Aging & Oral Health: Keep Your Teeth and Gums Working When You Retire

As a provider of family dental care in East Portland, Dr. Joy Arend and her dental staff routinely offer our patients the knowledge needed maintain and improve their oral health. As a significant portion of the U.S. population continues moving closer to retirement, those 65 and older will soon outnumber youngsters five and younger. So that you can enjoy a healthy, great looking smile for a lifetime, we dedicate this segment of our blog series on aging to educating patients about how getting closer to retirement may impact their oral health.

Understand the Limitations of Medicare!

According to Oral Health America’s A State of Decay, Volume III, a 2016 study revealed that 52 percent of Americans over the age of 50 were unaware that Medicare does not cover routine dental care. When workplace health insurance switches to Medicare, dental benefits are no longer covered. In fact, Medicare covers less than one percent of dental services.

However, Medicare Advantage plans do cover certain dental procedures. Medicare also currently covers dental work that is deemed medically necessary in conjunction with another covered medical procedure. But most retired Americans who will need to rely on Medicare for their health care needs cannot count on the program to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Eighty million Americans will be eligible for Medicare by the year 2035. The dental team at East Portland Dentistry urges readers to share this blog with anyone approaching retirement; let’s get our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers prepared for a lifetime of oral health.

Ten Tips for a Healthy Mouth During Retirement

  1. If possible, start a savings plan to supplement Medicare.
  2. Prior to retirement, discuss your future dental benefits with your employer so that you have a clear understanding of your coverage.
  3. Long before potentially necessary, designate a caregiver to assist in decision-making involving dental treatment and/or finances.
  4. If mobility is becoming a problem, arrange for or ask a caregiver to arrange for transportation to visit the dentist. Note that East Portland Dentistry is accessible by public transportation. We are conveniently located on the MAX line.
  5. Keep in mind that preventive care applies to patients of all ages. Adults benefit equally from fluoride treatments as do children. To prevent cavities at any age, we recommend regular fluoride treatments.
  6. Know that approximately half of adults over the age of 75 suffer from tooth decay that affects at least one tooth. With age, increased gum recession exposes the roots of our teeth. Dry mouth, often associated with the intake of multiple prescription medications, also increases the risk of cavities and tooth decay.
  7. Be aware that oral health affects your overall health. For those with heart conditions or diabetes, it is especially important to realize the systemic connection. Infection and inflammation in the mouth may exacerbate heart conditions while also making it more difficult to manage diabetes. A clean, healthy mouth can prevent complications treating both heart conditions and diabetes.
  8. Uncontrolled diabetes puts you at greater risk for periodontal disease. Your dentist can diagnose periodontal disease. We practice a whole-person approach to family dental care in East Portland, so it is critical to inform your dentist of all health conditions and medications. (Please refer to Part I of this blog for additional information.)
  9. As periodontal disease occurs most frequently in older adults (17.2%), continue to visit your dentist regularly to receive periodontal evaluations.
  10. Be sure to inform your dentist (and caregiver, if applicable) if you suffer from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions may hinder your ability to brush and floss properly. Your dentist can recommend modifications for manual toothbrushes (such as adding a Velcro strap), offer suggestions for wide-handled electronic toothbrushes that are easy to hold, and can demonstrate the use of interdental cleaners and brushes, as well as dental floss holders.

We Can Provide the Family Dental Care in East Portland You Need

Please ask a member of our team for a consultation to discuss your long-term oral health care needs. At East Portland Dentistry, we will work with you to generate a practical and affordable plan to keep your teeth and gums looking and feeling their best during your retirement. We offer a discounted rate for patients without dental insurance, and we provide knowledge, respect, and compassion to all who seek family dental care in East Portland.

Please visit our blog again soon for Part III of this series, which will address aging and oral cancer.