Why Doesn’t Medicare Pay For Dental Care?

Some dental care covered

For those who may have heard such a thing mentioned, this statement needs to be modified. For one thing, if dental services are required to protect your general health, then Medicare will indeed cover them. This applies, for instance, if a patient requires surgery to treat a facial or mandibular fracture; one cannot, however, receive coverage beyond what is required for the underlying health condition. In addition, some private Medicare plans do cover routine dental services.

Why dentistry is not covered

But the fact is that dental care — like hearing aids and eyeglasses — is excluded by the statutes that created both Social Security and Medicare from coverage in those programs: Changing that would require an act of Congress. The reason for such exclusion is because dentistry is not considered a branch of medicine; dental work is not performed by physicians in hospitals. Dentistry did not even develop as a separate profession until the nineteenth century, and has always required a separate training program, degree (D.D.S. or D.M.D.) and license, from the work done by doctors with an M.D. For much of its history, dental work was relatively inexpensive; it consisting of nothing more than repairs and removal of teeth and the construction of dentures. The need for dental insurance was seen as less urgent than the need for medical insurance, because teeth decay slowly, and medicine — such as aspirin or acetaminophen — exists which can ease the pain. So the need for insurance to cover treatment of caries was not seen as urgent enough to justify Medicare coverage.

One last word

Medicaid does cover dentistry.

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