an alternative to insurance, offers customers access to an average of 31% discount on dental work at 92,000 dentists. True discount levels offered will vary both by the provider and by the service rendered. Note that with this plan, patients pay upfront for their own costs, but the discount is applied to the bill. This plan is available for $96 per year per person, so it’s monthly cost comes out to $8 a month- less than half the price of Cigna’s lowest cost (preventative) PPO. Note that this is the most basic discount plan from Cigna. The other two plans are more costly but they offer discounts on a wide variety of non-dental services, including some services geared toward seniors. 

How to Get a Quote From Cigna

Cigna is a somewhat difficult company to get a dental quote from. This company does not offer personalized estimates of PPO premiums unless the customer provides full contact information and consents to receive emails and calls from Cigna. It’s also difficult to find Cigna quotes through online brokers. However, Cigna does provide starting costs for its plans (PPOs start at $19-$35). Connecting with a Cigna representative is the best way to get an accurate quote that reflects your age, location, and other crucial factors. 

Guardian

Best Rated Company

Guardian, also called Guardian Direct (part of Guardian Life Insurance Company) is based in New York City. With 160 years of experience in the insurance industry as a whole, this brand prides itself on making purchasing individual dental insurance a simple process. The Guardian Dental Direct network is currently 100,000+ dentists strong. This brand ranks as 238 on the Fortune 500 list, indicating a smaller market share than some of the largest competitors in the dental market. Despite its smaller size, this is one of the best-rated plans on our list. Of nine companies, it’s the only one that earned a perfect A++ for financial stability from AM Best. It also had the best score on Google reviews, with 4.2/5 stars. 

Overview of Guardian Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$25-$36


Plan Types*


-HMO
-PPO


Number of Plans 


4


Highest Yearly Maximum


$1,000-$1,500 


AM Best Rating


A++


Direct Dental Plans Offered by Guardian

Guardian Direct focuses on offering PPOs and HMOs to customers, with PPOs available in about 45 states and HMOs available in 4 states. Note that this brand also offers plans from employers and plans on the healthcare marketplace in some states, but those plans operate under different rules and names. Guardian does not carry any indemnity or dental discount plans for individual purchase. 

PPO

  • Guardian Dental Advantage Bronze
  • Guardian Dental  Advantage Silver
  • Guardian Dental Advantage Gold

HMO

  • Guardian Managed DentalGuard

Notable Plans from Guardian

Guardian Managed DentalGuard 

The Managed DentalGuard plan is currently available for direct purchase in select counties of Florida, New York, Illinois, and Texas. With premiums as low as about $9 per month, it’s possible to pay as little as $108 for a full year of coverage. If you’re comfortable with the limitations that HMOs come with and you live in a covered state, you may find that this option is even more affordable than a discount plan.

Like most HMOs, this plan requires a primary care provider and has no waiting periods, deductibles, or annual maximum for coverage, but all care must occur in-network (this network differs from the PPO network). It specifies copays that vary by service/service category, with the lowest patient costs for preventative and basic services and very limited coverage for major services, including orthodontia. Exact coverage may vary by location.

Guardian Dental Advantage Gold 

The Guardian Dental Gold PPO is the brand’s highest coverage plan and costs about $35 per month ($420 annually). Patients pay 0% for preventative with no wait, 30% for basic services with a 6-month wait, and 50% coverage for major services after a 12-month wait. Guardian PPOs are structured as loyalty plans, so for this plan, the annual maximum starts at $1,000 but grows to $1,500 in the third year of coverage. An industry-standard deductible of $50 applies to all services except for preventative. One of this plan’s notable features is that it offers a yearly implant maximum of $1,000, while coverage for implants is often heavily restricted with other plans. 

Still, like all plans, this one has a list of coverage restrictions that patients should review. Unless you are transitioning from a Guardian group plan to this plan, you will not have access to any waiting period waivers. It’s also important to point out that although a great plan, the Gold plan has 10% less basic coverage and lower starting maximums than some competitor plans with an identical premium.

How to Get a Quote From Guardian

The Guardian Direct quote tool asks for first and last name, age range, email, and full street address. Customers who don’t want to be contacted can leave the email field blank, click continue, then enter a false street address but their real city and zip code, and click continue again, and the tool will advance to the next stage. From that point on, you can choose to answer questions about the desired level of coverage, or you can just skip straight to looking at available plan costs. Guardian quotes are also easy to find through online brokers, and on the healthcare marketplace in about 13 states (plan details may vary). 

Renaissance

Shortest Waiting Periods

Renaissance, operating under the Renaissance Health Service Corporation, has been providing dental, vision, and Medicare supplement insurance for individuals and families on a national scale for over 60 years. As part of an organization that serves 13.1 million dental customers, Renaissance focuses on offering unique coverage options that are built based on extensive research into customer needs. One of Renaissance’s standout features is that it offers three plans that have no waiting periods on any service categories. In this industry, waiting 6 months for basic services and 12 months for major services is extremely common, so a no-wait option makes these plans very practical. 

Overview of Renaissance Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$28-$54


Plan Types*


-PPO
-Dental Discount


Number of Plans 


7


Highest Yearly Maximum


$1,500- $3,000


AM Best Rating


A


Direct Dental Plans Offered by Renaissance 

Note that on quote tools you may see references to a Certified Essential Health Benefit (EHB) plan. This is a reference to plans offered on the marketplace according to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rules. The plans below are not necessarily on the marketplace, though some are. Renaissance plans are offered in all states, but exact plan availability varies. 

PPO

  • Essentials
  • Plan II
  • Plan III (Plan III- Healthy Plus!)
  • MAX Essentials 
  • MAX Choice
  • MAX Choice Plus

Dental Discount

  • Renaissance Healthy Savings Card

Notable Plans from Renaissance

Essentials

The most affordable PPO that Renaissance offers, this plan starts around $28 per month ($336 annually). This is a great option for those who are most concerned with access to preventative services. There’s no deductible on any services, and no waiting period on preventatives like cleanings, exams, bitewing x-rays, and sealants. Furthermore, those preventatives are covered 100%, within certain yearly limits. Patients pay 50% for fillings (a minor restorative service available after 6 months), and no other services are provided. This plan appears to not cover the costs of local anesthesia, so those getting fillings may receive a small separate bill. The level of coverage provided is the same in- or out-of-network for this plan, but in-network care may be more affordable due to discounts. 

MAX Choice Plus

This plan is not Renaissance’s highest coverage plan, per se, but it is the plan with the best terms for both waiting periods and annual maximums. It also includes vision coverage administered by VSP Vision Care, as do all the “MAX” plans from Renaissance. With premiums starting at $54 monthly ($648 annually), this is a more costly plan than average. However, immediate access to coverage is an unusual and useful benefit. 

Structured as a loyalty plan, preventative is covered 100% from the start and other coverage levels rise over time. Patients pay 60% of basic services and 80% of major services in the first year. By the third year, patients pay 20% and 50% respectively and enjoy a higher maximum of $3,000 compared to the starting maximum of $1,000. A typical deductible of $50 applies per year. This plan does have numerous exclusions that should be reviewed by customers. Note that the heavily advertised orthodontia benefit is not available to those over age 19. 

How to Get a Quote From Renaissance

Renaissance dental insurance quotes are available both on the company’s own website and through various online brokers and the healthcare.gov marketplaces. Plans on Renaissance’s own website are located in two different locations, making comparing plans difficult. In the “individual and family” tab, click “products” and you can find quotes in both the “dental” section (includes Essentials, II, and III) and the “bundle dental and vision” section (includes all MAX series plans). 

For just dental policies, the quote tool will ask for your zip code, date of birth, the birthday of your spouse (if adding to policy), the number of dependents you are adding to policy (if applicable), and the date on which you want coverage to start. The other quote tool will ask fewer questions. No contact information will be needed during the initial shopping process for either policy type, though of course it will be needed if you decide to apply. 

Independence American Insurance Company (IAIC)

Most Indemnity Options

Independence American Insurance Company, often called IAIC, is based in New York City and is part of the larger IHC Group. IAIC has been offering many forms of insurance since 1973, and it currently has a presence not only in the group and individual dental benefits markets, but also in pet insurance and some unusual forms of health coverage such as gap insurance, hospital indemnity insurance, and more. Though plans from this brand are underwritten by IAIC, the plans themselves are administered by The Loomis Company, a third-party partner. This company stands out among other companies because it offers such a good range of indemnity options for dental. Such plans are relatively uncommon in a market dominated by PPOs.

Overview of IAIC Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$25-$35


Plan Types*


-PPO
-Indemnity


Number of Plans 


9


Highest Yearly Maximum


$1,500


AM Best Rating


A-


Direct Dental Plans Offered by IAIC

IAIC plans are available in all states, and the brand offers a total of six plans on its own website, plus three other plans through some broker sites. When shopping through this company’s quote tool, you may notice discount plans offered alongside these insurance plans, but be aware that those plans are not for dental discounts. IAIC does not offer HMOs or Dental Discount Plans. 

PPO

  • Independence PPO 1000
  • Independence PPO 1500
  • Independence Ultra PPO 1500

Indemnity 

  • Independence 1000
  • Independence 1500
  • Independence Ultra 1500

Special/Affiliate Plans (PPO)

The following options are not offered on the main IAIC website but are bestsellers on the broker site ehealthinsurance.com.  

  • D1
  • DB
  • D4

Notable Plans from IAIC

IAIC is unusual in that though it has three distinct series of plans, each containing three plans, and the differences between plan series are minuscule, for the most part. Plans are so similar that looking at them can feel like playing a “spot the difference” picture game. Many plans from this company offer affordable coverage.  Below we’re comparing two of the higher-coverage options from two different series to show how they stack up.  

The plans:

  • Independence 1500 (the original indemnity version)
  • Independence PPO 1500

What they have in common:

  • No copays (many other IAIC plans have a per-visit copay of $20)
  • 100% coverage for most preventative services
  • Patients pay 20% for x rays and for basic services ( 6 month waiting period applies)
  • Patients pay 50% for major services (a 12 month waiting period applies)
  • As with all insurance plans, certain limits apply and can be found in plan details.

What’s different: 

  • The PPO plan is about three dollars cheaper than the indemnity plan, per month. 
  • The indemnity plan has no network, providing complete freedom to see any provider.
  • The PPO plan provides access to a network of dentists that have agreed to charge discounted rates for procedures.
  • PPO customers can’t be balance-billed unless they go out of network, but indemnity patients might be subject to balance-billing anywhere. 

How to Get a Quote From IAIC

IAIC offers quotes on its own website, but its plans are also very popular through certain broker sites (as mentioned above). On the IAIC website, you’ll be asked to provide your zip code, date of birth, gender, desired coverage start date, and whether or not you’ve used tobacco in the past year. The latter question is an unusual one among the plans we’ve looked at. Plans are easy to compare on the IAIC quote tool, though not all plan options will be available in all states. When shopping, note that the quote tool offers far more information than the main IAIC website.

Humana

Best for Veterans

Humana started in 1961 in Louisville, Kentucky, and since then has grown so much that it’s now ranked number 52 for revenue on the Fortune 500 list. While this company is best known for its range of health plans, it also ranks very well among prominent dental insurance providers. In 2019 it was distinguished by its score of 780 (second place) on the JD Powers Dental Plan Satisfaction Report. Humana goes out of its way to offer perks to veterans and their families. Veterans can get a special version of one of Humana’s popular PPOs, the Bright Plus plan. This exclusive version of the plan offers access to discounts on a suite of items/services, including prescriptions, vision and hearing care, alternative medicine, and more. This discount package is offered at no additional cost, making it Humana’s way of giving back. 

Overview of Humana Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$16-$45


Plan Types*


-HMO
-PPO
-Dental Discount


Number of Plans 


7


Highest Yearly Maximum


$1,250-$1,500


AM Best Rating


A-


Direct Dental Plans Offered by Humana

Humana offers a good range of plan types, though no indemnity plans. It has seven plans total, with PPOs being the most commonly available option across the states. However, Hawaii and Washington State do not have any direct dental plans on Humana’s website, and Alaska, Rhode Island, Montana, and Vermont only have the option of dental discount plans. In some cases, Humana plans may be available through other sales platforms. More or different Humana dental options may be available on your state’s healthcare marketplace, depending upon location.  

PPO

  • Preventive Value PPO
  • Loyalty Plus PPO
  • Complete Dental PPO
  • Bright Plus/Bright Plus for Veterans

HMO

  • Dental Value HMO 

Dental Discount

  • Dental Savings Plus 

Notable Plans from Humana

Bright Plus/Bright Plus for Veterans

The Bright Plus PPO offers relatively low coverage that nevertheless has some unusual perks. Starting at $26 per month ($312 annually), it has a typical $50 deductible and preventative care covered at 100% with no waiting period. For basic services, patients pay 40% and have access to them after just a 90 day (3 months) waiting period- half the length of a typical wait for the same category. Furthermore, the plan comes with a yearly allowance of $100 for in-office teeth whitening, and that allowance has no waiting period. The annual maximum for coverage on this plan is $1,250, higher than that of many other preventative plans. Certain important limits, such as a limit of two fillings per year, apply to basic services. Read all plan details carefully.

In addition to the above coverage levels, those who are veterans can get extra perks at no extra cost under this plan. As mentioned above, Humana offers veterans a bundle of discounts on services/items like prescriptions, vision care, hearing care, Walmart clinic visits (limited locations), and alternative medicine treatments like visits to chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists. Most discounts are accessed through a particular network specified in the paperwork, and these discounts do not constitute insurance in any way. 

Dental Value HMO

This HMO is noteworthy for the fact that it’s offered in more locations than the average HMO. Humana offers its HMO in California, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, New York, Nevada, and the territory of Guam. There are a few different regional versions of this plan, so you will see a short code of numbers and letters (HI215, for example) attached to the plan name. With premiums starting at $12, this plan can cost you as little as $144 in premiums per year. 

Like most HMOs, this plan is convenient since it has no deductibles, waiting periods, or annual coverage maximums. Patients must stick strictly to networks and see their assigned dentist, which can involve delays. The copayments that patients owe for services can vary by state but are low for the most commonly needed services. This plan has extensive coverage for dentures, and seniors may be able to get complete dentures for either arch (top or bottom of the mouth) for $550. Exclusions and full copay details can be found in plan documents. 

How to Get a Quote From Humana

Humana quotes are especially easy to obtain on the main Humana website. All the website asks for is state and age, so getting to the page that lists costs is very quick. On that page, you can check the box that says “I have a veteran in my immediate family” if you’re interested in the Bright Plus for Veterans PPO. We did experience some glitches on the page that shows Humana’s plans, but overall getting a quote was a smooth experience. Getting quotes from broker websites is generally also easy.

MetLife 

Highest Maximum Benefit

Based in New York City and founded in 1868, MetLife has been consistently serving American insurance needs for many years through both group and individual plans. This company has a more diverse portfolio of insurance offerings than the average large dental insurance provider- it also offers home, auto,  life, vision, disability, and accident/injury plans. For its combined revenue from all sectors of the company, MetLife ranks 48th on the Fortune 500 list. One important way that this company stands out among dental insurance competitors is that it offers the highest yearly maximum that’s not in a loyalty plan. With maximums of up to $2,000 available in year one of coverage, this is a great high coverage option for seniors. 

Overview of MetLife Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$17-$45


Plan Types*


-HMO
-PPO
-Dental Discount


Number of Plans 


6


Highest Yearly Maximum


$2,000


AM Best Rating


A+


Direct Dental Plans Offered by MetLife

MetLife calls its individual and family plans “MetLife Takealong Dental,” and it offers five dental insurance plans plus a dental discount plan as an alternative option. These plans seem to be fairly uniform across the nation, though minor variations will exist and the HMO options are only available in California, Florida, New York, and Texas, and the discount plan is not offered in Washington, Utah, and Vermont. 

PPO

  • PPO-Low
  • PPO-Medium
  • PPO-High

HMO

  • DHMO-Low
  • DHMO-High

Dental Discount

MetLife Discount Dental Program

Notable Plans from MetLife

PPO-High 

This PPO represents the highest level of coverage available from MetLife. With a premium of $44 ($538 annually), it is a more costly plan than average, but it has just a $25 deductible and an impressive $2,000 maximum. Its coverage rates are fairly standard, with patients owning 0% for preventative, 20% for basic, and 50% for major services. Waiting periods are also typical, with a 6-month wait for basic services and a 12-month wait for major ones.

Those who have had “comparable Dental coverage that has been in effect for at least 12 months” and who have proof of current coverage can have all waiting periods waived. While this is a standard high coverage plan in many ways, its maximum and deductible set it apart. As with all plans, more limits and exclusions apply and can be found in the schedule of benefits.

DHMO-High

Most companies offer just one version of their HMO plan, so the fact that MetLife has a low and high version of theirs is interesting. The high version is still quite affordable at about $13 per month (156 annually). Its copays are significantly lower in some cases than the low version of the plan, which costs $8 per month. This plan operates like all HMOs, with no waiting periods, maximums, or deductibles and with specific network and primary care provider requirements.  Of special note is the fact that fillings will cost patients between $0-$25, depending on the type. Those interested in this plan should read carefully for exclusions and should compare the copays to those of the lower coverage HMO to see which is a better fit. 

How to Get a Quote From Metlife

MetLife’s quote tool is easy to use, requiring just a zip code to get you to a page of quotes. Unlike most competitors, MetLife does not use age to calculate rates. The quote tool itself lays out plans in a way that makes them easy to compare, and more information on the plans is also available on other parts of the “Takealong” dental website. 

Surebridge

Most Affordable PPO

Surebridge is the newest company on our list, having started offering coverage in 2011. Based in North Richland Hills, TX, Surebridge is underwritten by The Chesapeake Life Insurance Company and is part of the HealthMarkets business family. Despite its relative newness in the market, Surebridge has a solid financial rating of A- from AM Best, and it offers insurance in six different categories, not just dental. When it comes to dental insurance, this brand stands out as a very simple, budget-friendly choice for seniors. Its “PPO Basic” option has a premium of just $15, the lowest among the companies we have reviewed.

Overview of Surebridge Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$15-$44


Plan Types*


-PPO


Number of Plans 


3


Highest Yearly Maximum


$1,500-$2,000


AM Best Rating


A-


Direct Dental Plans Offered by Surebridge

When shopping Surebridge on its own website or a broker site, you’ll notice that plans will be labeled as senior plans. Most of these plans are actually available to younger ages as well, but some have extra benefits, like hearing and vision, that appeal mostly to seniors. Note that plans are available in 46 states plus Washington D.C., and some states may not offer all three plans. Versions of these plans that are not labeled for seniors may have near-identical coverage. 

PPO

  • Senior Prime Dental Vision and Hearing (DVH)
  • Senior PPO Basics
  • Senior PPO Premier

Notable Plans from Surebridge

Senior PPO Basics

This low-cost plan is a great deal for those who want mostly preventative services like cleanings. For about $15 monthly ($180 annually), seniors get a cleaning and evaluation every six months, plus other preventative services (called Type I by Surebridge) once per year, all with no waiting periods. Seniors pay 50% for minor services (Type II) like fillings after a six month waiting period, and more complex (major/Type III) services are not covered. With premiums so low, this plan easily pays for itself if you just make sure to get your cleaning/exam twice every calendar year.

Senior Prime DVH

For those who want bundled supplementary insurance options, the Dental, Vision, and Hearing plan provides many benefits at a relatively low starting cost of $44 per month ($528 annually). For its dental benefits, this plan covers Type I and II services with no waiting periods and Type III after nine months. Patients pay 0% for Type I and about 40%-20% for Type II and III.  The amount of coverage increases between years one and three of coverage, so this plan can be considered a loyalty plan. 

Annual maximums in this plan are unusual. Seniors choose the annual maximum of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 (the quote provided applies to the $2,000 maximum). Furthermore, all dental, vision, and hearing care received under the plan’s coverage counts toward the maximum, so this plan definitely does not work like a traditional dental-only PPO. Seniors should evaluate the terms of the hearing and vision benefits carefully to determine how useful they may be. 

How to Get a Quote From Surebridge

Surebridge quotes are easy to obtain on the company’s own website if you provide your gender, date of birth, tobacco use history, and zip code. Once you get to the quote portion of the Surebridge website, you’ll notice that the quality of the details available and the way the information on plans is presented is much more thorough and easy to understand than on the rest of the website. Detailed brochures are available. If you prefer, you can also shop most Surebridge plans on broker websites where it’s easy to compare plans from different brands. 

Aetna

Best Dental Discount Program

Aetna began in the life insurance business in 1853 in Hartford, Connecticut. Now an international healthcare company with nearly 48,000 employees, Aetna ranks in 43rd place on the Fortune 500 list. In the last few years, it was acquired by the pharmacy retail giant CVS. Compared to its major health plans, the direct dental plans that Aetna offers are a relatively small and new part of this insurance company. However, Aetna offers great options in the PPO market, and it also offers an especially appealing dental discount program. The Aetna Vital Savings plan stands out as the lowest cost discount plan among its competitors. 

Overview of Aetna Dental Insurance Policies


Estimated PPO Premium Range


$19-$55


Plan Types*


-PPO
-Dental Dental


Number of Plans 


4


Highest Yearly Maximum


$1,250


AM Best Rating


A


Direct Dental Plans Offered by Aetna

Aetna keeps its plans fairly simple, offering no HMOs or indemnity plans. While the PPO plans below are available nationwide, some counties, especially certain counties in Massachusetts, may lack in-network PPO providers. The dental discount program is not offered in Montana or Vermont.

PPO

  • Dental Direct Preventive PPO
  • Dental Direct Core PPO
  • Dental Direct Preferred PPO

Dental Discount

  • Vital Savings

Notable Aetna Plans

Dental Direct Preventative PPO

This plan is the most basic one that Aetna provides, and it offers an amazing low-cost choice with a premium of about $18 per month ($216 annually). This plan only covers services like cleanings, X-rays, and oral exams, but it does so at no cost to the patient when in-network, and there is no deductible, waiting period, or annual maximum for coverage. However, limits do still apply, and the brochures supplied by Aetna can be a bit vague as to what some limits are. For this and other PPO plans, it may be a good idea to speak with an agent.

Vital Savings

Aetna’s Vital Saving plan had the best price of any dental savings plan that we reviewed. While this plan is not insurance, it offers members between 15% and 50% discounts on many dental services. This plan costs just $8-$10, depending on whether you choose the version that includes prescription drug discounts or not. If you pay yearly, you can get the basic card for $75, savings $21. A “startup” fee of $15 does apply.

The advantage of using this insurance alternative is that you don’t have to wait to start using its coverage on major services (or any services). Of course, to use this plan you need to be able to fully cover the discounted prices, sometimes before a service is rendered, depending on the dental office. Note that 248,000 dental offices participate in this discount network. 

How to Get a Quote From Aetna

To get a quote from Aetna, you’ll need to enter your zip code, first and last name, gender, and date of birth. You’ll also need to specify whether you currently have dental coverage, when you want your new coverage to begin, and whether or not you want to add dependents to the policy. The tool’s format may give the impression that you’ll have to give the company permission to contact you to get a quote, but that is inaccurate. The quote tool will show you costs before actual contact information is required, so proceed until that point. Note that Aetna dental plans are not available on some of the most popular dental insurance broker websites. 

Methodology

Comparing insurance companies on a national level is challenging since differing state laws and cost-of-living factors affect what’s offered. Below you can read about our methods for collecting information for a national overview.

How We Chose a Location to Compare

In order to compare companies fairly, it makes the most sense to look at what each company offers in the same state. While in theory you could select any state, we chose to focus on Florida. We also investigated plans in other states and factored in information that we found, but Florida plan documents often received the majority of our attention. 

Florida served as a research focal point for a number of reasons. Most insurance companies offered most if not all of their plans there, but in less populous states companies are more likely to offer just one or two options. Furthermore,  Florida has fairly standard insurance industry rules and has the second-highest senior population in the United States, with 20.5% of its residents 65+. That means its plans are not only useful for general comparison, but they are also directly applicable to many US seniors who reside in Florida.

How We Arrived at Estimated PPO Costs

In order to make plans comparable at a glance, we strove to collect price data for all companies in a similar way. Company quote tools do differ, but many requested 3 or more of the data points below. Location, age, and gender were most commonly requested.

We provided the following information when it was requested by quote tools:

  • Zip Code: 32301 (Tallahassee, FL/ Leon County)
  • Age/DOB: 65 (DOB entered as 01/01/1955)
  • Gender: Female 
  • Plan Intended to Cover: One adult, no spouse or dependents
  • Tobacco Use: Nonsmoker
  • Coverage Staring On: Dec. 01, 2020

In rare cases, the results that we received from online quotes could differ from the quote we would have been given had we completed a real application. It can be difficult to determine quote tool accuracy. Note that the company Cigna did not provide a quote tool, so its quote range is based on what the company says about its own starting costs, meaning real costs could be higher for seniors. 

How to Choose a Dental Insurance Plan

How to Choose a Dental Insurance Plan

Step 1: Check All Other Health and Benefit Packages for Coverage

Before shopping for a new plan, check to see that you aren’t already covered elsewhere. If you or your spouse is still working full or part-time, make sure you’re not missing out on a dental plan that’s provided as an employment perk. Dental plans provided through employment are usually called “group insurance,” and they are typically quite affordable. The downside to these plans is that you may not have a choice of what company or coverage level you will get.

Even if you know you no longer have access to dental plans from employment, you may have at least preventative dental coverage from some other source, including both private and government-run plans. For example, if you use a Medicare Advantage plan, check the plan’s schedule of benefits for dental cleanings. Keep in mind that traditional Medicare will not cover dental. Adult dental care is rarely covered by Medicaid, but in some cases, states will cover some emergency dental care for adults. Finding a dentist that takes Medicaid payment can be a hurdle even when services are covered. If you are a veteran, you should look into whether or not you qualify for comprehensive dental benefits from the VA

Step 2: Evaluate the Urgency and Scope of Your Dental Needs

If you have determined that you have no dental coverage elsewhere, or that the coverage provided is not sufficient for your needs, then it’s time to consider your goals for buying a dental plan for yourself. At this stage, it’s helpful to evaluate the urgency and scope of your needs.

  • Urgency: How soon do you need coverage? Do you have pre-existing issues with your teeth or gums, or do you simply want the peace of mind that coverage provides? Do you want any services that are purely cosmetic, such as teeth whitening?
  • Scope: Are you just looking for a plan that will motivate you to get regular cleanings, exams, and X-rays? That level of service is usually called preventative care. Other types of care include basic/restorative services (like simple fillings and extractions)  and major services (like bridges, implants, dentures, crowns, and more). 

For more information on care categories, you may wish to read “What do dental plans normally cover?” If you know you need some form of work that’s considered major work or specialty work, then you might also benefit from researching what its costs typically are. Be aware that pre-existing dental needs may not be covered under many PPOs. Now is a good time to start a list of any questions and concerns you have. You can refer to this list later as you explore insurance options. 

Step 3: Understand the Limits and Benefits of Different Plan Types

Now that you’ve thought about what you need and jotted down any notes, you can consider the variety of plan types on the market and the limits of those plans. For a more comprehensive explanation of plan traits, the “Basics of Dental Insurance” section of this article is the best place to start. If you’ve already read that section, then the information below will provide a helpful comparative overview.

PPOs

Best for: The highest levels of coverage on the market, access to the widest networks of dentists, some out-of-network care, discounted care in-network, some protections from balance billing in-network, and no need for referrals or primary care providers. 

Limits include: Plans tend to have complex coverage rules and lists of exclusions, virtually all plans require waiting periods, coverage is capped between about $500-$3,000 per year, depending on the plan.

Indemnity

Best for: Offering the same coverage at any dental providers, regardless of networks, offering high levels of coverage like PPOs, and not requiring referrals or primary care providers. 

Limits include: Having most or all of the limits that PPOs have (see above), often having confusing plan rules, and typically allowing patients to be balance-billed. 

HMOs

Best for: Offering extremely low premium costs and requiring very low copays for preventive and some basic services, having no yearly maximums, deductibles, or waiting periods.  

Limits include: Much smaller networks than PPOs (could lead to appointment shortages), no out-of-network care, available in very few states, primary care providers and referrals are required, major services often not covered.

Dental Discount

Best for: Operating under very simple plan rules, having low premiums (often comparable to HMO costs), having no waiting periods or other limits associated with PPOs and indemnity plans, and allowing discounts on specialty services like cosmetic services and orthodontia. 

Limits include: Not all dentists participate in these discount plans, these plans don’t count as insurance, and plans don’t actually pay for anything (they just offer access to discounts).

Step 4: Compare Several Plans In Detail

You can shop for plans in a variety of ways, including on individual companies’ websites, over the phone with those same companies, through popular online broker sites, through insurance agents local to you, or even through the healthcare.gov marketplace in some cases. This article has not addressed the latter option in detail, but some of the companies we have featured do have plans on the marketplace in select states. As you shop, keep in mind that denials for dental insurance applications seem to be rare but are possible. Most plans are offered to those up to ages 90 or 99. For most, access to plans will not be an issue.

Whatever method you use for shopping, it’s crucial that you compare several plans for at least three different companies in your area. Make sure you’re comparing plans that are of the same basic plan style, although you may want to look at multiple plan styles if you’re not sure which you like better. 

One important fact to keep in mind when shopping is that it’s possible for the cost of a dental plan to exceed its true value to you. This is something that independent insurance agents may warn you of, for good reason. Oftentimes, a plan may not be financially worthwhile unless you use its preventative services the maximum number of times allowed by the plan (typically twice per year). The yearly limits and many exclusions on PPOs and indemnity plans make those plans the most likely to break even or to be a loss, compared to other plans. Because this is a risk, you may find yourself making calculations, comparing yearly premiums to yearly maximums, deductibles, coinsurance levels, and more. It’s best to take your time in this step of the shopping process. 

When comparing plans, the most important information is often in the fine print. Most companies provide a quick overview of plan services plus a link to a brochure or other plan documents. Those linked documents will often be what you really need. Sometimes it can be helpful to print these documents out or even to digitally copy and paste their contents into another document where the font size can be enlarged. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

There seem to be many different names for dental plans. Are some of these names for the same plans?

Yes, some dental plans have a few different names or descriptions attached to them. Many also use acronyms. Keeping it all straight can be confusing. The chart below will help.


Name


Abbreviation


Other Common Names/Descriptors


Dental Preferred Provider
Organization 


DPPO or just PPO


Managed Care 


Indemnity 


No standard abbreviation


Dental Fee-For-Service (FFS)


Dental Health Maintenance
Organization 


DHMO or just HMO


Pre-Paid, Managed Care 


Dental Discount 


No standard abbreviation


Access Plan, Savings Plan


What does it mean when a dental plan says it covers “Prophylaxis”?

In dentistry, prophylaxis is just a technical term for a standard dental cleaning. This is the kind of service that is usually recommended twice per year, and it is often covered at no cost to the patient. If you’re on a PPO plan, whatever the prophylaxis costs the insurance company will likely contribute to your yearly maximum of coverage from the plan.

Do I need to know any special terminology to understand my dental plan?

By and large, dental insurance plans describe their benefits and limitations with the same kind of language that is common in the health insurance industry as a whole. Many terms are identical. For example, a dental PPO or HMO works basically the same way as a regular health plan that’s an HMO or PPO. Likewise, deductible, copay, coinsurance, and several other terms have identical meanings in both the health and dental industry. The one term that you really need to watch out for is maximums. 

Don’t confuse the annual coverage maximum in the dental industry with the annual out-of-pocket maximum/limit that is featured in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. The terminology of these two maximums can sound similar, but they mean the exact opposite of one another. The MA maximum protects patients from excessive healthcare costs, but the dental maximum requires that patients cover all dental costs that occur in excess of the maximum. 

Can I get dentures covered under my dental insurance plan?

It depends. Dentures are extremely expensive, and an upper and lower set can cost in excess of $4,000 in some cases. That’s far more than most annual maximums for PPOs and indemnity plans. Additionally, many plans have a “lifetime maximum” that stipulates how much the plan will spend on dentures regardless of the timeframe. This maximum may be about $1,000. 

Some plans exclude dentures entirely, only cover partial dentures or denture repairs, or otherwise have a long list of limits on denture and implant services. On the other hand, we have seen some plans that will cover a full dental arch (the top or the bottom) if the patient pays around $500. As far as denture coverage goes, that’s not a bad price. The bottom line is that each plan treats this area of coverage differently. Many plans offer partial coverage, but anything more than about 50% coverage may be impossible to find. 

Are there low-cost alternatives to dental insurance?

If dental insurance seems too expensive to you, particularly if you have no HMO options in your area, then you may have some other choices for making dental care affordable. Most states have at least a few dental discount plan options. These plans aren’t insurance, but they give customers access to dental discounts that can give you up to about 60% off of some services. Many plans also include other perks, like vision and dental discounts.  Costs for these plans are usually $20 a month or less. 

Works Cited 

  1. “Oral health: A window to your overall health.” Mayo Clinic, 04 June 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475. Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  2. “Oral Health Topics: Nutrition and Oral Health.” ADA,  https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/nutrition-and-oral-health. Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  3. “What are the different types of dental benefits products?” NADP, 2020,  https://www.nadp.org/Dental_Benefits_Basics/dental_bb_10#:~:text=What%20are%20the%20different%20types,all%20dental%20policies%20are%20DPPOs. 23 November 2020.  
  4. “Dental Insurance Industry in the US.” Ibis World, 29 February 2020, https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/dental-insurance-industry/. Accessed 24 November 2020. 
  5. “GUIDE TO BEST’S FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS (FSR).” AM Best, 2019, http://www.ambest.com/ratings/guide.pdf. Accessed 27 November 2020. 
  6. “Usual and Customary vs Usual, Customary and Reasonable Charges.” RPC Consulting, 31 July 2018, https://www.rpcconsulting.com/determining-usual-customary-and-reasonable-charges-an-overview/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CUsual%2C%20customary%20and%20reasonable%E2%80%9D,particular%20service%20in%20that%20market. Accessed 27 November 2020.  
  7. “UCR (Usual, Customary, and Reasonable).” Healthcare.gov, https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/ucr-usual-customary-and-reasonable/.  Accessed 28 November 2020.  
  8. “Balance Billing.” Healthcare.gov, https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/balance-billing/. Accessed 28 November 2020. 
  9. “What’s covered and who pays what: It’s all in the EOB.” CDA, 22 August 2019, https://www.cda.org/Home/News-and-Events/Newsroom/Article-Details/whats-covered-and-who-pays-what-its-all-in-the-eob. Accessed 28 November 2020.  
  10. “Dental coverage in the Marketplace.” healthcare.gov,   https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/dental-coverage/. Accessed 29 November 2020. 
  11. “Overall Customer Satisfaction Increases among Dental Plan Members, J.D. Power Finds.” JD Powers,  06 November 2019, https://www.jdpower.com/business/press-releases/2019-dental-plan-satisfaction-report. Accessed 29 November 2020.   
  12. “What do dental plans normally cover?” NADP,  2015, https://www.nadp.org/Dental_Benefits_Basics/Dental_BB_2.aspx.Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  13. “Dental Care.” Medicaid, https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/dental-care/index.html. Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  14. “Veterans Dental Benefits and Eligibility.” VA, 10 September 2020, https://www.va.gov/dental/#:~:text=VA%20offers%20comprehensive%20dental%20care,care%20in%20Fiscal%20Year%202019.&text=If%20not%20eligible%2C%20Veterans%20enrolled,Dental%20Insurance%20Program%20(VADIP). Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  15.  “These are the States with the Oldest Population.” Insurify, 4 August 2020, https://insurify.com/insights/states-with-oldest-population-2020/. Accessed 03 December 2020. Overview of Cigna Dental Insurance Policies“Oral health: A window to your overall health.” Mayo Clinic, 04 June 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475. Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  16. “Oral Health Topics: Nutrition and Oral Health.” ADA,  https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/nutrition-and-oral-health. Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  17. “What are the different types of dental benefits products?” NADP, 2020,  https://www.nadp.org/Dental_Benefits_Basics/dental_bb_10#:~:text=What%20are%20the%20different%20types,all%20dental%20policies%20are%20DPPOs. 23 November 2020.  
  18. “Dental Insurance Industry in the US.” Ibis World, 29 February 2020, https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/dental-insurance-industry/. Accessed 24 November 2020. 
  19. “GUIDE TO BEST’S FINANCIAL STRENGTH RATINGS (FSR).” AM Best, 2019, http://www.ambest.com/ratings/guide.pdf. Accessed 27 November 2020. 
  20. “Usual and Customary vs Usual, Customary and Reasonable Charges.” RPC Consulting, 31 July 2018, https://www.rpcconsulting.com/determining-usual-customary-and-reasonable-charges-an-overview/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CUsual%2C%20customary%20and%20reasonable%E2%80%9D,particular%20service%20in%20that%20market. Accessed 27 November 2020.  
  21. “UCR (Usual, Customary, and Reasonable).” Healthcare.gov, https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/ucr-usual-customary-and-reasonable/.  Accessed 28 November 2020.  
  22. “Balance Billing.” Healthcare.gov, https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/balance-billing/. Accessed 28 November 2020. 
  23. “What’s covered and who pays what: It’s all in the EOB.” CDA, 22 August 2019, https://www.cda.org/Home/News-and-Events/Newsroom/Article-Details/whats-covered-and-who-pays-what-its-all-in-the-eob. Accessed 28 November 2020.  
  24. “Dental coverage in the Marketplace.” healthcare.gov,   https://www.healthcare.gov/coverage/dental-coverage/. Accessed 29 November 2020. 
  25. “Overall Customer Satisfaction Increases among Dental Plan Members, J.D. Power Finds.” JD Powers,  06 November 2019, https://www.jdpower.com/business/press-releases/2019-dental-plan-satisfaction-report. Accessed 29 November 2020.   
  26. “What do dental plans normally cover?” NADP,  2015, https://www.nadp.org/Dental_Benefits_Basics/Dental_BB_2.aspx.Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  27. “Dental Care.” Medicaid, https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/dental-care/index.html. Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  28. “Veterans Dental Benefits and Eligibility.” VA, 10 Septeerview of Cigna Dental Insurance Policiesmber 2020, https://www.va.gov/dental/#:~:text=VA%20offers%20comprehensive%20dental%20care,care%20in%20Fiscal%20Year%202019.&text=If%20not%20eligible%2C%20Veterans%20enrolled,Dental%20Insurance%20Program%20(VADIP). Accessed 30 November 2020.  
  29.  “These are the States with the Oldest Population.” Insurify, 4 August 2020, https://insurify.com/insights/states-with-oldest-population-2020/. Accessed 03 December 2020.