Dental plans for seniors are insurance policies designed specifically to cover the cost of maintaining good dental health.
Because Medicare and Medicaid do not offer dental coverage, and many older people lose their dental coverage from work when they retire, dental plans for seniors are essential.
Below, our health experts examine the major benefits of dental plans for seniors.
8 Benefits Of Dental Plans For Seniors
Dental health and senior health go hand in hand. Below are the biggest benefits – both direct and indirect – of dental plans for seniors.
1: Dental plans for seniors may help fend off the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the US (1). And that is the case regardless of race or ethnicity. The dental/heart connection is well known, and is believed related to how the immune system responds to gum disease (2). So while the connection between dental and heart health is indirect, it is still very real. Having a good dental plan allows seniors to make regular visits that can identify and correct problems before they cause or aggravate heart conditions.
2: Dental plans for seniors may help prevent oral cancer.
Tobacco use of any kind greatly increases a person’s risk of developing oral cancer (3). But it’s not the only potential risk factor. Studies have found that in some populations poor oral hygiene is the only identifiable cause of oral cancer (4). But whether it is the lone cause or one of several potential causes, the fact is that poor oral health contributes to oral cancer.
3: Dental plans for seniors help them save money.
How? Well, if a person has avoided the dentist for financial reasons and then wound up with cardiovascular disease or oral cancer, any savings they enjoyed by avoiding the dentist will be wiped out by the cost of dealing with the major health scare. But beyond the cost of life-threatening conditions, the ADA says that most emergency dental visits could have been avoided if people visited the dentist more often (5). Which, of course, a good dental plan will allow a senior to do.
4: Dental plans for seniors can help prevent pneumonia.
That might seem like a dubious claim, but it’s not. Pneumonia is a leading cause of death among the elderly (6). Most people, however, don’t make a connection between this respiratory condition and oral health. But it’s there. And the culprit is periodontal disease (7). Periodontal disease can cause bacteria to invade the lower respiratory tract and cause an infection. Before long, the person may develop pneumonia and fall into dire health.
5: Dental plans for seniors can help prevent cognitive dysfunction.
Taking advantage of a good dental plan and maintaining good oral health may actually help prevent the onset of dementia. A recent study in the UK found that certain byproducts of periodontal disease were present in the brains of people who had died with dementia (8). The mechanism by which this occurs is not as complicated as it might seem, either. Apparently, bacteria from the gum infection enters the brain via the bloodstream and triggers an immune response that has the effect of killing brain cells along with the invading bacteria.
6: Dental plans for seniors can help prevent type II diabetes.
Periodontitis can have a negative effect on a person’s ability to control blood sugar levels (9). Therefore, it is not such a stretch to conclude that a good dental plan that covers regular visits could go a long way toward helping adults prevent type II diabetes. (Just to be clear, however, regular dentist visits are not a green light for gorging on sugary drinks and chocolate cake. You’ll still need to eat a reasonably healthy diet.)
7: Dental plans for seniors can help them enjoy fresher breath.
Older folks who don’t get to the dentist enough often develop bad breath (10). In many cases, they’re not even aware of the problem. It’s not a character flaw, it’s simply the result of things like food decomposing between teeth, acid reflux residue, or the aforementioned periodontal disease. A good dental plan, when used to its fullest, can help create a healthier, cleaner mouth and rid the individual of the scourge of halitosis.
8: Dental plans for seniors help them keep their vivacious smiles.
There are untold numbers of elderly worldwide who resist smiling because they are ashamed of the condition of their teeth. But not being able to smile can have a negative psychological effect on a person. Just as surely as smiling regularly has numerous positive effects on a person’s self-image, personal interactions and outlook on life (11). Keeping your teeth in good shape as you age is the key to an infectious smile that will lift not only your spirits, but the spirits of everyone around you.
Dental plans for seniors enable countless older folks to maintain good dental health. By maintaining healthy teeth and gums they also fend off a host of potential health problems ranging from the bothersome to the potentially fatal.