At ERH, we believe in helping older adults stay independent throughout every stage of life. That often means raising awareness about healthcare and social issues that affect senior living.
In the last few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about the changes that are on the horizon for senior healthcare, but we’ve found that many seniors are unaware of the care and services that are actually available to them through Medicare and supplemental plans.
More and more Americans are becoming eligible for Medicare every day, confident that all of their future care needs will be covered, but that’s not always the case.
There are a number of services that Medicare will cover only in part, or not at all.
Last week, we explained what kind of long term care you can expect from Medicare. Today, we’re talking about oral health and dental care.
Why should I care about oral care?
Poor oral health habits can be dangerous and even outright deadly. Lack of dental care can lead to a number of health problems:
- Dry mouth. Dry mouth is a common complaint among older adults—one that can often be treated in the course of your dental care.
- Diminished sense of taste. If food and drinks seem bland and uninteresting, your dentist may be able to help by treating a sense of taste that has been damaged by diseases, medications, and/or ill-fitted dentures.
- Root decay. Poor oral hygiene can cause the gum tissue to recede, exposing the roots of your teeth to decay-inducing acids and bacteria.
- Gum disease. Caused by plaque and made worse by poor oral hygiene, gym disease can lead to tooth loss and jaw deformities.
- Denture-induced stomatitis. Dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a buildup of the fungus Candida albicans can cause a painful inflammation of the gum tissue.
- Increased risk of health problems. In addition to harming teeth and gums, infections in the mouth caused by poor oral care have been associated with serious health issues like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Keeping up a regular daily routine of brushing, flossing, and eating a nutritious diet can help you keep a healthy mouth, but it’s also important to have regular dental check-ups.
Dental care, unfortunately, is one of those services that Medicare doesn’t typically cover, but there are still ways for seniors to get excellent dental care.
1. Find a dental care plan.
The hospital insurance of Medicare Part A will help cover surgery and recovery if you need an emergency dental procedure, but neither Medicare nor Medigap plans cover routine services like cleanings, fillings, or dentures. So if you want to make sure that you have coverage the next time you visit the dentist’s office, you’ll need to opt to add an additional dental care plan the next time you’re assessing your senior healthcare needs.
If you’re looking for dental coverage, there are a few options you can consider:
- AARP offers a dental plan through Delta Dental Insurance designed specifically for seniors that provides a limited amount of coverage.
- Insurance companies like Humana, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, and Aetna offer individual and family dental coverage.
Many seniors, however, choose to go without dental coverage, paying for each individual service as they need it.
2. Visit a clinic.
Paying for dental care out-of-pocket can quickly become a major expense, but there are a few lower-cost options available for seniors.
Many local healthcare providers offer dental services. If there are any dental schools or large hospital networks in your area, you may be able to find affordable dental care without having to purchase additional dental insurance.
- Local hospitals. Some hospitals offer dental clinics to patients in their network. If you’re part of a hospital system, talk to your doctor to see if your network offers any dental service.
- Dental Schools. Just like students in medical programs, dental students need patients they can hone their skills on. Many dental schools provide quality, low-cost dental care to patients willing to receive care from students being trained and supervised by fully licensed and experienced dentists