Fact: Most seniors pay for dental care out of pocket.
If you plan to retire soon, add this item to your to-do list: a visit to the dentist before your dental insurance disappears.
Overall, 40% of the 65-plus population has some form of dental benefit, according to the National Association of Dental Plans. But most seniors just pay for dental care out of pocket – the mean expense for Americans age 65 and older was $870 in 2012, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The costs can be far higher for more complex procedures. The average cost of a crown in New York City is $2,500; a periodontal procedure in Los Angeles costs $1,700, according to Fairhealthconsumer.org, a service that tracks prices of healthcare and health insurance.
Those numbers help explain why 34% of seniors had not seen a dentist in two years in 2010, and 22% had gone without care for the past five years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
“Dental care is conspicuously absent from the health care coverage for older adults,” says Dora Fisher, director of older adult programs at Oral Care America, a nonprofit group that advocates for better oral health.
Medicare celebrates its 50th anniversary later this month, and adding basic dental coverage is on the wish list of many health policy experts reflecting on the program’s future.
One out of four seniors has edentulism – that is, they no longer have any of their natural teeth, according to KFF; that can cause other health issues, such as nutritional deficiencies and
problems with speech.
Fixing your teeth instead of extracting them has recently been linked to increasing your life expectancy by 10 years. Healthier teeth help you eat healthier foods and prevents diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and many others.