(BPT) – You maxed out your 401(k) every year you worked, invested wisely and planned carefully in preparation for retirement. Perhaps you even researched your Medicare options and you know exactly what health and drug plans you’ll choose. But if you’re like the majority of other Americans approaching – or in – retirement, you’ve likely overlooked a critical aspect of retirement planning and investment: dental insurance.
By 2030, 72 million Americans will be 65 and older, the Administration on Aging predicts. Currently, 70 percent of American seniors don’t have dental coverage, according to a report in the Journal of Dental Education. Medicare does not provide dental coverage, so when their employer-sponsored dental insurance ends, many seniors discontinue dental coverage – and dental care –altogether. Yet dental insurance is one of the cheapest “retirement investments” seniors can make. And the health costs of not having dental care can be devastating.
“Dental health is a critical issue for senior citizens,” says Dr. Jed Jacobson, chief science officer of Renaissance Life & Health Insurance, and the director of the Renaissance Dental Research and Data Institute. “Discontinuing dental insurance is risky at best. The absence of regular preventive dental care can have permanent, devastating effects on a senior’s overall health and well-being.”
Research shows that oral health is linked to overall health, especially for senior citizens. Preventive dental care or regular dental cleanings can help eliminate the mouth-borne bacteria that can compound a number of age-related health concerns. Many of the medications seniors take can lower the amount of saliva they produce, making them more susceptible to infection in the mouth. Bacteria that develops in the mouth can spread throughout the body, Jacobson notes, causing or worsening problems such as:
* Cardiovascular disease – Bacterial endocarditis, a serious infection inside the heart, is caused by bacteria that normally develops in the mouth.
* Infections in prosthetic joints – Joint infection is one of the leading causes of failure in prosthetic joints, and can lead to costly, painful and risky surgery. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause joint infections.
* Diabetes – Nearly 12 million seniors have diabetes, and untreated periodontitis – a common oral disease – can make it harder to control blood sugar levels.
* Oral cancer – Age is a primary risk factor for many forms of cancer, and the median age for diagnosis of oral cancer is 62, according to the National Cancer Institute. Oral cancer can cause serious debilitation, disfigurement and even death – in fact oral cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of any type of cancer. It is also the costliest cancer to treat, ranging from $ 100,000 to $ 250,000, research by the Renaissance Dental Research and Data Institute reveals. Preventive dental care, such as routine checkups, is the best way to catch oral cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
“Poor dental health does not have to be a reality of retirement,” Jacobson says. “Many debilitating oral health issues can be prevented by regular dental examinations.”
Even though Medicare doesn’t cover dental care, the open enrollment period (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7) is a good time for retirees to think about dental insurance, Jacobson says. While seniors receiving Medicare can make changes to their health and drug coverages only during open enrollment, they can enroll in a private dental insurance plan at any time.
Typically plans like those offered by Renaissance Dental cover preventive care for an affordable premium – as low as $ 25 per month. Insured seniors can visit any dentist they choose, but they can save even more by visiting a dentist from Renaissance’s nationwide network of more than 200,000 preferred provider locations. The company specializes in retiree dental care and is licensed to sell group and individual policies in all 50 states. Visit www.rensmile.com or call (888) 791-5995 to learn more and to obtain plan pricing information.
“Research shows that patients are 50 percent more likely to schedule regular dental checkups when they have dental insurance,” Jacobson says. “By continuing their dental benefits into retirement, and getting regular dental screenings, seniors can take advantage of one of the simplest, most cost-effective and potentially life-saving measures available to preserve their health during retirement.”