Dental Work and Retirement
As you look forward to retirement, you’re likely making all sorts of plans. You may be figuring out how you’re going to live well on a somewhat reduced income, thinking of travel or new hobbies, or looking toward moving to a new home that will better fit your needs. You may not, however, have thought of getting all the dental care you currently need prior to retirement or figuring out exactly how you’re going to pay for necessary dental services afterward. But there are good reasons to do both.
Dental Work and Retirement: Health Considerations
We all know that neglecting dental care can easily lead to steadily worsening oral health. If you don’t get the oral care you need from your dental care center, you could end up with mouth pain, missing teeth, a ruined appearance and the lack of social confidence that comes with it, the inability to eat foods you enjoy, and perhaps even difficulty speaking clearly.
The need for oral care actually becomes more pressing as we age. Our teeth and gums become increasingly vulnerable to cavities, inflammation, and disease, and many seniors take medications that dry the mouth and increase the likelihood of tooth decay.
That matters partly because good oral health is linked to sound health overall. Whereas an unhealthy mouth can contribute to general health problems including diabetes, malnutrition, and heart disease.
Just as older people are more prone to oral health issues, once we age past a certain point, any procedure becomes at least a little more complicated and a little riskier. That’s one reason why, in the vast majority of situations, doctors and dentists would recommend performing most any procedure sooner rather than later.
In short, from a health perspective, it only makes sense to receive necessary dental care in advance of retirement.
Dental Work and Retirement: Financial Considerations
Dental services can be pricey. Some seniors don’t discover until too late that in most states, Medicare doesn’t cover their dental services at all except in rare instances when the services are linked to medical treatments, for example, tooth extraction or another dental procedure prior to radiation treatment for oral cancer or heart surgery. (Connecticut, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin are the exceptions that do generally provide for Medicare to cover dental work.) This shock can arrive when the seniors are on a fixed income and the dental insurance they had when working, either through an employer or a union, is gone.
Only 12% of America’s seniors have dental insurance, and due to financial pressures, fewer than half of all seniors went to the dentist last year. That’s not too surprising considering the average out-of-pocket price even for what we think of relatively straightforward procedures. An exam, X-rays, and cleaning can run $288, fillings can range from $95 to $450, a non-surgical extraction from $200 to $300, a surgical extraction with anesthesia from $450 to $650, a crown from $1500.- $3000, and a root canal from $950 to $1200.
When uninsured seniors do end up going to the dentist, they spend an average of $1125 annually, which is $400 more than people with coverage spend. Of course, since the $1125 is only an average, individuals can spend far more than that if they need expensive procedures or extensive dental work.
Clearly, once again, it makes sense to seek from treatment your dental services center before retirement when the resources exist to pay for it.
Dental Work and Retirement: Specific Steps
By now, we hope you’re convinced that should address your dental services needs prior to retirement. Ideally, you should have your long-term dental care plan in place five or eight years before retirement. But above and beyond having obvious problems taken care of at your dental services center of choice, what does that actually entail?
First, be aware that you don’t always need to have a full-blown problem develop before it can be taken care of. A dentist can check you for emerging problems and deal with them early.
When talking things over with your dentist, be sure he or she is evaluating your bite and how it might potentially be improved. In addition to their obvious role in chewing, speaking, and giving you an appealing smile, your teeth help to stabilize the head, neck, and spine. Healthy teeth can lead to better overall health.
Have the dentist look at your fillings. Old fillings can deteriorate and require replacements, crowns, or root canals.
Be vigilant watching for bleeding gums and other signs of periodontal disease (gum disease.) Left untreated, gum disease can lead to bone and tooth loss and require costly remediation. (The good news is that if the dentist finds the gum disease before things have gone that far, a deep cleaning can often stabilize periodontal disease while a gum graft can protect teeth and bone.)
If you have arthritis or some other condition that makes it more difficult to do an adequate job of brushing and flossing, mention that. Your dentist may recommend an electric toothbrush, a fluoride rinse, or more frequent cleanings.
Also, be aware that the years before retirement could be a good time to consider treatment that could provide stability long term, like dental implants. When deciding on dental work, know that there are often options. Consider the possibilities carefully with your dentist and choose the one that’s right for you. For example, one patient may find that dental implants will best meet his or her needs, and another may opt for a bridge. Naturally, your financial situation may factor into your decision.
Finally, figure out ahead of time how you’ll pay for dental work after you retire. Private Dental Insurance may be an option. You may pay more than you did when enrolled in an employer-sponsored plan, but you may feel the benefits are worth it.
Dental Work and Retirement: The Bottom Line
Finally, be sure if you purchase a private dental plan check that the amount you are paying for coverage doesn’t out way the benefits. Watch for missing tooth clause, and stipulations regarding benefits. It’s a good idea to make a long-term dental care plan in the years leading up to retirement and to obtain necessary and even preventive dental services before retiring. Do this in consultation with your dentist and dental care center.