According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, most people over the age of 65 are missing an average of 13 teeth. In fact, it is estimated that 27% have no remaining teeth at all. Dental problems are among the most common health issues for older adults. A Medicare dental plan can make a huge difference in you having a bright, healthy smile.
Original Medicare (Part A and B) covers very few dental-related costs. Jaw diseases, oral cancer, face tumors, or face fracture-related procedures and infections caused by dental procedures are covered by Medicare Part B. Oral examinations may be covered by Part A if they are related to another hospital stay. However, Original Medicare does not cover important services to prevent or detect severe dental problems such as routine exams or cleanings. Furthermore, Original Medicare doesn’t cover dentures, denture care, fillings or pullings. Medicare Advantage plans can fill in those gaps.
Medicare Advantage Plans: Filling in the Gaps
Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans are private health insurance plans. They are required, at a minimum, to offer the same benefits as Original Medicare. This means you will never lose benefits you once had from Original Medicare when you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. MA plans can add coverage for the costs of teeth cleanings, x-rays, annual exams, extractions, fillings, root canals, crowns, bridges, and dentures. Some select Medicare Advantage plans might cover medically necessary dental implants as well. A Medicare Advantage plan is the best option to help you afford and practice healthy dental care.
Some people may find that they need to purchase private dental insurance that’s not included in their Medicare Advantage plan.
Private Dental Plans
Purchasing private dental insurance, also known as commercial dental insurance, can save you thousands of dollars in medical bills. Most private dental insurance plans cover 100 percent of routine and preventive care.ou will likely be responsible for a monthly premium, but will save money overall because you will have no or very few out-of-pocket costs.
Dental insurance plans can also cover 70-80 percent of services such as fillings or extractions and up to 50 percent of major procedures such as crowns or bridges. Talking to someone who knows the ins and outs of Medicare and private insurance is a great first step in improving your overall health.
Dental Issues Facing the Elderly
Researchers have found links between poor oral health and other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetes, cancer, and more. It’s important to be aware of elderly dental problems so you can rectify the issue as soon as possible. Some common problems include:
As you age, your teeth become discolored naturally. When enamel wears away, dark dentin underneath is exposed. These bone-like tissues lie underneath your tooth enamel. Dentin is affected by your diet and medications. Smoking and drinking coffee, tea, and soda can contribute to the darkening of your teeth.
Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva. As you age, you may start taking more medications which could result in a dry mouth. When our mouths are producing the proper amount of saliva, our teeth are protected from decay and bacteria. Although it may seem like a minor issue, dry mouth can lead to viruses and fungi forming in your mouth. Dehydration from excessive sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea can also lead to dry mouth. Be sure to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day. Water is crucial for dental hygiene. Plus, vital organs in your body perform best when you’re hydrated!
If you do not exercise proper oral hygiene habits, your gums can recede. When this happens, your roots are exposed. Tooth roots are covered by cementum, not enamel. Cementum is responsible for anchoring the tooth to the jawbone. However, cementum is not designed to protect your teeth the same way as enamel. When this part of the tooth is exposed, your risk of tooth decay increases. The naked eye can not see tooth decay, so it’s important to practice good dental hygiene and visit your dentist regularly.
Have you ever experienced gum bleeding while brushing your teeth? This is a sign that you may be developing gum disease. Gum disease develops when there is an excess of plague caused by small pieces of food being left in your teeth. This is often caused by a lack of brushing or flossing. The risk of gum disease is higher in those who smoke tobacco, have unhealthy diets, or wear poor-fitting dentures. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and many other health issues in your body.
When cells on your lips or mouth have changes in their DNA, a cancerous tumor can form. Oral cancer can appear on your lips, cheek lining, gums, tongue, and top of your mouth. Symptoms include a sore that won’t go away, red or white patches, numbness, and difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking. Having a healthy diet and avoiding excess sun exposure to your mouth and lips can help prevent oral cancer or at least limit your symptoms. However, regular visits to your dentist are the best way to find and fix any underlying issues.
Best Oral Hygiene Practices
Proper dental care for seniors and Medicare eligibles doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Spending a few extra minutes a day on your teeth can help prevent some of the common elderly dental problems discussed above. If you’re looking for easy ways to improve your dental hygiene, follow these simple tips:
- Brush your teeth twice per day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss once per day
- Use an electric toothbrush
- Use mouthwash after brushing your teeth
- If you wear dentures, clean them daily
- Visit your dentist regularly
- Drink plenty of water
Get Medicare Dental Insurance Today
There are likely hundreds of different Medicare Advantage plans available in your area. In addition to dental coverage, MA plans often include hearing, vision, and even group fitness classes through programs like SilverSneakers! We get it, the abundance of options can be overwhelming! Our licensed agents are contracted with most major carriers in your state and can help you enroll in the plan that is tailored to your needs and budget. If you’re interested in arranging a no-cost, no-obligation appointment with a licensed agent, fill out this form or call us at 833-438-3676.
This post was originally published on December 13, 2018, by Kelsey Davis, but was updated on April 24, 2018, by Troy Frink.