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Seniors, Medicare and Dental Health

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By Jenny Austin-Krzemien, Certified Concierge Care Advisor

My parents have had so many dental issues since they retired, and it is appalling how much money they have had to pay for their care. I was shocked to find out that Medicare does not include basic dental care.

Dental health is one of the keys to healthy aging. Poor dental health can lead to several issues. For instance, if a person cannot chew properly, this can lead to malnutrition. In addition to this, bacteria from gum infections can enter the bloodstream which can increase the risk of heart disease.

Getting back to Medicare – it is important to note that traditional Medicare coverage does NOT cover routine dental services such as exams, cleanings, or X-rays. Not to mention more expensive services such as fillings, crowns, or dentures. Therefore, dental insurance must be paid for separately. U.S. News reports that over 51% of seniors on Medicare do not have any kind of dental insurance!

Nursing homes all over the country are reporting significant dental issues. Close to two in every ten residents have missing teeth, about 8% have broken teeth/cavities and another 11% report pain while chewing, according to the U.S. News research.

So why doesn’t Medicare include dental coverage? According to, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was established in 1965, and since then, little to no changes have been made to offer dental coverage. However, there have been budget proposals to include dental coverage with Medicare. The American Dental Association is against this proposal due to possible pay cuts. Dental must be accepted as part of primary health care to be successfully covered by Medicare. This would require an increase in Medicare funds, support from the government and an expansion of the health care workforce.

There are private dental plans, and most Medicare Advantage plans include basic dental coverage. Medicaid also includes dental options for low-income Americans.

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