If your parents are getting older, you may have noticed some changes in their oral health. For instance, your mom may complain about tooth pain and your dad may comment that his mouth is feeling as dry as the Sahara Desert. Or they may suffer from a loss of appetite that really stems from a canker sore or tooth ache. Unfortunately this is common is aging adults, but there is hope for their oral health.
Advanced Age Can Lead to Oral Health Issues
Seniors can often be at risk for a number of oral health problems, including a diminished sense of taste, gum disease, tooth loss and other issues. Root decay, which is caused by the exposure of the tooth root to acids normally found in the mouth, can lead to the pain your mom is experiencing. And if your dad takes certain medication, that can definitely cause a dry mouth. Other dental health issues that can arise in older adults include problems with dentures, thrush, tooth loss and darkened teeth from changes in the tooth enamel and eating and drinking stain-causing foods and beverages. Even if your parents currently have super healthy teeth and have been great about going to the dentist twice a year, it’s possible that some of these oral health problems may arise over time.
Healthy Teeth Equals a Healthy Body
Staying on top of their oral health may also help your parents to be healthier overall. According to the Mayo Clinic, oral bacteria and inflammation from gum disease may play a key role in certain diseases. These include cardiovascular problems, pneumonia and endocarditis. Also, people with health issues like diabetes, osteoporosis and/or Alzheimer’s disease may have an increased risk for developing problems with their oral health. By visiting their dentist regularly and practicing careful oral hygiene, your parents can stay on top of any issues and keep their overall health as robust as possible.
Dental Coverage is Often Overlooked
In order to help your parents keep their teeth as healthy and strong with regular dental checkups and care, they should definitely consider having some type of dental coverage. Unfortunately, dental insurance is not as common as you might think among seniors; a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from May 2019 notes that in 2017, only 29.2 percent of adults 65 and older have dental insurance. While many people think about getting health insurance coverage, most older adults are not getting dental insurance. It’s important to note that even if your parents have a full set of dentures, they should still see a dentist on a regular basis.
Look for a Plan that Includes Dental Coverage
Since Original Medicare doesn’t include dental coverage, if your parents don’t have dental insurance of some type, they will end up paying out of pocket for their appointments and treatments. In many cases this can cost a pretty penny—for instance, popular toothpaste brand Colgate notes that a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown can cost between $875 and $1,400 per tooth. To prevent this costly care from happening, encourage your parents to invest in a dental plan that will allow them to continue to take great care of their teeth. For instance, Anthem offers dental coverage in its Medicare Advantage plans. The Medicare-approved insurance company also offers dental insurance packages that can be added on to an existing Medicare plan. These plans may include low, or no copays for dental exams, cleanings, X-rays and other more in-depth dental services.
Enjoy Healthy Teeth and Gums through the Golden Years
While it probably feels a tad awkward to ask your parents about their dental coverage, it’s definitely an important topic to discuss. Casually ask them what type of dental insurance or plan they have, and if you learn they are not covered, encourage them to look into Medicare dental coverage that will allow them to enjoy their retirement years with healthy and pain-free teeth and gums.