As we grow older, our overall dental problems tend to increase. But our finances often stagnate or even decrease over time. So getting the best prices for dental care takes on an ever-increasing importance.
Here’s an in-depth look at senior dental care options, including savings options such as a dental discount plan.
How Do Teeth Change as We Grow Older?
Seniors have unique dental needs and concerns. As we grow older, a lifetime of eating, drinking, stress and other factors begin to take their toll on our teeth. Starting about in your 40s, and continuing for the rest of your life, your teeth start to change in both placement and appearance.
Typically, the two front lower teeth are the first to shift, but the rest may soon follow suit. Teeth will shift towards the midline, which is the middle of each row of teeth. Your shifting lower teeth will often push into your upper teeth. This can cause your upper teeth to develop a worn edge. Some of your front teeth might push forward as well. Extensive shifting not only changes the appearance of teeth but can also affect bite function and comfort.
Do Seniors Have an Increased Risk of Tooth Loss?
Unfortunately, yes. Seniors over the age of 65 have an average of 19 teeth. Tooth loss in seniors is caused by a combination of factors.
Seniors often suffer from dry mouth. Prescription medications are a common cause of dry mouth, including many used by seniors such as blood pressure medications, diuretics and anti-inflammatories. When saliva production is chronically low, bacteria can grow and lead to dental decay.
Lack of mobility is another concern. When standing and walking become difficult, regular brushing can decrease. Infrequent brushing, dry mouth and aging teeth all work together to increase the risk of cavities, gum disease, tooth loss and more.
Does Medicare Cover Dental Care for Seniors?
For millions of people over the age of 65, Medicare provides some or all of their health coverage. Unfortunately, Medicare provides almost no dental coverage. Basically, Medicare only covers dental issues if they’re part of an emergency procedure or on-going medical issue.
Many Medicare recipients who want dental coverage enroll in Medicare Part C. Also known as a Medicare Advantage Plan, some plans offered under this program provides dental and vision coverage. Medicare Advantage works like a private insurance plan. You’re responsible for deductibles and other co-pays, and you can only visit in-network dental professionals.
There’s no one type of Medicare Advantage Plan. Instead, there are a variety of available plans which offer different coverage levels, premiums and deductibles. You’ll have to shop around to find the best plan for your budget and dental needs.
How Do Dental Discount Plans Work?
Dental discount plans are a popular alternative to dental insurance and Medicare Advantage Plans. Also called dental savings plans, they offer significant savings on dental care for seniors.
Are you a member of the American Automobile Association? Dental savings plans work in a similar fashion. After you purchase a membership, you’re eligible for savings within a wide network of dental professionals nationwide (unless you choose a plan that provides discounts only in a specific region, of course). Depending on the type of plan you purchase and the discounts available, you can save between 15% and 50% on your dental care. Savings are available across a wide range of preventative, basic and major dental procedures.
Many seniors find dental discount plans to be much easier to use than dental insurance. When you purchase a discount plan, you’ll receive your discount card within about 72 hours. Simply present your discount card at any participating dentist for instant savings at the time of the procedure. You can use your savings card as often as you like, and there are no restrictions on care for dental conditions you had before you purchased a membership.
Are Dental Discount Plans a Good Idea for Seniors?
Seniors are often retired, which means they no longer have access to employer-provided dental insurance. Unfortunately, because Medicare doesn’t provide dental coverage, seniors are forced to find other financial help for their dental bills. While Medicare Advantage and dental insurance plans can be workable options, there are also a number of potential drawbacks such high deductibles and limited coverage options, including restrictions on pre-existing conditions.
For many seniors, dental discount plans have a variety of advantages over dental insurance. Discounts plans offer instant savings, including savings on dental problems you already have. Plus, discount plans are easy to use with no paperwork to fill out. Simply present the card and save.
Your dental health doesn’t have to decline as you age. Finding quality dental care on a fixed or limited income can be easier than you think. Both dental insurance and dental discount plans offer ways to keep your smile beautiful on any budget.