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Roughly 1 in 5 adults over the age of 65 have untreated tooth decay, and 40% of seniors haven’t visited the dentist for a routine exam in the last year. So why the decrease in dental care for seniors? Only a very small percentage of retirees have dental benefits that cover routine dental work and preventative care.
If you’re preparing for retirement and are wondering how to manage your future dental costs without dental insurance, here are a few strategies and tips on how to afford preventative care once you’ve retired.
Medicare Doesn’t Cover Routine Dental Work
Are you aware that Medicare does not include a dental benefit? If you plan to retire in the near future and plan on using Medicare for your future health insurance, you may need to re-think your plan. For many seniors, access to affordable dental care has been an ongoing challenge as Medicare does not cover preventative dental treatments, or more complex dental procedures, leaving you with unexpected out-of-pocket costs on a fixed income.
Knowing Your Plan
According to a recent report by the group Oral health America, only about 10 percent of seniors retire with employer-provided dental benefits. Meanwhile, the risk for dental disease increases with age. About 23% of seniors ages 65 to 74 have severe gum disease, which puts them at risk for developing heart disease or other health risks including diabetes. If you’re planning on using Medicare and are considering purchasing a Medicare Advantage plan, or stand-alone dental plan, be sure to ask about plan limitations first. Asking your dentist if they accept a specific insurance and for an explanation of the benefits, including annual caps, will help you in being prepared.
Consider Purchasing Private Dental Insurance
When you are employed, and your company offers dental benefits, it’s likely that your employer is also chipping in at the costs of keeping you covered. Once you are retired, it’s wise to consider purchasing private dental insurance. A private insurance plan will have higher premiums than when you had an employer covering some of the costs, but it may be worth it. Not only will your dollar go further with negotiated services, but in-network dentists will charge a discounted rate for services based on their agreement with the insurance company. In-network pricing means you’re paying less for treatments.
Consider Using a Dental School
Seeking out a local dental school for affordable preventative care can help you get your teeth cleaned for less money. Dental schools are a great place to get an exam performed too. Keep in mind that most dental schools have long waiting lists to get an appointment, so plan accordingly. You can find a dental school near you at toothwisdom.org.
Maintaining Your Homecare Routine
One of the best ways to avoid expensive dental work is by taking excellent care of your teeth and gums at home.
Brushing Your Teeth. Brush thoroughly for a full two minutes, twice a day. The brushing motion is the most crucial part of taking care of your teeth to keep plaque from building up. Check between your cheeks and teeth for food debris after brushing to ensure you’re not missing any areas.
Flossing. Using dental floss once a day will help to prevent gum disease from forming. Floss will help to clean hard-to-reach areas of your mouth that your toothbrush simply cannot clean.
Using a Fluoride Toothpaste. Give your teeth and gums an extra layer of protection against tooth decay by incorporating a fluoride toothpaste. If the taste of toothpaste is unfavorable or you struggle with spitting and swallowing, remember that you can always wash with water instead. Only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is needed if you choose to use it. Toothpaste helps give your mouth a minty aftertaste, and the fluoride will help to prevent tooth decay.
If you’re about to retire, schedule a cleaning and exam with Dr. Aubrey Baudean DDS today before you lose your benefits.