Seniors: Gnashing Your Teeth Over the Cost of Dental Health?

Many adults know they need a living trust – not a will – to allow loved ones to skip the dreaded probate process after they are gone.  But a lesser-known reality is that proper Medicaid planning may be necessary to ensure the standard of living does not dramatically change before death.  Proper planning can ensure access to basic dental health services, including dentures, for someone receiving long-term care benefits through Medicaid.

An unfortunate reality is that many Middle Class Americans do not realize how proper planning can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in nursing home and long-term care expenses.  Anyone can qualify for Medicaid, but for seniors in Virginia, only “medically necessary” dental procedures are covered.  With proper planning, however, one can qualify for Medicaid and receive items and services that are not covered.

One of the many problems facing seniors of today are the effects of a lifetime of wear-and-tear on teeth and gums. Receding gums, root decay, a lack of fluoride-treated water as a youth, and gum disease all contribute to an unhealthy and often painful mouth. Gums naturally recede over time, leaving the tooth root exposed, which can result in uncomfortable sensitivity to hot and cold foods. This also leave the tooth root open to decay-causing acids which over time may result in the loss of your teeth. Most municipalities didn’t have fluoride-treated water until the 1960’s (nor did we know as much about good oral health) which resulted in poorer dental health for those of generations before the 60’s. And as your dentist will tell you every time you’re in the chair, gum disease is a common but serious malady for people of all ages which can result in infection, painful tooth loss or an uneven jawbone. Over 40% of the adult population in the US suffer from some form of natural tooth loss, although the statistics are higher for those over age 65.

At a certain point, the simple joy of sharing a good meal with family and friends becomes a painful or embarrassing ordeal for many seniors. The classic solution is dentures. But dentures are expensive (ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand per pair), and seldom fully covered by insurance companies. If you or a loved one are already enrolled in Medicaid, you know that unfortunately it does not cover dentures–however, the money you’re saving on expensive nursing home care can be put towards bettering your comfort and standard of living, with items such as dentures.

Even if you’ve been diligent about oral health your entire life, as you age you might face some practical challenges in keeping it up. Arthritis makes gripping the slim handle of a toothbrush painful, but don’t let this to get in the way of continued good oral hygiene. Consider inserting the handle of the tooth brush into a tennis ball. Or perhaps invest in an electrical toothbrush that can get the job done with less manual movement. For flossing, there are many assistive picks and devices available in the supermarket that can make flossing easier for those with dexterity problems.

Finding a solution that works for you–whether it be dentures or continuing your dedication to good oral health–can help you retain the charming smile you remember. If you need guidance in figuring out how to afford the best long-term care possible for yourself or a loved one, we can help. Call us at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for your complimentary consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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