Your dental health is important, no matter if you are eight years old or eighty. However, once you reach age 65 in the United States, dental care is not as accessible. Routine dental care is not covered under Medicare. Some seniors have other problems, like lack of transportation, age-related memory loss, and physical disabilities can lead to missed dental appointments and poor overall oral health. Some adults feel the need for a dental visit is less important as you get older.
But the older you get, the more important preserving your dental health becomes. Medications and common chronic illnesses in older adults, including diabetes and disease, puts them at a higher risk for dental problems.
When possible, practicing good senior dental care and making regular appointments with a dentist can help preserve the health of your teeth and their appearance.
What Happens at a Regular Dentist Visit?
A regular dentist visit consists of two parts: the checkup, or examination, and the cleaning, or oral prophylaxis. During the examination, your dentist will check for cavities using an X-ray to locate them in hard-to-see areas.
If cavities are present, they'll set a follow-up appointment to fill them. Tooth decay is a common chronic disease for those 65 years old and up. The exam also includes a check for plaque and tartar. Plaque is a clear, sticky layer of bacteria that forms on your teeth. When left untreated, it can harden into tartar. Tartar, unlike plaque, cannot be removed through regular brushing or flossing. If either of these substances build-up, it can lead to oral disease.
Next, they look at your gums. The dentist uses a special tool to measure the depth of space between your teeth and gums. In healthy gums, the spaces are shallow. When the gums are affected by gum disease, they widen.
Dentist Can Spot Health Problems
The checkup should also include a thorough examination of your tongue, throat, face, head, and neck. This is done to check for any signs of trouble, including swelling, redness, or possible signs of cancer.
Your dentist can catch systemic problems like a blood disorder. The American Cancer Society says the average age to get diagnosed with mouth, throat, and tongue cancer is 62.
Your dentist or their dental hygienist will also clean your teeth. They use a special tool to remove any tartar. This process is called scaling. After scaling your teeth, your dentist or hygienist might decide to polish them with a gritty paste. The process removes any surface stains. Finally, they'll use floss to make sure the areas between your teeth are clean.
What You Should Do Between Each Visit
Your dentist cannot maintain the health of your teeth alone. Between each dental visit, you should take the following steps to prevent the formation of plaque and tartar:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, using a toothpaste that contains fluoride
- Floss daily
- Use a mouthwash to keep your breath fresh and control plaque
Dental Checkups Key to Good Health
Visiting your dentist remains an essential part of your overall health plan as you get older. In addition to reviewing your oral health, many dentists take a patient's blood pressure.
High blood pressure is "the silent killer." Generally, there are no symptoms until your heart and arteries are damaged. CDC research says 20 million Americans saw their dentists, but not their medical doctors in the year of the study (2008). This made the dental appointment an important (and maybe the only) opportunity to check blood pressure and the health issues related to hypertension.
Regular dental visits keep your teeth and gums healthy and allow for the early detection and treatment of oral disease. Without adequate dental care, your teeth will start to weaken and decay, which leads to gum disease, the loss of teeth, and other serious dental issues.
If your teeth weaken or require removal, you may need dental implants or dentures to replace them. Losing teeth can impair your ability to eat and speak, and, when the loss is extreme, alter your facial features.
No matter your age, practicing good dental hygiene and regularly visiting your dentist is the easiest way to mitigate, if not completely prevent, these issues. Take care of your dental health and be sure older family members do the same thing.
Preparing your family and finances for the future costs and burdens of aging is an essential part of retirement planning. For many American families, some type of Long-Term Care Insurance will be appropriate.
Once you get into your 40s and 50s, you start to see significant changes in your health, body, and mind. These changes lead you to a higher risk of needing long-term care services. Long-term health care costs are expensive and will adversely impact your income, assets, lifestyle, and legacy unless you put an advance plan in place.
Planning Provides Peace-of- Mind
Start your research into affordable Long-Term Care Insurance when you are still in good health, ideally in your 40s or 50s. Premiums are based, in part, on your age and health, among other factors. When you have a plan in place it will give you and your family tremendous peace-of-mind knowing they will never feel the stress and anxiety that they would otherwise feel without a plan. You will enjoy quality care and asset protection.
Use the tools available on LTC NEWS to help you in your research. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator will show you both the current and future cost of care where you live.
Seek Help from a Qualified LTC Specialist
Be sure to seek the help of a trusted and qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. This specialist will help navigate all the companies and their underwriting and pricing differences.
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Items to Discuss with a Long-Term Care Specialist
Be sure that you and the specialist discuss several key issues:
- Partnership: Most states offer special policies that provide dollar-for-dollar asset protection. The Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Program might be one of the best-kept secrets in retirement planning. Make sure the specialist explains this program and how it might help you.
- Tax incentives: There are federal tax incentives available for some people. If you own your own business, be sure to ask.
- Health Savings Accounts: If you have an HSA you can use the pre-tax money in your account to pay for the premium.
- Asset-Based or Hybrid policies: These are life insurance or annuities with a rider for long-term care. Careful, only a handful are actually a long-term care benefit. However, one of these policies can provide you with the flexibility of both a long-term care benefit or a death benefit. They are expensive but can be paid with a single premium.
- Health and Family History: Make sure the specialist asks you detailed questions about your health, family history, and retirement plans. Underwritingcriteria vary with each insurance company. If they are not asking you detailed questions, then find another specialist.
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