UnitedHealthcare, December 07, 2015
by Elizabeth Millard
Many people over 65 don't have dental insurance, and only about 10 percent of retirees retain dental benefits from former employers, noted Oral Health America, a nonprofit advocacy group.
According to a recent New York Times article on the topic, that's leading many older Americans to skip routine dental care or procedures that they deem too expensive.
Even those who have some form of dental insurance may be utilizing services on a limited basis. Although some Medicare managed care plans offer dental care, benefits vary from state to state, and payments may be capped at low levels. That rules out coverage for more extensive treatments such as implants, dentures or crowns.
Beth Truett, chief executive of Oral Health America, told the New York Times that implants are an economic impossibility for some patients, even though they can be an ideal solution for maintaining a tooth as well as the teeth around that affected implant.
Another issue with senior dental care is accessibility. Although federal law requires nursing homes to assist patients in obtaining routine and emergency dental care, state laws can vary, according to an article from the Association of Health Care Journalists. The article stated, "In addition, nursing home directors, staff and family members may overlook the importance of oral health care, not only for the increasing number of seniors who have kept their teeth into old age, but for those who use dentures."
In general, the oral health of older Americans is in a state of decay, noted a recent report from Oral Health America. Not only is insurance an issue, but seniors also struggle to find affordable dental services. These challenges are especially notable because older adults experience an increased risk for oral conditions such as tooth loss, oral cancer and periodontal disease, due to age-associated physiological changes.