Smile, but remember to plan for dental insurance as part of your retirement investment.

Americans spend a great deal of time and effort thinking about retirement – how to invest their money to ensure they have the assets needed to retire comfortably. However, one asset that is quickly vanishing from many retirees’ futures is employer-funded health benefits. When faced with this issue and an unfamiliar individual or exchange environment, retirees are overwhelmingly choosing to forgo dental coverage, a decision that can have serious consequences.

It should go without saying that good oral health is incredibly important for seniors. Poor or neglected dental health can contribute to severe medical issues such as heart disease and diabetes — diseases that typically strike older individuals. Yet, according to the AARP, about 75 percent of Americans 65 or older do not have dental benefits, and Medicare does not cover routine dental services.

The individual market for retirees is rich with opportunity. Six thousand Americans turn 65 each day, according to the U.S. Census, but only about 33 percent of retirees will receive continued health benefits from their employer.

Short term cost equals long term savings

When purchasing health benefits, individuals consider health insurance a no-brainer. In the event that a serious illness or accident strikes, health insurance is a necessity to getting care. This is a mindset that is focused on treatment rather than prevention.

When meeting with advisors, many retirees view the price tag for voluntary dental coverage as an extra expense that they weren’t planning for. Advisors can help individuals understand that investing in preventative oral health now can avert the cost of expensive treatments or more serious health related issues down the road.    

According to the Surgeon General, those over the age of 65 are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer than those under 65. Regular dental examinations can detect oral cancer before it spreads or becomes life-threatening.

Dental caries (cavities) can be a significant problem for seniors and contributes to tooth loss. Untreated caries can cause pain and lead to infections with major health consequences. In addition, gum disease is the most common chronic inflammatory condition and is associated with many illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

An oral health issue can create a domino effect that can derail the health of a retiree. It’s proven that there’s a reciprocal relationship between oral health and overall wellness. This domino effect can lead to further complications, which means more doctor and dental visits, invasive procedures and huge expenses that far outweigh the investment in preventative care.

An easy upsell

As medical sales commissions continue to decrease, dental insurance can be a profitable upsell.

It’s estimated that 66 percent of employers intend to offer or are considering offering retiree benefits through an exchange environment. Retirees enter the market in a buying mode. This is the perfect time for advisors who are already selling health insurance to educate retirees on the importance of dental coverage as part of their long term care. Dental insurance should be an automatic ask.

Dental insurance is a long term investment

In addition to all of the health benefits, retirees should continue contributing to the investment that they have been making for decades. Why would they stop investing in their oral care when it’s likely that now they will need coverage the most?

Dental insurance also offers peace of mind. The odds are heavily in favor that seniors will need dental care and the insurance will be there for them when they do. Peace of mind also comes with regular oral health checkups. More and more dental practices are checking blood pressure and signs of overall health as part of routine patient care.

The bottom line is that dental care is essential to the overall health and happiness of retirees. It’s also a lucrative opportunity for the advisor to include dental in the benefits sale.

See also:

When will boomers’ nest eggs crack?

LTCI Watch: The Teeth