People over 60 are at an increased risk for oral health problems — from increased risk of cavities and gum disease to increased risk of mouth, tongue and throat cancer, your oral health becomes a bigger priority as you reach retirement.
Early detection by your dentist is key to diagnosing and treating everything from cavities to cancer before they become more serious.
But without dental insurance, you might find yourself putting off preventative care.
56% of Americans without dental insurance skip preventive treatment. And only 42% of seniors visited the dentist within the last year.
Since you’re no longer eligible for your employer’s dental coverage once you retire, you’ll need to find a plan that covers your needs.
Here are the oral health challenges faced by retirees, and how dental insurance can help you manage your oral health into your golden years.
Though medications and prescriptions are meant to treat certain conditions and diseases, they can have a negative impact on your oral health.
Many medications ranging from anti-depressants to pain medications all share the common side-effect of xerostemia, or dry mouth.
Dry mouth is a common factor which can lead to tooth decay and infection.
Saliva protects your teeth from bacteria. When your mouth is dry, your risk for infection and tooth decay is increased.
Nearly 70% of Americans take prescription drugs, while Americans over 65 are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions.
Sometimes sensory, physical or cognitive effects of medications can make it difficult for seniors to take care of their oral health, too. That’s why it’s so important to visit the dentist at least once a year to monitor tooth decay and keep your oral health on track.
As you age, your teeth become more prone to tooth staining.
Decades of drinking beverages like coffee, tea, and red wine can leave lasting discoloration of teeth.
These three popular drinks are major culprits in tooth-staining due to being rich in rich in acids, tannins, and chromogens.
Even if you brush twice a day and visit your dentist regularly, advancing age can make it harder to fight of tooth staining.
When you grow older, your teeth undergo changes in dentin, which is the tissue beneath your tooth enamel.
As the outer enamel of your teeth weaken with age and exposure to staining beverages, the darker yellower dentin layer may begin to show through.
Similar to tooth staining, a lifetime of exposure to tooth-decaying acids may make you at higher risk of root decay as you enter retirement.
Sugary and acidic food can cause your gum tissue to recede from your tooth, exposing the roots.
Roots do not have a layer of protective enamel, and are more prone to decay than the crown of your tooth.
Like root decay, decades of exposure to foods that create plaque buildup and tooth decay can increase your risk of gum disease as you age.
Additional gum disease risk factors that increase as you get older include poor-fitting bridges and dentures, and certain diseases that can become more prevalent as you age, such as cancer and diabetes.
When left untreated, gum disease can become more serious — people with gingivitis and periodontal disease are 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke than those without.
Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss. And if you lose a tooth and don’t replace it with a prosthetic option such as a flipper or implant, the rest of your teeth may shift into the open space and cause an uneven jawbone.
An uneven jawbone can lead to swelling and inflammation on one side of your jaw, which makes for uncomfortable or painful chewing, talking, or sleeping on your side.
The American Cancer Society reports that more than half of all oral cancer patients are 55 and older.
And the earlier your dentist or doctor can detect and diagnose oral cancer, the better chances you have of controlling and treating it.
If you find a lesion or a sore in your mouth, be sure to see your dentist right away to have it examined.
Why retirees need dental insurance
As you enter retirement, it’s even more critical to prioritize regular dental visits to maintain your oral health.
Dental insurance can help you stay on top of your regular dental visits and receive coverage for the care you need, all while saving money.
Between cleanings and exams to tooth extractions or a root canals, the out-of-pocket costs can quickly add up if you don’t have dental insurance.
Many dental insurance plans will cover 100% of two preventative care visits a year, which includes routine cleanings, exams, X-rays, topical fluoride and sealants.
Dental insurance can also reduce the cost of other procedures that you may need when you reach retirement, like fillings, extractions, crowns and root canals.
Finding the right dental insurance plan for retirement
Entering retirement means leaving your previous employer’s dental plan for a new one. Guardian can help you find a plan to fit you budget and coverage needs as you enjoy your golden years.