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The Downside of Medicare: Losing Out On Dental Coverage

Dental issues can strike anyone at any moment. From a severe toothache to quality dental implants, it’s essential that every adult knows the importance of proper dental hygiene and where to go for professional assistance.

Approximately 99.7% of American adults believe that a healthy smile is socially important — but not everyone can afford trips to the dentist to achieve those healthy smiles. For many Americans, they can simply give their dentist a call, schedule some digital X-rays, and have their teeth inspected by an experienced professional. For some, however, high dental costs can deter someone from receiving the dental care they desperately need.

And according to The New York Times, though Medicare provides much-needed health coverage to millions across the United States, dental care isn’t covered. And that’s leading to some major problems.

Nearly one in five adults older than 65 years old currently has untreated cavities. Additionally, 50% of Medicare beneficiaries have either some form of periodontal disease, or gum and teeth infections. On top of that, almost one in five Medicare beneficiaries has lost all of their teeth.

Unfortunately, traditional Medicare does not cover routine dental procedures like checkups, cleanings, implants, fillings, and extractions. If that’s the only form of insurance coverage someone has, then dental care tends to fall by the wayside.

“The separation of coverage for dental care from the rest of our health care has had dramatic effects on both,” said Amber Willink, researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of a new study published in Health Affairs. “As a consequence of avoidable dental problems, the Medicare program bears the cost of expensive emergency department visits and avoidable hospitalizations. It’s lose-lose.”

The study showed that in a given year, three-quarters of low-income Medicare recipients do not receive any kind of dental care treatments. Among the wealthier Medicare beneficiaries, one-quarter still fail to receive any dental care at all.

Additionally, the study estimates that a dental benefit that covered 75% of the cost of care would increase premiums for Medicare by $7 per month (about 5%) — the rest would have to be financed by taxes.

If you are experiencing severe dental issues, from a broken tooth to needing a few implants, you should schedule an appointment with a quality dentist.