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What to Know About Veterans’ Dental Insurance

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 23, 2022

Dental health is essential for everyone. Poor oral health can contribute to serious diseases like cardiovascular disease and pneumonia. While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does provide dental coverage for some qualified veterans, most veterans don't qualify for dental care through the VA. Like many Americans, veterans can be left confused about their dental insurance options and how to take care of their oral health. Read on to learn what you need to know about veterans' dental insurance.

How Many Veterans Need Dental Care?

All veterans need at least primary preventative care like routine dental cleanings, but serious dental problems are a major problem among veterans. According to CareQuest, 42% of veterans report gum problems or bone loss, and 52% report active or treated tooth decay. Among veterans with serious mental illness, 60% experience fair to poor oral health — 33% of those veterans have severe enough dental issues that they have a hard time eating. Veterans are often unable to obtain regular preventative care while on a tour of duty, which can harm their oral health down the line.

While many Americans believe that the VA offers comprehensive dental care for veterans, in reality, 85% of veterans don't qualify for VA dental care. While some veterans get dental insurance through their employer or other government programs, many veterans have no dental coverage.

Does the VA Provide Dental Care?

The VA provides dental care for veterans who qualify at over 200 dental clinics across the U.S. To be eligible for VA dental care, you must meet one of the following conditions:

  • You have a dental injury or condition resulting from military service.
  • You are a former prisoner of war.
  • You have service-related disabilities rated 100% disabling.
  • You have a service-related condition that's aggravated by your dental disease.
  • You have a dental condition that complicates another VA-provided medical treatment.

The VA also covers one-time dental care if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • You request dental care within 180 days of discharge (except dishonorable discharge) after 90 or more days of active duty.
  • You've been enrolled in a VA-sponsored homeless residential rehabilitation program for at least 60 days and need dental care for pain or to pursue employment.
  • You're engaged in a Title 38, USC Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program and need dental care to enter, stay in, or meet the goals set by the program. 

Does the VA Provide Dental Insurance?

Veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system but don't qualify for VA dental care have VA dental insurance eligibility for a private, discounted plan through the VA Dental Insurance Program (VADIP). Dependents of the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the VA are also eligible for VADIP. This veterans dental insurance program offers plans that cover diagnostic, preventative, and restorative care, as well as dental surgery and emergency dental care.

What Companies Offer Insurance Plans Through VADIP?

Delta Dental of California and MetLife each offer discounted dental insurance plans for VADIP. 

How Much Does VA Dental Insurance Cost?

The cost of VA dental insurance depends on which specific plan you choose and how many people you're buying coverage for. In general, plans with a high deductible have a more affordable copay, and plans with a higher copay have a lower monthly deductible.

VETSmile, a pilot program run by the VA and the Center for Care and Payment Innovation (CCPI), collaborates with dental care providers to provide veterans with free and discounted dental services. VETSmile currently serves veterans in New York and New Jersey who are enrolled in VA health services but not eligible for VA dental care. At the New Jersey location, patients must also be New Jersey residents and at or below 250% of the federal poverty line.

How to Get VA Dental Insurance

You can enroll in VADIP at any time by visiting the VADIP plan pages at MetLife or Delta Dental of California.

Where Else Can Veterans Get Dental Care?

Many other private dental insurers offer discounted dental care for veterans. Dentist offices and community dental health programs sometimes offer special pricing or free dental care for veterans. Other options for dental care or coverage for veterans include:

Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)

If you're a retired uniformed service member, you may be eligible for FEDVIP. There's open enrollment for FEDVIP each year, but newly retired service members may enroll between 31 days before their military retirement date and 60 days after. FEDVIP provides a choice of six nationwide and four regional dental plans.

Everyone for Veterans

A nonprofit founded in 2008, Everyone for Veterans has a network of more than 400 dentists who volunteer to provide dental care to low-income veterans. To be eligible, you must have been deployed to combat or imminent danger areas, have limited financial resources, and have no or low dental coverage. Spouses and minor children of eligible veterans and veterans who are survivors of military sexual trauma are also eligible.

The Healthy Mouth Movement

One day each year, Aspen Dental practices provide dental care to veterans and military families at no cost. Aspen's mobile dental clinic, the MouthMobile, also provides free care to veterans around the country. The MouthMobile is equipped to provide dental treatment, including X-rays, and is handicap accessible.

Dentists for Veterans

Nonprofit organization Dentists for Veterans has provided over $500,000 worth of dental care to veterans since its founding in 2011. Dentists for Veterans currently serves California veterans living in Orange County, Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and San Diego. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Family Physician: "Oral Health Care Is an Important Issue for Military Veterans."

Aspen Dental: “Healthy Mouth Movement.”

Benefeds: “Uniformed Services.”

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health: "Veteran Oral Health."

Dentists for Veterans: “Dentists for Veterans.”

Everyone for Veterans: “Veteran support.”

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Dental Benefits for Veterans," "VA Dental Care," "VA Dental Insurance Program," "VETSmile."

U.S. Office of Personnel Management: "Federal Benefits FastFacts for Dental Insurance."

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