Why Planning for Retirement Includes a Conversation with Your Dentist

As many people begin planning for retirement, questions about changes in income, social security benefits, and health insurance are usually addressed. One important consideration that can save retiree’s thousands of dollars in retirement, starts with a discussion with a dentist.

Before retirement, ideally two or three years in advance, elders should schedule a comprehensive exam with their dentist to identify any existing or potential dental needs such as: cracked teeth, leaking fillings, unknown abscesses, decay, etc. A comprehensive exam should also include an oral cancer exam and an examination to ensure the patient’s gums are in good health. If the retiree has dentures, the dentures should be evaluated to determine if they are in good condition and fit well.

Some dentists recommend getting a comprehensive exam and discussing dental work 2-3 years before you retire because if the patient needs extensive dental work, it is often favorable for the patient to spread out dental work over several years to maximize insurance benefits. In other words, some dental insurance policies limit the amount the patient can claim coverage for in a year, so a patient would not ideally start a lengthy treatment process shortly before retirement when changes in insurance coverage could greatly increase the patient’s out of pocket costs. Keep in mind that some of treatment plans require extended timelines for care, so developing a strategy to cover dental work can save you thousands of dollars.

This is not to say that employer-sponsored dental plans always offer better coverage than dental policies available through Medicare. Some Medicare dental plans offer exceptional coverage, and there are certainly stingy employee- sponsored dental plans on the market as well. The greater issue with Medicare dental plans is that fewer dentists accept this type of insurance, so retirees should consider what dentists in their area accept the policy they are considering purchasing in addition to what the coverage entails. Since dentists are typically paid less for services provided under Medicare policies, many dentists simply do not accept Medicare. If your dentist offers an in office savings plan or similar coverage, it may be wise to forego a Medicare dental plan altogether and purchase an in office savings plan with your dentist. There isn’t a best choice for all people, but fortunately with preplanning, you have time to make decisions to save your retirement funds for something more exciting than a dental bill.