Dental Insurance and Americans Over Age 65

According to a report released last December by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a surprising 49 million Americans on Medicare do not have dental insurance. Medicare does not include couple-in-kitchen smdental insurance benefits.

The study discovered that (for those with incomes above the poverty line) 65 percent of those with dental insurance visited a dentist during the previous year. This is in sharp contrast to the mere 27 percent of those without dental insurance.

This situation leaves millions of older Americans at risk of a plethora of health issues that result from inadequate dental care. Gum disease, tooth decay and loss of teeth are merely the tip of the iceberg; numerous physical conditions can be caused or exacerbated by poor dental care and oral health.

Clearly, the nation needs a sane, affordable, and adequate dental insurance program available to all, but especially to older Americans. Until a program of this kind becomes available, dentists can only encourage our patients to consider carefully the costs and benefits of a dental insurance policy to help them retain their teeth, their smile, and their good health.

For those who feel that they cannot justify dental insurance in their budgets, no-to-low interest options like the Care Card offer options for having dental care and paying for it over time. Like most dentists, I encourage patients to obtain some level of insurance coverage or credit option.

How Do I Know if I Have TMJD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)?

TMJD is inflammation or pain in one or both of the joints connecting the jawbone and the skull. The symptoms and causes are often complex, and the disorder affects people differently, causing a range of symptoms.

Common Symptomsheadache - TMJ - Pixabay public domain free commercial use

Among the most commonly reported symptoms are:

  • Pain in your jaw, in your face, or around your ear. The pain may occur only when your jaw is moving. It can, however, be constant and not tied to joint movement.
  • Inability or difficulty opening your mouth completely.
  • "Clicking" or popping in your jaw.
  • Your jaw becomes "locked," which makes it difficult to open or close your mouth.
  • Headache.
  • Uncomfortable bite (often because one or more of your teeth make contact with other teeth before all of your teeth make contact.

Causes and Contributing Factors

Your dentist will be able to diagnose TMJD and to help you understand the cause of the disorder in you. Causes and contributing factors in the development of TMJD include:

  • Anything that causes pain in other joints can also contribute to the development of TMJD.
  • Wear and tear on the cartilage covering the ends of the bones in the joint.
  • Arthritis.
  • Injuries and dislocations.
  • Abnormalities in the joint, including damage to the disc that separates the two bones.
  • Dental problems, infections, or tumors.
  • Damage to teeth.
  • Missing teeth, causing mis-alignment of the upper and lower jaw.
  • Overuse of chewing muscles, due to chewing gum continually, biting fingernails or pencils, biting the cheek or lip, extending the jaw when speaking, exercising or other actions.
  • Erosion or slipping of the disc from its proper position.

If you think you might have TMJD, contact your dentist immediately. Diagnosis is usually painless. Once your dentist determines the cause of the disorder, there are several effective treatments.

The sooner you seek diagnosis and treatment, the better your dentist's opportunity to intervene in time to limit the pain and damage from the disorder.

Do I Need to Take Anything to My Dental Appointment?

This is a question we hear quite often. Most of us know what to take to a doctor’s appointment, but we are not sure if we need to take anything to a dental appointment. The answer is: Yes, there are things you need to take to your dental appointment. What should I take to my dental appointment

1. You know that some medications do not interact well with others. Take to your dental appointment a list of medications, including vitamins, herbal remedies, and over-the-counter medications. 

2. The anesthetics and medications your dentist uses might cause a bad reaction if you are allergic to the drug or if you have a medical condition. 

3. Sometimes your dentist will have questions about your medical condition and might want to discuss them with your doctor before administering anesthetics or medications. Take the names and phone numbers, as well as specialties, for all health care providers, doctors, and your last dentist. 

4. Medical emergencies can occur while you are being treated by your dentist. Take with you information about your emergency contacts, medical power of attorney, or someone who can help to make decisions on your behalf. 

5. Most dentists today expect payment at the time you are treated. Therefore, take your dental insurance or Medicaid cards to your appointment.

6. Any dentures or partials should also be taken to your appointment, even if you don’t wear them.

7. If you inclined to become anxious during dental treatment, take a video or audio that you find relaxing. 

8. If you are experiencing dental issues, bring along a list of questions and concerns. A list helps us to ensure that we address all of your questions and concerns.

Dental Care for Elderly and Disabled Persons

Are you caring for an elderly or disabled person? You might be feeling overwhelmed by the tasks to perform every day. Unfortunately, many caregivers minimize the importance of elderly-woman-dentist-e1306503787961-300x225dental care for elderly and disabled loved ones. This can be dangerous in several ways.

I understand completely that you might need to find some shortcuts in your day, and that dental care might seem like the least important part of caring for your loved one. Yet, dental care might be more important than you realize.

The minimum in daily dental care for elderly and disabled persons is to help them keep their mouth clean and to help with this task if they cannot do it themselves. Also, take them to the dentist regularly. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing the mouth can be difficult for some people. It is not uncommon to find that a dementia patient forgot how to brush.

Why is this so important? The first and most important reason is that bacteria from the mouth can easily be ingested or inhaled. When the bacteria are inhaled, there is great risk of it developing into pneumonia.

The second reason dental care is so important for elderly and disabled persons is that their nutrition is tied to their ability to eat. Failure to clean and protect the teeth can lead to broken, loose, or lost teeth. You will want to pay careful attention to any changes in what they do or do not eat and to how much they eat. This will help you to notice any emergent problems with their teeth.

The third reason dental care is so important is that many elderly and disabled persons take medicine, which can cause or promote dry mouth. This condition can be very damaging to the teeth and gums. Some loved ones are not able to drink water as often as they should to keep the mouth clean. This allows food, drinks, and medication to harm the mouth.

Elderly and disabled persons in your care need to see a dentist regularly to provide a thorough cleaning and evaluation. Often, your dentist will be able to identify problems that are starting long before you will notice it. While you are visiting your loved one’s dentist, you might want to talk with both the dentist and the hygienist about how you can help to protect your loved one on a daily basis.

Finally, if the loved one you are caring for has dentures or a partial denture, clean them daily and remove them for at least 4 hours each day. If they become loose or painful, contact your dentist. There are things we can do to make them more comfortable.

There are products that help to care for the oral health of your loved one. These range from special mouth rinses to swabs that moisturize the mouth, to a number of other specialized products. But before you start buying everything your pharmacy or home health supply company has to offer, discuss your loved one’s specific needs with your dentist. Not only can we help you choose the right products for his or her needs, we can help you sort through the available array of products and choose the best product for your needs and your budget. A hygienist can also show you some techniques to help you brush your loved one’s teeth and otherwise care for their oral health needs. A dentist is here to help you.

We are located in Salem, Virginia. When you come to us with a dental problem, we do not judge, we do not chastise. We can help you. We just do everything we can to help. We understand the challenges and the schedule of caring for an elderly or disabled loved one.

Medicare Does Not Pay for Dental Care

Are you aware that Medicare does not pay for dental care? Yet your need for dental care will not end when you retire. This means that you need to plan for your post-retirement dental care.

Retirees actually have several options for paying fsm graphicstock cbi-0216-038 013 220614or dental care. You will likely want to explore the options available to you prior to retiring.

1.      The first option is to set aside money to pay for dental care. Some people are able to plan ahead realistically and save money accordingly. If this is how you plan to pay for your post-retirement dental care, it is wise to have an honest conversation with your dentist. Deciding how much money to save should be based on problems that are emerging, existing problems, and the unexpected costs that could arise. Your budget plan should also include an assessment of any issues that could be caused by medication or a long-term illness.

2.      You can purchase an add-on dental policy as part of your Medicare Supplement insurance. Many insurance companies offer this option. You can identify those plans with some research, a hpone call to your preferred Medicare supplement provider, or by visiting the website of The National Association of Dental Plans. You can also research some options through AARP.

3.      You always have the option of researching dental care insurance providers and buying a policy through one of these providers.

4.      Discount dental plans are another option. Most of these plans have a lower monthly premium cost that conventional dental insurance. These plans require you to choose a dentist in their network. Network dentists typically have agreed to provide some services for 10 -60 percent below their usual fees. When you visit this dentist, you will simply pay the discounted co-pay.

5.      You also have the option of obtaining a medical care charge card that will allow you to pay your dental bill over time at either no interest or an interest rate that is well below the rate on most credit cards.

You can plan for the cost of dental care needs after retirement with any of these options. In fact, you can combine them based on your income and your needs. Maintaining your dental health with insurance or savings can be managed despite the fact that Medicare does not pay for dental care.


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