Taking care of your teeth and gums as you get older is an important part of maintaining overall health. Dental care focuses on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the teeth and gums. A general dentist can provide preventative care and maintenance. If more advanced care is needed, you can be referred to a specialist.
How do I get this?
Medicare – Medicare does not cover routine dental care but may cover disease-related services like those needed to treat oral cancer. You may have dental coverage through supplemental insurance or a Medicare Advantage Plan. Keep in mind that most Advantage Plans only cover a cleaning every year or 6-months. To find out if you have coverage, call the customer service number on the back of your health insurance card. If you would like to learn more about purchasing supplemental insurance or a Medicare Advantage Plan, fill out the following form from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at https://drcog.org/ship-form or call 1-888-696-7213 (Colorado). You may only be able to purchase this type of coverage at certain times of the year.
Private Pay – Some people purchase dental insurance – contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) office at 1-888-696-7213 (Colorado) to ask about options. If you have dental insurance, call your insurance company to find out what services are covered. Also, the front desk person at your dental clinic may be able to help you understand your benefits. Click the link below to see a list of dentists – always check to make sure the dentist accepts your insurance.
Colorado Dental Association – Find a Dentist: www.findadentist.ada.org
Public – There are public programs that help with the cost of dental care. You usually have to go through an application process to see if you are eligible.
Medicaid / OAP – Depending on your income, you may qualify for Medicaid to pay for your dental care. The Colorado Medicaid Dental Program is run through an agency called DentaQuest. Those who receive Old Age Pension (OAP) also receive limited dental benefits through DentaQuest. If you already receive Medicaid or OAP, contact DentaQuest to learn more about your coverage: 1-855-225-1729, TTY: 711 — you will need to have your Medicaid ID handy. To find out if you qualify for Medicaid or OAP, you can:
- contact your county Department of Human Services for eligibility guidelines and an application
- visit coloradopeak.force.com/AC_Welcome to complete an application online
You can also search for dentists on their Find a Doctor page.
Colorado Dental Health Care Program for Low Income Seniors – This program provides services for older adults who do not qualify for Medicaid but who make less than 250% of the Federal Poverty Guideline. In 2021, you need to make less than $2,683/month for a 1-person household or less than $3,629/month for a 2-person household. (Federal Poverty Guidelines: https://aspe.hhs.gov/topics/poverty-economic-mobility/poverty-guidelines).
Call 1-800-221-3943 for more information and a list of providers in your county. You can also find a list here: colorado.gov/pacific/hcpf/colorado-dental-health-care-program-low-income-seniors — click on “Grantee Appointment Information by County page”
Veterans – You may be eligible for dental services and should contact your county Veteran Services Office (VSO) for more information: https://vets.colorado.gov/county-veterans-service-offices. You can also call the Colorado Division of Veterans Affairs: 303-284-6077 (Denver location) or 800-827-1000 (Lakewood location).
Community – Private and public organizations periodically assist in special circumstances. For more information, call your local Area Agency on Aging / Aging & Disability Resource Center: 1-844-265-2372 (Colorado). You can also call the Colorado Gerontological Society at 303-333-3482 for other options.
Things to consider
If you need to have expensive dental work done, ask for an estimate for the services before they are provided to you. Once you have an estimate, you can see a different dentist to ask for a second opinion. Then you can decide which is best and most cost-effective.
If you plan on applying for financial assistance to help cover your dental costs, do not start your dental care until you submit an application and receive an answer as to whether or not you’re approved for assistance. Often, financial assistance will not cover care that has already been started so it is important to plan ahead. Note: if you have a dental emergency, seek care immediately.
Most people go to a dentist office for routine care but there are also mobile clinics that may offer services in your area — here is one example: https://www.accessmobiledental.com/. If you are homebound, some dental hygienists will come to your home for teeth cleanings. Here’s an example: https://dentalatyourdoor.com/.
Who provides dental care and how they are licensed:
Dentists are licensed to practice dentistry with either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry, or Doctor of Dental Medicine). These degrees are the same – it just depends on what the university calls their program.
Dental hygienists are licensed to clean teeth and gums. They also teach you how to take care of your mouth at home. Their professional organization is the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association: www.codha.org.
Dental assistants work closely with dentists on certain dental procedures and often help with tasks before and after the dentist meets with you. Dentists and dental hygienists must renew their licenses every other year.
Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies – Verify a Professional License: www.colorado.gov/dora/licensing/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx
To file a complaint about a dental professional:
Colorado State Board of Dental Examiners: www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/Dental_Board and click ‘File a Complaint’
Click on these links for more information:
Mouth Healthy (from the American Dental Association for consumers): www.mouthhealthy.org
Frequently Asked Questions – Colorado Dental Association: www.cdaonline.org/public/publiced/frequently-asked-questions
Need more assistance?
Aging & Disability Resources for the Denver Metro Area: 303-480-6700
Aging & Disability Resources for Colorado: 1-844-265-2372
Colorado Gerontological Society: 303-333-3482
Eldercare Locator (a national hotline for aging resources all over the US): 1-800-677-1116
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This guide is brought to you by the Denver Coordinated Workgroup. The Denver Coordinated Workgroup is made up of experts from the field of aging who are committed to creating and sharing information in order to guide people to the services they need to thrive as they grow older. Western Care Partners is proud to serve with this group of talented professionals.