Retirement planning can be challenging. You’ve got to run the numbers to determine the best age to retire; understand how Social Security timing affects your income; and ensure you have enough saved to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. One often overlooked expense that retirees fail to plan for? Your dental benefits after retirement.
Why Have Benefits After Retirement
Although you may be tempted to do without dental benefits after retirement, the toll that takes—both on your health and your finances—can be catastrophic. Often, after a lifetime of employer-sponsored dental coverage, some retirees don’t realize the costs and complications of paying for dental care. Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care, dental procedures or dental devices like dentures. Some Medicare Advantage plans have dental coverage, but the coverage may be limited to preventive care.
These costs hit seniors just as dental care becomes more important in their lives. As we age, our risk for oral health problems increases. As gum lines recede and old fillings break down, some seniors may get more cavities. Certain medications can cause dry mouth and limit saliva production, which can increase the risk of tooth decay. Gum disease affects people of all ages, but it typically worsens as you get older. To make matters worse, your teeth become less sensitive to pain as you age. This means that you may not experience soreness or tenderness from tooth decay or gum disease. If you’re skipping your preventive visits because you’re only going to the dentist when you feel pain, oral health problems won’t be caught early and will cost more to fix.
Regular Dental Care Is Key To Senior Health
Research has proven that oral health is connected to overall health. So whether you have decided to opt for dental implants, get new fillings or even just going to your regular checkups, ensuring your teeth/mouth is healthy is very important, no matter your age. Simply put, the health of your mouth is related to the health of your body. If your retirement planning includes saving for medical expenses and other elements necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle, shouldn’t you also ensure you’re receiving regular dental care?
Consider the following senior oral health care issues:
- Seniors often take a variety of medications that can cause dry mouth. A dry mouth isn’t as harmless as you may think. It can lead to rapid tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. If dry mouth is a concern for you, ask your dentist to recommend solutions like moisturizing mouth rinses. They can help improve the pH level for a more comfortable mouth. Be sure the pH of the dry mouth solution is a 6.7 or higher.
- If you use an inhaler, it’s important to rinse your mouth afterward to prevent fungal infections.
- If proper dental health practices weren’t always part of your lifestyle, implants, partial dentures, or full dentures could be in your future. A surprising 13% of Arizonans age 65 or older have had all their natural teeth removed.
Poor oral health can affect your ability to chew, speak, smile, and maintain adequate nutrition. Some seniors with poor oral health end up seeking care in costly emergency departments. The ER costs 3 times as much as a dentist visit and cannot treat the underlying cause of pain. Since 80% of dental-related ER visits are due to preventable conditions, why not take care of them in a dental office instead?
Maintaining good oral health by going to the dentist regularly will, in the long run, reduce inflammation of the gums, reduce sensitivity, and increase your comfort level with your smile.
Paying for Dental Care After Retirement
To effectively plan for dental benefits after retirement, start by evaluating your budget and your dental health needs. Then use tools like FAIR Health or the Delta Dental Cost Estimator to get an idea of what dental work costs.
There are a variety of options to help seniors pay for dental care after retirement, including buying individual dental insurance. Alternatively, you may qualify for services at a reduced-fee dental clinic, select a dental discount card or find that one of the local dental schools offers services at a reduced rate.
If you want dental benefits after retirement that most closely match your employer-sponsored dental plan, buying an individual dental benefits plan is your best option. Delta Dental of Arizona offers a variety of individual dental plans that are ideal for seniors. Plans are affordable too, starting at under $20 per person, per month.* Check out our individual dental plan options to see if one works for you.
Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about taking the first steps to buy individual dental insurance. Our individual dental benefits team is available to help at 1-844-764-5301.
*As of 1/1/19, pricing for the Cholla Plan-765 is $19.94 per member/month. Rates are subject to change and vary by plan.