Dental Insurance

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The Aging, Elderly, Retired Need Dental Insurance as Much as Anyone, Maybe More!

Healthy smiles may be referred to as priceless, but they should also be considered ageless. As such, it is important to maintain good oral health throughout one’s lifetime. Dental insurance is key for the baby boomers, retirees, seniors, the aging and the elderly—yes, the U.S. Census Bureau, World Health Organization and others consider anyone age 65 and older to be elderly—who wish to keep their mouths, bodies and finances in top shape.

Most older adults lose their dental benefits upon retirement. Retired and unemployed people are the least likely to have dental benefits, according to a “The Haves and The Have Nots: Consumers with and without Dental Benefits,” a 2009 report by the National Association of Dental Plans; those age 65 and older are significantly less likely to have dental benefits than any other age group. Fortunately, taking out an individual dental insurance plan is less expensive than you might think, and the benefits are substantial.

Cost savings

Medicare offers little in the way of dental coverage, which means that people over age 65 who take part in the program must pay out of pocket for preventive care and other dental work. Lack of insurance was the most common reason for not visiting the dentist, according to the NADP’s report. Studies show that people with private dental insurance are more likely to visit the dentist; we can surmise that affordability comes into play with these findings.

Routine dental exam and cleaning costs vary. Dentists charge from anywhere around $100 to $200 without insurance—use the bracesinfo Dental Cost Calculator or visit Healthcare Blue Book to find average rates for dental work in your area. With insurance, preventive and diagnostic care, including exams, cleanings and X-rays, are often covered at 100 percent. For fillings, root canals and other work, plans share the cost by covering a percentage of the bill, depending on the benefits selected.

Dental insurance can be a relatively affordable cost. For a 65-year-old, the monthly premium for a basic plan can run as little as $14 to $20 a month. Look for a plan that does not subject older people to special copays or reduced plan benefits.

Staying on top of oral health, overall health

When it comes to oral health, preventive care goes a long ways, even for—especially for—the elderly. and others constantly remind consumers that regular exams and cleanings help catch problems and diseases in their early stages when they are more treatable and less expensive. Proactive measures can be taken to help prevent them from occurring at all.

Preventive dental visits can also help catch systemic diseases such as diabetes. Periodontal disease, aka gum disease, has been linked to other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and respiratory disease. The American Academy of Periodontology states that recent research indicates inflammation may be responsible and that treating it can help manage periodontal disease as well as other chronic inflammatory conditions.

The above-mentioned NADP report found that, “without exception, those with dental benefits have more positive attitudes toward healthy behaviors.” They are more likely recognize that eating a low-fat diet, getting an annual physical, brushing twice a day and visiting the dentist twice annually are important.

Aging teeth have special needs

As you get older, you are likely to see an increase in oral care needs because your teeth are more prone to certain conditions and have special needs. Because the nerves in your teeth become smaller with age, cavities and other problems may go undetected longer, according to the American Dental Association, which makes visiting the dentist regularly as important as ever.

  1. Natural wear and tear — A lifetime of use takes its toll on teeth. Over time they can become worn down and weaker, which makes them more susceptible to cracks and chips. Receding gumlines are part of aging and can cause tooth sensitivity and make teeth more susceptible to cavities below the gumline.
  2. Dry mouth — It can be part of aging, but not necessarily. Chemotherapy and medications used to treat asthma, high blood pressure and other conditions may impare gland function and reduce saliva flow. This creates ideal conditions for tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, dry mouth may be associated with diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
  3. Gum disease — Periodontal disease and tooth decay are most frequent causes of tooth loss. About 23 percent of those 65 to 74 years old have a severe form of it.
  4. Tooth decay —The elderly may have new tooth decay at higher rates than children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Oral cancer — The average age of most people diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers is 62, according to the American Cancer Society. Dentists perform oral cancer screenings during preventive exams.
  6. Dentures — You may have partial or full dentures—or find you need them. Over time, they will need to be adjusted due to wear and changes to the facial structure and mouth. Regular trips to the dentist help ensure they are fitting properly.

Dental insurance can help ease the financial strain these more frequent dental care needs place on a fixed budget. To learn more about dental plans and find one that works best for you oral health needs and financial situation, contact your health insurance agent or a representative.

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