If you’re nearing or in retirement, don’t underestimate the power of a healthy smile. Good oral health can influence everything from your life expectancy to your quality of life.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to cavities, tooth loss, gum disease and dry mouth (often caused by medications). In addition, oral cancer peaks in frequency in people ages 60 to 70.1 There is also a strong link between dental health and overall wellness.
How to help maintain strong oral health in retirement
1. Make sure you have dental coverage
The highest spending levels for adult dental care occur from ages 65 to 79, but original Medicare (Parts A and B) and Medicare supplemental coverage (Medigap) do not include dental coverage. As a result, nearly half of Medicare recipients don’t have dental benefits.
Fortunately, there are other options:
Medicare Advantage Plans (Plan C), as most include dental coverage
Individual coverage offered by providers like Delta Dental
Medicaid, an employer retiree plan or a family member’s employer plan — although only some seniors are eligible
2. Consider investing in a Health Savings Account
If your employer offers a Health Savings Account (HSA), you can contribute tax-deductible savings that can earn interest or investment gains. The money you save in the account is yours to keep. You can continue to contribute until 6 months prior to enrolling in Medicare.
That money can then be used as a fund for out-of-pocket medical and dental costs in retirement.
3. Maintain a consistent oral health care routine
While some of your habits may change in retirement, your oral health care regimen shouldn’t.
Continue to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time and floss daily. Schedule regular dental checkups. Your dentist can uncover oral and overall health problems early when they are easier and less expensive to treat. And eat a healthy diet that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy and whole grains to enhance your oral and overall health.
While mostly preventable, tooth decay and gum disease are the most common chronic diseases in seniors.
1National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
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