Overview of Medicare and Dentistry

Comprehensive resources for dentists who want to treat Medicare patients.

A woman sitting in a dentist chair, smiling.

Medicare is a health insurance program administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) under the Health and Human Services Department of the U.S. Government. Medicare covers people age 65 or older, people under age 65 with certain disabilities, and people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).

Medicare is organized into many “Parts”. The following are the “Parts” of Medicare most relevant to dentists.

Part A — Covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility stays, some home health visits, and hospice care. [Also called “Traditional Medicare” and administered by CMS through contractors]

Part B — Covers physician visits, outpatient services, preventative services, and some home health visits. [Also called “Traditional Medicare” and administered by CMS through contractors]

Part C — Refers to the Medicare Advantage program through which beneficiaries can enroll in a private health plan, such as a health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO) and receive all Medicare-covered Part A and Part B benefits and possibly part D benefits. [Called Medicare Advantage and administered by insurance companies]

Part D — Covers outpatient prescription drugs through private plans that contract with Medicare, including both stand-alone prescription drug plans (PDPs) and Medicare Advantage drug plans (MA-PD plans); enrollment in Part D plans is voluntary.


Medicare does not cover most routine dental services, but this has recently changed. Read the Basics of Medicare (PDF) to review these changes.

Medicare information for providers

If Medicare does not cover most routine dental services, why am I seeing patients in my office with “Medicare Advantage plans” or “Medicare Part C” or “supplemental dental benefits with Medicare Advantage plans”? What is this program?

Some Medicare Advantage Plans may include “supplemental” dental benefits above and beyond what is covered by Part A & Part B of Medicare. These additional dental benefits are not offered by traditional Medicare. Many dental patients seen in outpatient dental offices today may have these supplemental dental benefits through Medicare Advantage plans or other private coverage. These plans would typically cover “cleanings and X rays” although we are seeing more plans covering more dental procedures. Most importantly you DO NOT need to be enrolled or formally opted-out of Medicare to file claims for dental benefits that are supplemental dental benefits covered by Medicare Advantage.

Understanding Supplemental vs. Covered Benefits with Medicare Advantage (PDF)


How can I treat Medicare patients for covered services?

Medicare does not provide coverage for routine dental services such as cleanings or x-rays. However, CMS recently began reimbursement for dental procedures that are inextricably linked to, and substantially related and integral to, the clinical success of otherwise covered medical procedures. Below is a list of procedures Medicare may cover:

  • Dental or oral exams as part of a comprehensive workup prior to the Medicare-covered services listed below, and medically necessary diagnostic and treatment services to eliminate an oral or dental infection prior to or contemporaneously with these Medicare-covered services:
  1. Organ transplant, including hematopoietic stem cell and bone marrow transplant
  2. Cardiac valve replacement
  3. Valvuloplasty procedures; and
  4. Chemotherapy, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, and the administration of high-dose bone-modifying agents (antiresorptive therapy) when used in the treatment of cancer
  • Dental or oral exams as part of a comprehensive workup prior to medically necessary diagnostic and treatment services to eliminate an oral or dental infection prior to or contemporaneously with, and medically necessary diagnostic and treatment services to address dental or oral complications after, Medicare-covered treatment of head and neck cancer using radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, or any combination of these.
  • Dental ridge reconstruction done as a result of and at the same time as surgery to remove a tumor.
  • Services to stabilize or immobilize teeth related to reducing a jaw fracture.
  • Dental splints, only when used as part of covered treatment of a covered medical condition such as dislocated jaw joints.

Dentists who provide Part B covered items or services to patients who are Medicare beneficiaries have obligations under the Medicare program, even if the dentist is not enrolled as a Medicare provider. NOTE: This guidance DOES NOT apply to supplemental benefits provided by Medicare Advantage. Dentists DO NOT need to be enrolled or formally opted-out of Medicare to file claims for dental benefits that are supplemental benefits provided by Medicare Advantage.

In order to treat patients and bill Medicare for covered services, dentists have the following options:

  • Enroll as a participating provider
  •  Enroll as a non-participating provider
  • Formally opt-out.

Options for Treating Medicare Beneficiaries for Covered Procedures (PDF)



How do I become a participating provider?

Being a participating provider means that you are enrolling in Medicare and will accept the Medicare fee for covered services. You will be included in the Medicare Provider Directory, and your payments are processed faster than payments for non-participating providers.

Enrolling in Medicare as a Participating Provider (PDF)

How do I become a non-participating provider?

Being a non-participating provider means that you are enrolling in Medicare, and you will see patients with Medicare. However, you will not be included in the provider directories Medicare provides for its recipients. With this option, you will either accept assignment case-by-case or directly balance bill your patient.

Enrolling in Medicare as a Non-Participating Provider (PDF)

How do I opt out of Medicare?

If you wish to provide covered services to beneficiaries but do not want to bill Medicare and instead have your Medicare patients pay you out of pocket, you need to opt out of Medicare.

Opting-out of Medicare allows you to enter into private contracts with patients who are on Medicare. This requires that you submit an affidavit to the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs)

Registering with Medicare as an Opt-out Provider (PDF)