Dental care can be expensive and hard to come by, especially if you don’t have insurance. And for senior citizens who are retired and out of work, it can be super challenging to get insurance in the first place.
Dental problems still occur with age, and certain issues are more likely to occur the older you get. Here’s everything you need to know about getting affordable dental care as an older adult, even if you don’t have insurance.
Older adults have a higher risk of developing dental health problems compared to younger adults because of a wide range of factors, including disabilities and lack of transportation to dental clinics nearby. Not to mention, smoking is more prominent in older adults, which is a major contributor to poor oral health overall.
96% of adults age 65 or older have had at least one cavity, with at least one in five having untreated tooth decay. Higher percentages of older adults also have gum disease and tooth loss. Nearly one in five older adults has lost all of their teeth.
Older adults also are more likely to have poor oral health because of oral cancers and chronic diseases like arthritis or diabetes. These individuals are more likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease but are less likely to actually visit a dentist.
Since there are so many specific problems that affect an older adult’s ability to maintain their oral health, this makes it even more important for individuals to find ways to afford their treatment. If you don’t have insurance, there are still ways you can afford care as an elderly adult.
In addition to tooth decay and gum disease, there are some specific diseases that are usually only seen in older adults when it comes to oral health. One of these is dry mouth or xerostomia. Dry mouth is more common in older adults because of the use of multiple medications and underlying conditions like arthritis or diabetes.
Elderly individuals can also show increased sensitivity to drugs used in dentistry, especially anesthetics and analgesics. For that reason, dentists need to take extra care to make sure that older adults are comfortable and safe even during routine procedures.
Older patients might also be a bit more sensitive to pain and other stimuli. Dentists often take a holistic approach to dental care to ensure their patients are comfortable throughout their experience in the dental chair.
Over 33% of Americans do not have dental insurance to begin with, which makes it exceptionally challenging to afford dental care. However, you don’t need to completely neglect your oral health just because of cost. There are some ways to cut down the cost of care without needing insurance.
Flossy is a pay-as-you-go service that was made specifically for people without insurance. With transparent pricing, you can see what you’ll owe before you even go to the dentist so that you’re not surprised by hidden fees. Speaking of, there’s no membership fee or monthly premiums for joining.
Plus, we can save you up to 50% on common dental treatments, from root canals to routine cleanings, so you never need to worry about the out-of-pocket cost of care. And there’s no upfront cost — you only pay after your visit.
There’s no waiting period, and you can book right online. Find a dentist in your area today and get access to a network of rigorously vetted dentists with excellent patient reviews, exceptional knowledge, and degrees from accredited dental programs.
Another great way to save on the out-of-pocket costs of going to the dentist is by going to a local dental school. All of those talented dentists in the country had to practice somewhere, and dental schools are a mutually beneficial way for clients and students to get what they need.
For the students, it gives them real-world practice that can translate directly into their work as licensed dentists. For you, it means you get low-cost care. Since dental students cannot make money for their work, most of these services are provided for just the cost of the materials used. This makes them very inexpensive options.
The major downside is that many dental schools don’t offer complex procedures that some older adults might face as they get older. Additionally, the person performing the procedure on you is obviously not as experienced as a practicing dentist. With that said, each session is guided by a professional mentor who can ensure that they are on the right track the entire time.
It’s a safe way to save a few bucks compared to getting the same treatments at a regular dentist. Dental schools are the best solutions for routine procedures like a cleaning or a cavity filling.
Elderly adults are a common population aimed at clinical trials, and these are ways that you can receive free dental care in exchange for your time and efforts by being involved in a research study.
Clinical trials sometimes seek volunteers with dental and oral conditions to try out new products or procedures, usually at no cost to you. In some cases, you can even be compensated for being involved in these trials.
Medicare is a health insurance program aimed at people over the age of 65. While it can help elderly adults get access to care for many health issues, dental coverage is very limited and does not cover the cost of most dental care or dentures.
Medicaid is another government-run health insurance program for people without insurance. Medicaid provides some dental coverage but is usually limited to emergency dental care for people ages 21 and over. Individuals below the age of 21 are usually entitled to more benefits. Note that your benefits are limited based on the state you’re from.
There are certain procedures that are more common for older adults than they are for younger individuals.
Here are some of the most common treatments for elderly individuals:
Losing teeth is common for older adults, but you don’t need to live with spaces in your teeth forever. Dentures are a great way to get some relief by restoring the structure and function of your teeth even after extraction.
Full dentures can completely replace all of the teeth on the top or bottom of your mouth, while partial dentures can replace gaps that are left by just a few missing teeth. Either way, dentures are a temporary fix that can be removed at your leisure.
While they let you speak and eat, they do not provide you with nearly as much biting power as natural teeth, making it difficult to consume certain tough foods. Still, these are one of the most common treatments for older adults without teeth because of their flexibility and relative affordability compared to other options.
Root canals are necessary to help tooth decay that has progressed past a point where a filling alone will be able to save the tooth. Root canals require the infected pulp to be drilled away and cleaned before being filled with dental amalgam.
This is a common procedure for older adults who might struggle with proper oral hygiene or who are avid smokers and at a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
For elderly people who want something more permanent to replace missing teeth as opposed to dentures, dental implants are usually the most common option. These are permanent fixtures that drill into your jawbone to physically replace missing teeth.
A titanium post is drilled into the jawbone, and the bone heals around the post in a process called osseointegration. After this has healed, a permanent abutment tooth is placed over top to restore the structure and function of the tooth in all aspects.
Dental implants are one of the best ways to replace missing teeth, but it is also one of the most expensive options. These can be useful for replacing a single tooth, but if you need to replace more than that, it can start to turn into a hefty price tag.
As you get older, the outer layer of your enamel starts to wear away and expose the layer underneath, known as dentin. Your tooth dentin is a yellowish color that is more apparent, and it can make the teeth appear darker.
The good news is that teeth whitening options can be done at home or in a dentist’s office. Tooth bleaching is a safe way to make your teeth appear whiter and brighter after just a few visits, and this is a common cosmetic procedure for older adults.
Note that cosmetic procedures are usually not covered under insurance plans regardless, so you’ll need to spend money out of pocket to get a whitening procedure done. But Flossy can save you up to 50% on common dental treatments, including teeth whitening, so you don’t need to worry about the cost of your next procedure.
Dental crowns are placed on top of damaged teeth to protect, cover, and restore the function of natural teeth. They are commonly placed over root canals or filling to protect the nerves inside of a tooth from damage. This is another common procedure for elderly adults, as tooth decay is often more common among the elderly.
Elderly patients can struggle to afford dental care without having any dental insurance. And while Medicaid and Medicare have some dental coverage, they are usually not enough to cover most cosmetic procedures and routine procedures.
Older adults can use a variety of methods to cut down the cost of out-of-pocket dental care, including dental schools and clinical trials. But one of the best methods to save without insurance is by using Flossy.
Flossy is a pay-as-you-go service that you can download onto any smartphone. See transparent pricing within the app and only pay for the services you receive — no hidden fees or membership dues.
Use the Flossy App to locate a dentist in your area today and stop waiting to get the oral healthcare that you’ve been waiting for. It’s free to sign up, and our wide network of talented dentists is ready to serve you.
Facts About Older Adult Oral Health | CDC
Dental coverage, access & outcomes | ADA
Where can I find low-cost dental care? | HHS.gov
Tooth Discoloration: Causes, Treatment & Prevention | Cleveland Clinic
Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States | CDC