With 44 million senior citizens on some form of Medicare in the United States (and that number set to nearly double in the next 12 years), ensuring that Medicare provides adequate health care coverage for all beneficiaries is an absolute must. But, when it comes to dental care, some feel that Medicare is completely lacking. That’s because currently Medicare covers just 1 percent of dental care for seniors, requiring them to purchase additional coverage for anything beyond the most basic of care. But now, a group called Demand Medicare Dental is trying to change that, lobbying senators across America to add more vital dental coverage to Medicare - without sticking seniors with the bill.
"I think the fear over expanding coverage is that many taxpayers don’t want to spend more money on programs like Medicare than they already do," says Dr. Gary Lederman, a dentist from Bellmore, New York. "But the irony here is that by spending more on dental coverage, you could very well end up saving money on other areas of coverage."
Why? Because, according to Lederman, preventative care can ward off things like root canals, tooth extractions and periodontal disease, which take a big bite out of many people’s budgets. And if those people don’t have a regular dentist, guess where they end up?
"They will wait as long as possible, and then they’ll end up at the emergency room, where taxpayers will end up paying to treat something that could have been corrected much faster and more cost-effectively at a dentist’s office," Lederman says.
And that’s just the oral health side of the issue. According to Lederman, your entire body’s health can be affected by your oral health.
"Having untreated periodontitis, for example, can lead to many severe medical problems like diabetes and heart disease," says Lederman. "So, would we rather pay for two oral health exams a year and treatment of periodontal disease, or put that person on diabetic treatment for the rest of their life? Insulin, medication, regular blood drawing, sometimes amputation of limbs - it’s a lot easier and more cost effective to treat and control gum disease before it worsens, and it’s a lot more humane, too."
If you are interested in helping lobby your senator to expand Medicare dental coverage, Demand Medicare Dental is asking Americans to send a toothbrush to their senator along with a request to expand basic dental coverage. To learn more about the campaign, visit DemandMedicareDental.org.