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.