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Earth to Medicare: Seniors Need Dental Cleanings, Too


There are some people in this world who seem determined to look on the bright side of everything.  No matter what you complain about, they will always turn it into an opportunity for gratitude, even when it is a legitimate grievance.  If you complain about paying taxes, be thankful that you have a job.  If you complain about going to the dentist, be thankful that you still have teeth.  If you complain about how much you have to pay for dentistry after your insurance pays its portion, be thankful that your employer provides dental insurance; some people have to pay everything out of pocket, and when they can’t afford this, they just let their teeth get worse and worse.  If you complain about being old, at least you get to retire, and Medicare pays for your medical bills.  Even the most stubborn optimist would have a hard time seeing the bright side in the way Medicare handles seniors’ dental care, or rather, the way it does not handle seniors’ dental care.  Retirees are on their own to pay for dental care.  For help making room in your retirement budget for dental expenses, contact a Washington, D.C. estate planning lawyer.

Medicare Encourages You to Do Exactly What Your Dentist Doesn’t Want You to Do

You can often tell how wealthy someone is by looking at the person’s teeth.  The rich have flawless smiles.  They had their wisdom teeth removed in high school, as soon as they appeared on X-rays, long before they could cause pain or wisdom; this was all part of a decade-long orthodontia plan that started in eighth grade.  The rest of us spend our years weighing the choice of which hurts more, our toothache or the bill we will receive if we get it fixed.  The difference really shows in old age, though.  Oral health is connected to so many aspects of seniors’ wellbeing, from nutrition to cardiovascular health to cognitive function.

If the goal of Medicare is to keep seniors healthy, it would make sense for it to pay for one dental exam and two cleanings per year, which is what dentists recommend.  Instead, it starts from the premise that Medicare does not pay for any dental expenses.  This leaves seniors, who do not have retirement income, wondering whether to spend their Social Security income on a dentist visit or other expenses; therefore, like uninsured folks everywhere, they avoid the dentist until the pain becomes unbearable.  Medicare only pays for dentistry in life-or-death emergencies.  It will only pay for a dental cleaning or a root canal if you are about to start chemotherapy or undergo heart valve surgery.  Likewise, if the dental treatment takes place in the hospital while you are an admitted patient, Medicare will pay for it.

Contact Tobin O’Connor Ewing About Medical Expenses in Retirement

A Washington, D.C. estate planning attorney can help you budget for a happy and healthy retirement, including routine dental expenses.  Contact Tobin, O’Connor, and Ewing in Washington, D.C. or call 202-362-5900.



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