As you age, so does your mouth. That’s what makes senior dental care so important. Learn about the common issues that occur, if Medicare covers dental services, and what you can do to maintain and enhance your oral health.
Common Oral Health Issues for Seniors
When it comes to oral health, we want to be clear about what we’re talking about. We’re referring to the overall health of your teeth, gums, tongue, and oral tissue. Oral health is sometimes thought to be something separate from the body’s overall health and well-being, but the fact is they are very interconnected.
If uncontrolled, bacteria in the mouth can multiply and enter the bloodstream, affecting your body elsewhere. Gum disease, in particular, is linked to heart disease, diabetes, respiratory ailments, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
There are some oral health issues that people over 65 are more susceptible to. These include:
- Gum disease – According to the CDC, 68% of adults who are 65 and older have gum disease. And while common, it can be quite serious (as noted above).
- Tooth decay and loss – Nearly 1 in 5 adults aged 65 or older have lost all or most of their teeth. If teeth have not been or are not properly and consistently cared for, the risk of decay and gum disease increases. Both tooth decay and gum disease can lead to tooth loss, infection, and pain.
- Dry mouth – Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common problem with seniors struggling with oral health issues. Why? Because many medicines list dry mouth as a potential side effect. This includes antidepressants, heart medicines, antihistamines, blood pressure medicines, and some OTC painkillers.
- Enamel loss – After decades of chewing and exposure to foods and beverages, your teeth’s enamel can begin to erode. When enamel is compromised, it can expose the tooth’s soft core, leading to pain or infection.
Does Medicare Cover Dental Services?
Taking care of your teeth and avoiding the above oral health issues is essential when you’re a senior. If you’re signing up for Medicare, you may be wondering: does Medicare cover dental services?
Original Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care. And unfortunately, there are no Medicare dental plans to purchase. If you’re shopping for Original Medicare coverage that includes routine dental services, such as teeth cleaning and X-rays, or more specialized treatments for fillings, extractions, and dentures, you’re out of luck. The only way Original Medicare will cover some dental care is if you suffered a traumatic injury that also affected your jaw, teeth, or mouth and had to be hospitalized.
How to Get Dental Coverage
So if you’re on Medicare, what do you do for your senior dental care needs? You have two options: get on a Medicare Advantage Plan or sign up for dental insurance.
Medicare Advantage Plans, otherwise known as Part C, combine Original Medicare Part A and Part B into one complete plan. These plans are offered through private insurance companies and often offer extra programs and services not covered by Original Medicare, such as dental coverage. Not all Medicare Advantage Plans cover dental, so before you sign up, make sure to read the details of what the plan covers.
If you’d rather have Original Medicare, you can purchase standalone dental insurance. These plans usually include deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. And while coverage varies by plan and insurance company, generally dental insurance will cover regular checkups and cleanings, cavity fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, and root canals. With a dental plan, you’re ensuring you get your senior dental care needs taken care of, and you’re protecting yourself from the high costs of dental care.
Tips for Protecting Your Teeth
Aging teeth can still be healthy teeth! Along with getting dental coverage, here are some tips to help you protect your teeth.
Brush Your Teeth
It seems obvious, but it does make a difference. Brushing your teeth twice daily helps remove harmful bacteria and plaque. And don’t forget to floss! If it’s hard for you to physically brush or floss, talk to your dentist about your options. Many oral health tools may be more accessible to you.
See Your Dentist Regularly
Regular checkups and cleanings are a key piece of keeping your teeth and mouth healthy. Most seniors should have their teeth cleaned and undergo oral screenings regularly. With a Medicare Advantage Plan or a standalone dental plan, you can rest easy knowing your checkups and cleanings are covered!
Smoking is not only hard on your teeth, but it’s also hard on the overall health of your body. It weakens your body’s immune system as well as doubles your risk of gum disease. To make matters worse, it makes treatment for gum disease, and many other oral issues, less effective. We know quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is possible and can improve many aspects of your life. If you need help, look into online resources, as you don’t have to go through this process alone.
Take Care of Dentures
If you have dentures, consistent maintenance is a must. This includes rinsing them after you eat and cleaning them thoroughly every day. Also, dentures need moisture, so soaking them overnight in a gentle solution will help keep them clean. Just remember to rinse them off before putting them back in.
Jeffery Insurance is With You Every Step of the Way
Senior dental care is so important as we age. If you want to protect your oral health and need help looking for dental coverage, our team is here for you. We can help you find coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan or find the right standalone coverage with Delta Dental. No matter what, we will be with you every step of the way. We are based in Scottsdale but are happy to assist you wherever you are in Arizona. Jeffery Insurance is Arizona’s health care resource!