Navah Paskowitz knows that her 4-year-old son, Edwin, is long overdue for a dental checkup, but she’s terrified to take him for one.
Since most Americans lose their dental insurance benefits when they retire, the majority of people over 65 pay out of pocket every time they visit a dentist. Medicare does not cover routine dental care (nor does Medicaid in most states) and more than 80 percent of older Americans have no private dental insurance, according to a recent report by nonprofit advocacy group Oral Health America.
Yet, older adults may need dental care more than any other age group.
"Patients age 65 and over will have potentially an increase in cavities or decay on the root surfaces of the teeth," said Dr. Matthew Messina, an American Dental Association consumer adviser and practicing dentist in Cleveland. "And that comes secondary to the medical condition of dry mouth -- a decrease in the amount of production of saliva because of age and certain medications.... We also see periodontal disease in patients of that population."
Messina advises his older patients to see a dentist at least once every six months for an oral cancer screening and recommends an annual visit for denture wearers.