Why Seniors Skip Dentist Visits — and Tips for Getting Cheaper Care

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Avoiding the dentist's office puts your health in jeopardy. Learn how seniors and others can save on care.

No matter how you feel about the sounds, smells and potentially uncomfortable procedures associated with a trip to the dentist, good oral health goes hand in hand with sound overall health.

However, that reality is not enough to keep America’s seniors from skipping dental checkups, according to findings from the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College.

The CRR cites figures from the Journal of Public Health Dentistry showing that 62 percent of people ages 51 to 64 have dental insurance. By contrast, just 26 percent of people ages 75 and older have dental coverage.

People who retire and no longer have work-based dental insurance can face an “unexpected, mini financial crisis” if they need a dental procedure, according to the CRR:

Medicare does not cover routine dental procedures, a fact that a majority of working baby boomers are unaware of.

The CRR cites a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation poll that found 1 in 4 seniors covered by Medicare identified the cost of the dentist as a “higher barrier” to getting care than the cost for all other medical services, including prescription drugs and hospital care.

How you can save on dental care

Don’t opt out of your next dental visit for fear of the hefty dental bills that might follow.

We can help you take a bite out of such dental care costs. For example, if you don’t have dental insurance, consider an appointment at a dental school.

A dental school is among the lowest-cost options for those who don’t carry dental insurance coverage, Money Talks News reporter Allison Martin writes in “5 Ways to Slash Dental Care Costs.” She adds that seasoned instructors supervise students during such visits:

Bear in mind that you’ll likely spend more time at the dental school when receiving routine care. That is because instructors check the work of their students before you are released. The upside to the extra time is that your teeth and gums receive the thorough treatment they deserve.

You can also get your teeth cleaned for a lower price at a dental hygiene school, or check out a federally funded health center, Money Talks News reporter Donna Freedman writes in “How to Have Healthy Teeth and Avoid Crazy Dental Fees.”

Before you pony up for dental insurance, check out “Is Dental Insurance Worth the Cost?”

Are you a senior who skips the dentist because you’re afraid of getting a hefty dental bill? Share your experiences below or on Facebook.

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