Dental tourism, because Medicare doesn’t cover for dental treatment :

C. Everett Koop is best known for serving as U.S. Surgeon General during the Reagan administration and is known for his pediatric surgery and attention to the AIDS crisis. He often said, “Without good oral health, you cannot be healthy.” He emphasized the importance of oral health, noting that it is an integral part of overall health. Yet despite his efforts, many Americans still lack basic dental care for a variety of reasons, including a lack of dental insurance.

Traditional Medicare does not provide dental services to most beneficiaries, leaving approximately 24 million seniors without assistance with dental costs. Dental care is a must, and luckily, options like dental care abroad have become popular and affordable. Many people have found a great niche in providing quality dental care at reasonable prices at clinics like Prisma Dental in Costa Rica.

medical exception

When Medicare was established in 1965, dental services were largely excluded due to cost concerns and opposition from dental associations. Initially, the Biden administration considered including comprehensive dental coverage in the “Build Back Better” legislation, but faced challenges in Congress and was ultimately removed from the bill passed by the House in 2021.

In 2022, limited dental coverage for medically necessary treatments was added to Medicare beneficiaries after the Senate blocked a broader legislative package. However, eligibility criteria are narrow and primarily cover organ transplant patients or patients undergoing radiation cancer treatment of the jaw.

Despite these changes, there is still a belief that dental care is vital for everyone, especially older adults.

Medical insurance coverage

Many working Americans have limited dental coverage, usually capped at about $1,000 per year, but they lose that coverage when they retire. Recognizing the critical link between oral health and overall health, there have been calls for Medicare to include basic dental services. The $1,000 does not include extensive dental treatment, which may be a single crown, filling or cleaning, but does not include root canals, dental implants or even removable dentures.

Oral health is essential for basic functions like eating and speaking, as well as for mental health. Untreated dental problems can lead to infection, hospitalization, and even death, yet many Americans lack routine dental care. Disparities exist, with wealthy Medicare beneficiaries receiving more dental care than low-income individuals, highlighting the need for equitable access to dental services for all seniors.

In 2016, only a small percentage of traditional Medicare beneficiaries purchased stand-alone dental plans, while most Medicare Advantage enrollees had some dental benefits, although coverage varied widely. The lack of dental coverage in Medicare has a significant financial impact, with one in five beneficiaries spending at least $1,000 per year on dental care, a burden that is particularly pronounced for those with limited disposable income.

A good alternative to health insurance

Dental tourism can benefit Americans with limited health insurance coverage by giving them more affordable dental care in other countries. Many countries offer high-quality dental services at a much lower cost than the United States. By traveling abroad for dental treatment, Americans can save on the cost of procedures such as dental implants, dental crowns and other extensive dental treatments.

Additionally, dental tourism allows patients to obtain treatments that may not be covered by their health insurance plans or may have higher out-of-pocket costs. This may include cosmetic surgery or specialized treatments that are not considered medically necessary under Medicare guidelines.

Prisma Dental is a long-established dental clinic in Costa Rica that provides all dental treatments at affordable prices to local and international patients. From basic dental procedures to more complex and extensive dental work such as full mouth restorations, All-on-6 and dental implants. $1,000 of dental travel treatment will cover more dental treatment than 3 years of basic Medicare dental insurance, with the advantage of receiving treatment at a high-end, quality dental clinic.

Dr. Koop's emphasis on the importance of oral health seems prescient, as it is clear that good oral health is an integral part of overall health. Adding basic dental benefits to Medicare could improve the quality of life for many older Americans and potentially lower overall health care costs. It will take years, if not decades, for legislative changes to improve oral health issues. Fortunately, there are alternatives like Prisma Dental for Americans' dental care overseas.

For more information about Prisma Dental Clinic and its team of doctors, visit their website

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