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California’s Seniors Would Benefit From Medicare Oral Health Coverage

By Cheryl Fish-Parcham,


Six million Californians rely on the Medicare program. Nationally, about two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries do not have any coverage for oral health care. Medicare currently covers almost no oral health care. Here is how seniors are affected by that lack:

Without coverage for prevention and care, seniors are at great risk for tooth decay and disease.

Untreated oral health problems have grave health consequences.

The out-of-pocket cost of dental care is prohibitive for people living on fixed incomes.

When seniors do have dental insurance, it is often so limited that it does not meet their needs.

  • Some Medicare Advantage plans provide limited dental coverage as an added benefit, but most beneficiaries are not in plans that cover restorative care or extractions.

Reinstating Denti-Cal is a step in the right direction, but isn’t the solution.

  • In California, the plight of the lowest-income seniors varies from year to year. As of 2018, Denti-Cal (the dental component of California’s Medicaid program) covers poor and near-poor seniors; however, this coverage is at risk during recessions – California provided no adult dental coverage from 2009 to 2014.
  • Seniors with monthly income over about $1,250 for an individual or assets over $2,000 are not eligible for Denti-Cal.

A Medicare oral health benefit would be a wise investment.

Seniors want a benefit, and voters support adding dental coverage to Medicare.

Download the factsheet California’s Seniors Would Benefit From Medicare Oral Health Coverage as a pdf.

For full citations, download the factsheet.