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.
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. Dentalinsurance.org 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tooth decay —The elderly may have new tooth decay at higher rates
than children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- 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.
- 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 dentalinsurance.org representative.