Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy After Retirement

Dr. Joy Arend and the dental staff at East Portland Dentistry want to help educate our patients on the best ways to maintain and improve their oral health. As a large portion of the American population continues to move toward retirement – soon those aged 65 or above outnumber youngsters below age five – we dedicate this segment of our blog series on aging and oral health to educating patients about how aging and retirement may impact thier oral health.

Be Aware of the Limits of Medicare!

According to Oral Health America’s A State of Decay, Volume III, a 2016 study revealed that 52 percent of Americans over 50 years of age were unaware that Medicare does not cover routine dental care. When workplace health insurance switches to Medicare, dental benefits are no longer covered. Medicare covers less than one percent of dental services. Yes, Medicare Advantage plans do cover certain dental procedures, and Medicare 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 Medicare 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 dental 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 your mobility is or becomes limited, 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 have root caries (decay) that affect at least one tooth. With age, increased gingival (gum) recession exposes root surfaces. Dry mouth, often associated with the intake of multiple prescription medications, also increases the risk of root caries. (Please refer to Part I of this blog for additional information on dry mouth.)
  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 and may make controlling diabetes more difficult. 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. At East Portland Dentistry, we practice a whole-person approach, 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 one’s ability to brush and floss properly. Your dentist can recommend modifications for manual toothbrushes (such as adding a Velcro strap), can point you to a wide-handled electronic toothbrush that is easy to hold, and can suggest and demonstrate the use of interdental cleaners and brushes as well as dental floss holders.

How Can We Help?

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