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The 3 Best Dental Insurance Programs For Seniors

You often hear about the talk of health insurance and how important it is, especially for the most vulnerable in society (that being children, seniors and those in poverty). However, you don’t hear about the importance of dental insurance. The fact is that dental insurance is just as important, as dental operations, dentures and the like can cost into the tens of thousands, if not more. Dental insurance can help alleviate those costs and tends to be extremely affordable, making it a no-brainer for everyone involved.

As with all types of insurance, it’s important to read the fine print and learn exactly what they cover, how much they cover, what and who are excluded from coverage, possible waiting periods and maximum annual or lifetime coverage benefits. Unfortunately, there are many companies out there that have a reputable name but offer cheap plans with virtually no coverage – you’d be better off with no insurance at all (though in reality, you should pay the few dollars more for good coverage!). The follow are the best 3 dental insurance companies for those over 65.

  1. AARP – Delta

The American Association of Retired People (AARP) offers a special insurance plan geared specifically towards seniors. This is the only plan made by seniors for seniors. The actual coverage is provided through Delta Dental Insurance, a well-known insurance company that generally provides good coverage. When it comes to dental insurance, it is very important to try to get an HMO plan rather than a PPO. AARP offers both, and the HMO plan covers the most without a waiting period for most treatments – easily making it the best plan you can possibly get!

  1. Guardian

The plan above (#1) is only available for members of AARP – not every senior is a member. In addition, there may be non-seniors who aren’t eligible for AARP membership but want to get a dental insurance plan that they can keep for the foreseeable future, as they age past the “senior age.” If you’re looking for an alternative to AARP, look no further than Guardian. The exact plan benefits depends on your state, age and other factors, but they are known for their easy-to-work with customer service & claims department, as well as their willingness to go above and beyond for their customers and patients.

  1. Savings Plans

There is a third option that is widely popular for seniors, especially those not looking to pay the higher premiums that the elderly normally pay for dental care. It is called a Dental Savings Plan and provides similar benefits to insurance – though it’s not insurance. What it does is give you treatments at a specific price (which is often cheaper or the same as you would pay with a low-cost insurance plan) the dental office has to charge you. This is ideal due to the extremely low cost of these plans, even for seniors, though it technically doesn’t count as an insurance plan.

4 Best Oral Health Habits For Seniors

Dental care is dental care, regardless of your age. From an early age we are all trained to brush our teeth and floss daily in order to avoid cavities, tooth decay and gum disease. When you reach age 60 and beyond, nothing changes – your teeth are still as important as ever (if not more important). The biggest difference is sensitivity, as teeth do weaken over time, not only does it become more important to take care of them, it becomes vital to take good care of them. For example, there are correct and incorrect ways to brush your teeth. When you’re 30, however, brushing incorrectly won’t have much of an effect, at least in the short term. On the other hand, making simple mistakes even while having good overall oral hygiene can be very detrimental.

That is why these four tips are specifically made for seniors:

  1. Have a Dental Exam Every Six Months

The importance of frequent dental exams cannot be overstated. In a short 6 month period, a seniors teeth can go from perfect to catastrophic. The only sure way to know is to get detailed X-Rays. When you’re younger, once a year suffices, but as you reach senior-state, you should see a dentist once every six months at a minimum.

  1. Continue To Floss Daily

Flossing is definitely annoying, and as you get older it can even become a little painful. The benefits are unworldly however, and the importance of flossing even as you age do not change. In fact, gum disease, the main issue that flossing tries to prevent, can become prevalent in a seniors mouth much easier than a young adult, which increases the importance of daily losing.

  1. Fluoride Is Your Best Friend

For years dentists have been preaching the importance of fluoride-based toothpaste as it helps whiten teeth and strength tooth enamel. However, when you’re younger you’ll suffice with non-fluoride toothpaste. In your elder years there is simply no good substitute for fluoride and you should add a fluoride based mouthwash to go along with your toothpaste to ensure the healthiest and longest-lasting teeth possible.

  1. Treat Issues Immediately

Gone are the days where you can let a toothache pass on its own. Any oral problems – from toothaches to increased (or decreased) sensitivity to dry mouth have to be looked at immediately. The idea of dental emergency is almost everything as a senior, as something as simple as toothache can be signs of serious issues. As with all health problems, the sooner you catch it and get it treated, the better.

Is Dry Mouth Normal?

A common problem experienced by seniors is constant dry mouth. For a long time, there has been a myth that it’s a normal part of aging and that seniors shouldn’t pay much attention to it. That standard response to dry mouth is very common, but unfortunately it’s not correct. While dry mouth doesn’t necessarily cause any harm on its own, it can indirectly have a severe impact on the teeth of any senior – regardless of the current state of their teeth.

The human body produces very large amounts of saliva each day. That saliva plays an important role in your oral health, as it helps keep not just the roof of your mouth wet, but your teeth as well. It may not seem that important, but with a dry mouth, your teeth are extremely susceptible to chips, fractures and other severe damage. After just days of having a dry mouth, perfectly healthy teeth can deteriorate and cause the need for immediate oral surgery and extremely large medical costs.

While dry mouth can damage teeth regardless of your age or demographics, the problem is exacerbated even more when it comes to seniors, as teeth have weakened over time. Your teeth are nowhere near as strong when you’re 65 as when you’re 35, and having a dry mouth will cause damage faster the quicker you are. The reasons for dry mouth among seniors vary. As you get older, your body naturally starts to produce less saliva – though it still produces enough. In addition to that, many of the medications taken by seniors cause dry mouth as a side effect. Both combined create a harsh, dry mouth with an detrimental environment for teeth.

The key here is to differentiate between common and normal. Dry mouth is a common problem for seniors, but it’s not normal whatsoever. If you experience dry mouth for a period longer than 24 hours, you should immediately make an appointment with your dentist. Try to constantly drink water to stay hydrated and keep a flow of liquid in your mouth as much as possible, limiting the detrimental effects of dry mouth. In addition, it would be a good idea to see your general doctor and determine if any of your current medication can cause dry-mouth, and if so, check for alternatives that may not have the same side-effects.

At-Home Dental Treatments

For some seniors, going to the dentist is simply an impossible task. That is especially true when you consider how often seniors need to see a dentist compared with younger, healthy adults. One of the greatest assets to any senior is Geriatric Dental Care at home – where a dental professional goes directly to your house and treats you on your own bed! Believe it or not, most treatments that you go to the dentist for can be done directly in the comfort of your own home.

What can be done at home?

Mobile dental clinics have gotten so sophisticated, thanks to technological improvements, that you can now transport virtually every machine inside a dentist’s office directly into a patients’ home. That is ideal for your standard X-Rays that become more and more important the older you get. It is also perfect for other preventative care dental services, such as teeth whitening’s and fillings.

In addition to those basic services, at-home dental geriatric care can perform more complex procedures – such as the creation of new dentures, the repair of old ones, crowns, bridges and even root canals. Depending on the teeth and severity, a variety of tooth extraction procedures can also be performed directly in the comfort of your own bed.

What can’t be done at home?

Over the past few years, high-tech introductions in the dental industry has made the needed equipment smaller and mobile, which means that virtually everything can be brought to you. With that said, if you are experiencing a dental emergency, it is highly recommended that you go to the dentist yourself in order to get treated right away. Most at-home dental care services work on a schedule with other patients and set appointments to see you, thus are much less likely to be available during a dental emergency (such as losing a tooth or other severe issues).

Does it cost more?

The mobile dental equipment is more expensive and safety regulations require more time and insurance from a mobile dentist. In addition, it limits the amount of patients a dentist can see in any given day. Naturally, that means that costs are going to be more than what they would have been otherwise. However, insurance is still accepted and the benefits from getting oral care in the comfort of your own home outweigh the additional costs involved.

Most Common Dental Problems For Seniors

As with the rest of the human body, teeth begin to deteriorate as people age. Studies have shown that one third of the senior population in the United States don’t have a single original tooth left. There are many dental problems that occur with older age, and some of the most common ones are listed below, as well as tips to mitigate the damage and allow your oral health to be as healthy as possible.

  • Dry Mouth

Most seniors will tell you that at one point or another they’ve experienced uncomfortable dry mouth. While every once in a while this is normal, seniors who consistently experience dry mouth have a saliva deficiency that can lead to bigger problems. Lack of saliva damages teeth and dentures and leads to loosening and micro fractures. In just a few months of lacking saliva, you can go from a perfect healthy mouth to a dozen severe cavities.

  • Dentures

The invention of dentures has been a blessing for millions of seniors. Teeth are an unfortunate consequence of aging, but dentures allows people to have teeth that allows them to communicate effectively and look normal even as they get older. They are very delicate however, and the use of dentures will require consistent care, often each and every day, leading to some headaches for many patients.

  • Sensitivity

Another consequence of aging is tooth sensitivity. As you get older, your teeth begin to get hypersensitive, which means that something too cold – such as ice cream or ice water will create a sharp pain, as will something too hot. That is because tooth enamel begins to fade, and what was previously protecting your teeth from extreme temperatures is no longer there. Any time you feel a change in sensitivity it’s important to have it looked at by a dentist as they will be able to tell you if it’s normal, or part of a greater problem such as gum disease or cancer.

  • Gums

Your gums also begin to deteriorate with time, though that process begins often in your 40s and 50s – way before you’re considered a senior. But think of what 15-25 years of slow deterioration does by the time you reach your 60s and 70s – and that’s why the problem is common and often extreme for seniors. That is even more so for smokers, dippers and drinkers, as those substances lead to quicker deterioration of the gums and to various gums diseases such as advanced periodontists.

3 Dental Tips For Seniors

When it comes to geriatric dental care, there are a lot of different steps and procedures seniors must do to take care of their teeth – things they didn’t have to do when they were younger. At the same time, nearly every dental tip and suggestion that applies to children and adults applies to the elderly. For example, avoiding sugary sweets and drinks and brushing your teeth daily are still important! However, there are certain tips that are primarily helpful to seniors.

1. Don’t Forget Your Dental Hygiene

Just because you’re older doesn’t mean seniors need to forget good dental hygiene methods that they’ve hopefully used throughout their lives. Brushing your teeth twice daily is just as important, if not more important, for the elderly as it is for young adults. The reason is because your teeth are more sensitive and vulnerable to damage when you’re older, so it’s vital to take good care of them. In addition, don’t forget to floss – it’s still important to prevent gum disease!

2. Dental Visits Are Just As Important

Your routine dental checkups are just as important as hygiene. The difference is when you’re young you can afford to miss an appointment here or there. One missed appointment as a senior and you can lose half of your teeth – not exaggerated at all. While it’s possible to maintain good, healthy teeth into your senior years, it makes double the work that it once did. Even then, regardless of how good your dental hygiene is, there is a lot that can only be seen by trained dentists and high-quality X-Ray machines, which is why it’s so vital to get constant checkups (twice per year, at least, are recommended).

3. Increase Your Vegetable Intake

While eating vegetables is good for physical and mental health, it’s also a vital aspect of oral health for seniors. As dry mouth is an extremely common problem among those over 65, usually caused by medication (as well as natural aging), it causes teeth to also get dry and crack much easier. Vegetable are known for being able to increase saliva production, meaning that the more vegetables you eat, the less damage that any dry mouth issues will cause to your teeth. With that said, it’s still important to see your dentist when experiencing dry mouth to ensure it’s not a symptom of something more serious.