While most retirees understand they’ll need to set aside some funds to supplement what their general health care plans won’t cover in retirement, many fail to adequately plan for the dentistry costs they’ll face as they age.
Many retirees are unaware that Medicare’s dental coverage is very limited, most times not covering common procedures like tooth extractions, dental implants, crowns and non-emergency endodontic routines like root canals. This is why it makes sense to budget for these circumstances once your client leaves the protective coverage of a traditional dental plan.
(Related: Dental: The Gum Crisis)
The reality is, unless a retiree enrolls in a Medicare supplement insurance plan, or lives in a state where Medicare will cover most dental procedures, maintaining dental health will likely represent an out-of-pocket medical cost to the retiree.
Could these costs add up and affect retirement savings?
Unfortunately, yes. Teeth vitality has not kept up with our overall increase in human life expectancy. Disorders, infections and damage associated with other injuries, most notably elderly falls, can represent thousands of dollars out-of-pocket costs when not covered adequately by separate dental insurance.
Regular check-ups are important to continue as we age because oral examinations often uncover serious, non-dental afflictions, which, when caught early enough, can be treated effectively and inexpensively. Diabetes, Leukemia, HIV and thyroid irregularities are often first identified in the dentist’s chair and can be costly diseases to combat if gone undetected.
In addition, as we age, the risk for certain conditions such as advanced gum disease and oral cancers, increase. The risk of oral cancers in women over 65 years old, for instance, rises almost 15%.
But regular check-ups can also quickly identify and prevent dental afflictions that require expensive procedures like root canals and tooth replacements.
The medical costs associated with these treatments may take many retirees by surprise the first time they’re encountered -since most people entering retirement are unaware that Medicare doesn’t cover these dental procedures. In fact, according to a study by SeniorLiving.org, almost 50% of seniors over age 65 have not visited their dentist in the past year, citing high costs and fixed incomes as the primary reason. This can be a costly mistake.