How to Get Your Teeth Ready for Retirement

The unfortunate irony of our healthcare system is that we lose our dental coverage right when we need it the most: after retirement. Routine procedures like cleanings aren’t covered under Medicaid, and for many retirees, that means dipping into their savings to cover the cost. According to the American Dental Association, only 16.7% of seniors are willing to do so. Yet there is an easy (and less expensive way) to maintain your teeth well into your sunset years. Read on to learn how.

Get your oral health in order before you retire.

Any dentist will tell you that your oral health affects your overall well-being. Think about it. Everything that enters your body gets in through the mouth. It’s one of the reasons why a good oral care routine puts you at less risk of health issues like pneumonia, diabetes, and even cancer.

With no dental insurance during your retirement, you’ll have to pay out of pocket to have silver fillings switched to tooth-colored composite resins before cavities and cracks develop, which can easily turn into a root canal or tooth extraction if left untreated. Age may also come with a host of gum-related issues, tooth loss, and the thick, sticky, hoarse feeling of dry mouth. Unfortunately, Medicare and dental flex plans won’t cover any of these treatments. Once you retire, the cost falls on you. Ouch!

So how can you safeguard your retirement nest egg from the inevitable costs of dental work? Just like everything else in life, the key is to prepare. A big part of that preparation involves doing all of your major dental work in your 40s and 50s during a time when you’re still working, still have access to dental insurance, and are in better health to withstand any necessary major dental surgery. As an added bonus, having procedures done sooner lets you reap the benefits of a healthy smile years before saying sayonara to the nine-to-five lifestyle.

10 Years Before Retirement

Crowns, root canals, and tooth-colored composite fillings are some of the more common dental procedures needed across the country. While they may be relatively inexpensive with a good insurance plan, their out-of-pocket costs can skyrocket (The FAIR Health website offers accurate cost estimations based on location).

True, you can’t foresee all the dental work you’ll need in your sunset years, but you can take a more proactive approach to maintain your oral health now. Instead of waiting for problems to arise, schedule regular dental checkups at Duvall Dental Center. Dr. Tyler and his team can help prevent the development of cavities and gum disease or identify emerging dental issues early and possibly head them off now before they become costly major procedures 10 or 20 years down the road.

If proper oral hygiene wasn’t always a part of your daily life, Dr. Tyler may recommend you invest in restorative long-term solutions, such as partial dentures or full-mouth dental implants. Since your medical insurance still covers dental work for the time being, you’ll improve your quality of life, and the best part is the cost won’t fall on you.

5 Years Before Retirement

Navigating the financial side of various dental plans can be overwhelming and confusing for anyone. Medicare only covers specific complicated hospital procedures and emergency dental care. It doesn’t cover common preventive care treatments, like fillings and cleanings, which are essential for your oral and overall health.

Before you look into alternative payment options, you’ll need to first consider your health. If you have asthma and use an inhaler, you probably have frequent gum issues. If you have arthritis, you’re more likely to have problems observing general oral care practices, such as tooth-brushing and flossing, which can mean more trips to the dentist. The more care you need, the more you’ll pay in out-of-pocket costs if you don’t have the right coverage.

Once you have a rough idea of the care you’ll need, find out whether paying it yourself will be cheaper than your other options, like buying private dental insurance, upgrading to a Medicare Advantage plan, or paying annual membership fees to a discount dental plan with access to a network of dentists who offer discounted rates. Alternatively, you can maximize the savings in your HSA and withdraw the tax-free money to cover any dental work you’ll need after retirement.

1 Year Before You Retire

With only a year left until you ditch the rat race, what more can you do to full-proof your teeth for retirement? You probably know about the FSA’s “Use It or Lose It” rule. What you may not know is that your final work year is the perfect time to leverage your FSA to cover qualified medical expenses that exceed the amount you put into it. Once you retire, your FSA ends on your last day on the job, not the last day of the year,giving you a small window of opportunity to leverage the funds (even when your expenses exceed contributions) before the money reverts back to your employer. Now is the time to take full advantage of your FSA and get the necessary dental work done.

Restorative dentistry can get your teeth retirement-ready.

Let Dr. Tyler know if you’re about to retire. He’ll perform a very thorough examination of your teeth and gums, and using those results, the Duvall Dental Center team will come up with a treatment plan to maximize your dental insurance benefits and leverage the restorative dentistry procedures, like dental implants, that are covered under FSA.