One of the most striking aspects of a new Delta Dental survey of senior Americans is the deep sense of regret they feel about their oral health.
According to the report, 72% of seniors say they wish they’d taken better care of their teeth when they were younger, with 41% saying they wish they’d gone to the dentist more. More than a third say the last time they went to the dentist for a routine exam or cleaning was more than two years ago.
The survey, which was conducted between June 24 and July 1 of 2022 with 1,010 Americans, highlights the importance of preventive care and carries far-reaching implications for maintaining a healthy workforce. We sat down with Delta Dental’s own Jessica Buehler, DDS, Director of Dental Affairs, to dive deeper.
Dr. Buehler noted that the survey was remarkable for how clearly it showed the prevalent sense of regret among seniors. The survey indicates how important it is for administrators to encourage their employees to use their dental benefits.
Jessica Buehler, DDS
“The seniors surveyed said they didn’t get to the dentist as often as recommended, even when those visits were covered by insurance,” said Dr. Buehler. “Now, that population is the least served by insurance and has the biggest access and availability issues. If you show up for those regular visits consistently, the problems that you encounter are manageable in a calendar year with insurance benefits.”
The survey results show how important it is for everyone, especially those nearing retirement, to visit the dentist regularly. As people retire, many of them lose the dental coverage their jobs provide. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 or older, offers only limited dental benefits.
“The older you are, the more money you’re going to need for your dental care,” Dr. Buehler said. “But older adults are always in the less insured batch of people. They’re not getting the care they need.”
In addition, the survey indicated a widespread lack of understanding among older Americans about the crucial connection between dental health and overall health. A majority (61%) didn’t know that gum swelling can be linked to diabetes, heart disease and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and almost two-thirds (64%) didn’t know their dentist can tell if they might have cancer just by examining their mouth.
The survey results make clear how important it is for younger and older Americans alike to take advantage of the preventive services covered by their insurance plans. As Americans retire, their access to dental care decreases: If they’ve neglected dental visits prior to retirement, their problems and expenses can increase exponentially. For seniors, losing teeth is not an inevitability: Gum disease, not age, is the leading cause of tooth loss.
Ensure your employees, young and old, don’t end up with regrets about their oral health care:
Delta Dental is dedicated to supporting the health of seniors and making sure members of all ages feel empowered to protect their oral health.
Through regular preventive care and good dental hygiene, your employees’ oral health can stay in great shape, up to retirement and beyond. Don’t forget to do your part in helping your employees to stay informed, to plan ahead and to utilize their dental benefits so they can enjoy old age and retirement free of regrets.
“Getting into the dentist twice a year and using benefits to maintain health is key for younger people,” Dr. Buehler said. “The health of your mouth and your gums has a direct and well-documented association with many major health conditions that affect older adults: diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis. When we take care of our oral health our body can direct more resources to support these other conditions.”