In the United States today, huge strides have been made to improve access to quality routine dental care for children, resulting in much better levels of oral health in young people across the country.
There is another vulnerable group in the U.S., however, who may already be experiencing serious problems with their remaining teeth, or are facing the possibility of losing all their natural teeth in the near future.
"Seniors tend to have a greater need for dental care than any other group."
They are the nation’s nearly 50 million seniors over the age of 65.
While many have basic Medicare coverage available to them, dental benefits generally are not available. At the same time, many of these individuals find themselves on fixed incomes with tight budgets, making investing in routine dental care especially difficult to justify when there is no emergency or ongoing pain.
Why is dental care so crucial for seniors?
Looking for ways to maintain good oral health is important to avoid serious complications.
Seniors tend to have a greater need for dental care than any other group. Based on longtime wear and tear on the teeth, even those with sufficient home care habits can face periodontal disease, tooth loss, tooth decay, and other issues requiring care. Learn more about the importance of senior oral health here.
Likewise, other medical conditions that become more prevalent as we age can often be diagnosed by a dentist performing a routine oral exam before symptoms become obvious to the patient. These conditions include:
- Heart disease
- Oral cancer
Why are dental discounts for seniors so important?
Needed dental services like the instillation of dentures or a tooth extraction, on top of routine preventive care, can be prohibitively expensive for those who are uninsured and on a fixed income.
This means many seniors are stuck in a difficult position when it comes to taking care of their oral health: they need services they can’t afford, and the government assistance through Medicare falls short in providing the care they need.
What options are available for seniors to afford dental services?
Seniors without dental coverage can benefit from alternative savings plans.
It’s in an aging adult’s best interest to take control of their dental care as a step in maintaining their overall health. While dental care can be expensive, there are options available to manage costs and put quality care within reach of those on fixed incomes.
Dental Discount Programs
Dental discounts for seniors through a discount card offer access to large networks of participating dentists who agree to provide their services at significant discounts for members paying out of pocket.
For example, the Dental Solutions program by Dentemax includes a $9.95 monthly fee, which can be used for an entire household who all receive up to 50% off the normal out-of-pocket charge for routine and advanced dental procedures from any of over 62,000 participating dentists.
Non-insurance Options for Assistance on Medical Bills
Programs are different in nearly every state, so it’s important to thoroughly research options where you live. There are many non-insurance programs and benefits available through the government, community programs, or industry affiliations, that can be used to help pay out-of-pocket expenses for your health care.
For example, in Pennsylvania, Greg Scandlen found that he was eligible to set up a Medical Savings Account (MSA) in conjunction with Medicare. This allowed him to set aside money with accompanying tax benefits, to be used later to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Similarly, Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have long been an option as part of, or in addition to, a retirement account such as a 401k. These act very similarly to the MSA, except that they are completely separate from Medicare, and are administered independently. If you’re not familiar with HSAs, review your retirement account details, as it may be an available option to consider.
If you’re over the age of 65, or if you’re caring for someone who is, it’s important not to neglect appropriate dental care based on costs alone. Between discount dental programs and other non-insurance options, there are ways to scale down the financial burden of dental care.