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Why Does Dental Care Matter for Older Adults? A Story from a Delta Dental Employee

By Shelby Tatomir on August 5, 2020 in Insurance

Learn why dental care matters now and as we age. Get more of Karen’s story on our blog.

When I was hired at Delta Dental, I was looking to find a career that would challenge me. With a career background in medical coding and billing, a job at Delta Dental felt like it would be a pretty good fit. I thought to myself before taking the job, “How hard can this be? We all have teeth, don’t we? We eat with them and smile with them and generally enjoy having them in our mouths.”

Boy, did I learn otherwise. My job as a customer service representative at Delta Dental has taught me a lot of things—good and bad—about dental hygiene.

Dental Care and Our Wellbeing

Many people know how medical benefits work. We get annual check-ups, yearly blood tests, and other examinations our doctors recommend making sure we stay healthy. At Delta Dental, we learn about the connection our mouths have to the rest of our health. This made me realize that our oral health is important, not just for our teeth, but for our overall health and wellbeing.

One in five adults age 65 and older have untreated tooth decay. The worst part of this is it’s 100% preventable! Keeping your teeth for a lifetime is an attainable goal as long as you get proper dental care and see your dentist twice annually. 

If people receive the proper education and training around oral health, they’re much more likely to understand the impact it has. Understanding this helped me provide better service to our customers at Delta Dental.

Understanding Your Dental Plan

With each call I answer in the call center, I find a lot of members have grave concerns about their dental plans. I would estimate that more than half of our members are not aware of what their dental plans cover or how to use their benefits. As I said, education is a very powerful tool if you want to make better choices concerning your dental health needs. 

It didn’t take long in this role before I discovered that our members over 65 years of age had dental problems due to a lifetime of lack of care. I listened as they told me, “I have no teeth or dentures and have to puree my food just so I can eat.” 

My heart sank.

I wanted to help them, and I started to do some research on my own concerning dental issues within the older adult population. I wanted to have better conversations with our customers on dental health. When they called me, I could give them the best information available to help them make the best choices.

Remember when I said poor oral health affects your overall health?  Arthritis, coronary heart diseasedementia, and a whole list of other health problems are linked to our oral health. And poor oral health can be prevented.  

Keeping Our Natural Teeth Longer

Oral hygiene is one of the key factors in staying healthy and living longer. When researching dental plans for yourself or your family members, you may save a lot of time and money if you ask the following questions: 

  • Are there waiting periods?
  • Will I be able to choose which dentist I want to see?
    • If not, have the dental benefits company provide you with a list of dentists you are allowed to see under the plan.
  • In case of an emergency, can I use my dental insurance plan when I am out of the state?
  • Ask the customer service representative or dental company representative to explain the benefits of the plan and how it affects you. Also ask about annual maximums, deductibles, and coinsurance percentages, if they apply.
  • Ask about the missing tooth clause, which protects some companies from paying for the replacement of a tooth that was missing before the policy was in effect.
    • More than 90 percent of dental insurance policies carry a missing tooth clause.

In my experience working for Delta Dental, I have found that many people are in the dark about the connection between overall health and oral health. Use any resources available to you to educate yourself and your family on the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth at every age.

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