According to the University of Michigan’s "National Poll on Healthy Aging" released in September 2017, an increasing number of older Americans are worried about caring for – and paying for – their teeth as they age. The poll, which was conducted by the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan, worked in partnership with the AARP and Michigan Medicine.
The poll used data from a representative sampling of American adults and found that 51 percent were unsure how they would pay for dental care once they turn 65.
"This isn’t too surprising, considering 28 percent of respondents say they don’t currently have dental insurance right now," says Dr. Gary Lederman, a dentist in Bellmore, New York. "Even more concerning, among those who do have dental insurance, less than half use that coverage unless there’s a dental emergency."
Lederman believes that much of the stress surrounding oral care after age 65 would be alleviated if patients with coverage started utilizing it while they still can.
"If you know in five to 10 years that you won’t have any coverage at all, that’s a great reason to start taking great care of your teeth right now," says Lederman. "Not just at home, but by going to the dentist twice a year for cleanings and exams, getting cavities filled and getting screened for oral cancer and gum disease."
While Lederman recommends patients visit the dentist twice a year no matter their current level of oral health, he says having a good foundation might make it easier to cut back on dental care later if necessary.
"If you know your teeth and gums are healthy, and you take good care of your teeth at home, you can probably get by being seen once a year. But to do that, you have to start with a healthy mouth, and you won’t know if you have a healthy mouth if you avoid dental exams," he says.