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Why dental insurance for retirees is a must

As you enter your golden years and enjoy the freedom of retirement, there’s one thing you might be forgetting.

two seniors sitting on a couch laughingDental health is more than just a shallow cosmetic concern. Serious problems with your teeth, gums, and jaws can have severe consequences for your overall health, from chronic pain and discomfort to infections and risk of septic shock. Dental insurance helps you afford the care you need, keeping your teeth healthy and strong for years to come.

As you get older, you’re at a higher risk for dental problems

People over 65 are at an increased risk for gum disease1, and without dental insurance, you might find yourself putting off treatment. Advancing age can bring all kinds of dental and periodontal (gum) issues, many of which need proper treatment to prevent further health issues that result from them.

tooth darkening iconTooth darkening

Even if you brush regularly and take great care of your teeth and gums, advancing age can darken your teeth. This is because as you grow older, your body undergoes changes in dentin, a type of tissue similar to bone that lies beneath the outside layer of enamel. A lifetime of tea, red wine, coffee, and cola can increase the problem. Your enamel can also thin with age, letting yellower dentin show through.2

dry mouth iconDry mouth

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common side effect of many medications. Drugs for a variety of conditions like depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and hypertension can lower your saliva levels. This isn’t good for your teeth and gums and can raise your risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and oral infections.

tooth root decay iconRoot decay

After a lifetime of exposure to acidic foods and beverages, the roots of your teeth can gradually succumb to decay. As you get older, gum tissue recedes away from the roots, exposing them further. Unlike the rest of the tooth, the roots are not protected by a layer of enamel, leaving them susceptible to serious damage.

gum disease iconGum disease

Gum disease has a variety of causes. It can result from a history of poor dental hygiene habits, from smoking and poor diets, and even from poorly fitting dentures or bridges. Chronic health conditions like diabetes and anemia can increase your risk. Gum disease usually starts as gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that can cause minor bleeding when you brush or floss. This is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria.

Over time, it can progress to periodontitis. The inner layers of your gums begin to pull away from your teeth, creating small spaces where food debris can collect. This creates a prime opportunity for infection. The plaque bacteria emit harmful compounds, further breaking down the teeth and gum tissue, ultimately loosening the teeth. Periodontitis is the most common cause of tooth loss, and older people are at a higher risk.3

jawbone unevenness iconJawbone unevenness

If you lose teeth due to oral health problems, but you don’t replace them with prosthetics, the rest of your teeth will naturally begin to move and drift into the open spaces. This can actually harm your jaw and interfere with its normal alignment, causing pain and discomfort.

oral thrush iconThrush

Thrush is a fungal infection caused by a particular species of yeast, Candida albicans. This often results from diseases or prescription drugs that interfere with your immune system, making your body more prone to infection.4

Seniors are struggling with oral health issues

There’s plenty of discussion about healthcare for the aging population, but what about dental care? Your teeth, gums, and jaws are as much a part of your body as any other organs, and untreated dental and periodontal problems can be dangerous. Less than one-third of adults aged 65 and over have dental insurance, meaning much of the retired population is going without adequate dental care.5 Losing your teeth is not just a normal part of modern aging, it’s a sign of untreated health issues. About 20% of adults over 65 have untreated tooth decay and almost 68% of adults aged 65 and older have some form of gum disease.6 This problem can be solved with attainable, affordable, and comprehensive dental plans for retirees.

percentage of seniors without insurance gum disease or tooth decay

When you retired, you may have lost access to a dental plan you enjoyed for years or decades through your previous employer. It can be challenging to find affordable dental insurance independently, leaving many seniors unable to afford the costly dental and periodontal care they need. Fortunately, there are options out there. You can find and choose from a variety of dental plans for retirees, helping you greatly reduce the cost of going to a dentist and maintaining your oral health.

Finding the right dental insurance plan

Unfortunately, brushing and flossing every day isn’t enough to ensure your oral health. A lack of preventive dental care can lead to unexpected tooth and gum disease, later on, leaving you with steep medical bills or debt from a costly but necessary procedure. Regular cleanings from your dentist remove bacterial plaques that will eventually destroy your teeth through cavities and decay. Even if you feel like your teeth are fine, you’ll benefit immensely from a good insurance plan.

Dental insurance options for retired seniors

There are two main options that you’ll be able to choose from when you’re looking for affordable dental insurance as a retired senior citizen: PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plans, and Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) plans.

PPO plans give you access to a wide range of dentists, and in some cases, you may be able to continue seeing providers outside the network. PPO members pay a monthly premium, and the plan covers a certain percentage of your costs after you’ve met your deductible. If you need individual health insurance and already have a dentist that you know and trust, PPO plans can be a good option.

senior couple on couch discussing dental insurance plansDMHO plans require you to choose a single dentist or dental office as your provider. If you need to see a specialist, like a periodontist or an oral surgeon, your primary dentist will give you a referral authorized by your insurance company. When you have a DMHO plan, you won’t have a deductible or an annual cost. Instead, you pay a copayment for any dental services you receive. This is usually the most affordable type of dental plan, and many basic dental services don’t have a copay at all.

Whichever type of dental insurance plan you choose, simply having dental insurance can drastically reduce your cost to see dentists and specialists. You’ll have access to preventive care, making you less likely to develop serious problems like gum disease in the future. If you do develop a serious condition, you won’t be stuck with a massive unexpected expense that leaves you with depleted savings or medical debt. Dental plans for seniors are a smart investment, and there are plenty of options that are highly affordable for retirees.


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1. (Last accessed September 2019)
2. (Last accessed September 2019)
3. (Last accessed September 2019)
4. (Last accessed September 2019)
5. (Last accessed September 2019)
6. (Last accessed September 2019)

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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