For millions of Americans, leaving employment because of retirement results in the loss of their dental benefits. Medicare does not cover dental care, and as a result, up to 70 percent of seniors don’t have coverage. This is a serious issue because maintaining good oral health is every bit as important as taking care of the rest of your body.
The baby boomer generation lives over 30 years longer than their grandparents, on average, so it is crucial to maximizing our lifestyle and health as we age. There is a lot more to oral care than just having a pretty smile. Regular checks could save your life and keep your bank balance healthy, as you’re about to find out.
What Happens if I Stop Caring for My Teeth?
A failure to maintain good oral hygiene doesn’t just lead to a crooked smile and smelly breath; it typically leads to bad overall health. If you allow your teeth to decay for long enough, it becomes difficult to chew properly. The result is warped speech and malnutrition. Poor oral health can lead to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and erectile dysfunction.
If you skip regular cleanings, conditions such as gum infections and periodontal disease get worse. Bacteria grow beneath the gum line where regular flossing and brushing can’t reach. The infection becomes steadily worse until it begins destroying supporting bone. Eventually, it increases your chances of suffering from serious medical conditions, including stroke and diabetes.
A recent study found a link between poor oral hygiene and the onset of Alzheimer’s. The study, conducted by a UK University, found that individuals with decaying teeth have a greater chance of getting Alzheimer’s than those with healthy teeth. The research team discovered Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacterium, in the brains of people who had dementia. Interestingly, there is a link between the bug and periodontal disease. This study follows on from a 2010 study by New York University that also found links between gum disease and a reduction in cognitive function.
A Life-saving Cleaning
A trip to a dental hygienist for a routine cleaning session could save the lives of people of all ages. One famous case involved an 11-year-old girl named Journee Woodard in Oklahoma. During a simple cleaning session, her hygienist noticed a yellow tint in her eyes. Her dentist looked and recommended further tests. These tests revealed a tumor covering parts of Journee’s liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, which was on the verge of rupturing. Had it done so, Journee would have died. Instead, she underwent a 9-hour operation to remove the tumor.
This is far from an isolated case; and, as you get older, the chances of suffering from a life-threatening illness increase. Gingivitis is a mild gum infection that is not dangerous in itself, but when left untreated, it turns into periodontitis, which degrades the ligaments and bony sockets that hold your teeth in place. The bacteria produced by the infection enter the bloodstream, move to the heart, and possibly cause life-threatening infections.
Dentists can spot early signs of oral cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and leukemia, among other things.
Preventative Oral Care Saves You a Fortune
While a significant number of employers offer dental benefits, you lose them once you retire, and many seniors can’t believe the amount they pay for basic treatment. According to a report by HealthView Insights in 2015, the projected total lifetime out-of-pocket dental cost for a 65-year old man is over $8,700. This figure rises to over $9,800 for a 65-year-old woman.
The average cost of a dental check-up if you don’t have insurance is almost $300 while a simple tooth extraction costs up to $600. Medicare Advantage plans pay a portion of the cost, and there is the option to sign up for a dental savings plan. If you choose one of these plans, you’ll receive discounts of up to 60 percent if you visit a dentist within the plan’s network. For as little as $300 per year, you receive basic coverage with most providers covering 100 percent of your annual care costs; up to 80 percent of the price of fillings, basic procedures, and root canals; and up to 50 percent of the cost of crowns, bridges, and major operations.
Failure to book routine checkups may result in the development of serious dental conditions where surgery is essential. Such procedures cost thousands of dollars. Then, there is the small matter of eliminating the need for life-saving procedures.
Benefit from Technological Advances and Low Prices
Dentistry in the United States is in excellent shape in the 21st century as new technologies come along to make dental procedures quicker and more efficient. Dentists use implants made from materials accepted by the body, such as titanium.
Once you reach retirement age, look for dentists that cater specifically to baby boomers. They usually offer low prices for cleaning and even provide customers with discounts based on the time of appointments. It isn’t unusual for a dentist to offer a full cleaning to those over 60 for as little as $99, with mid-afternoon appointments being the cheapest.
Obviously, prevention is better than cure, so adopt good oral hygiene practices that include brushing twice a day, using mouthwash, and flossing after every meal. For best results, book a cleaning appointment every six months because not only will regular checks keep your teeth in great shape, they may also spot serious underlying medical conditions.