When was the last time you went to the dentist? Are you comfortable with the way your teeth look and feel? If answering these questions makes you feel uncomfortable or a little embarrassed, then you can relate to the 33 percent of middle-aged Americans who feel the same way. According to the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, one in three Americans aged 50 through 64 feels ashamed of his or her dental health, and an even higher percentage has had some type of pain or difficulty with his or her teeth in some way. The survey suggests that these troubles often lead back to poor dental coverage under insurance or federal aid programs like Medicare.
“The plain truth is that as we age our teeth require a minimal investment of general cleanings two to four times a year dependent on the type of dentition present,” says San Francisco cosmetic dentist Niloufer Hamsayeh, DDS. “Most insurances only cover two cleanings a year.”
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About 60 percent of those surveyed reported getting regular preventative dental care, but the rest either reported going irregularly (17 percent) or only if there was a serious problem (23 percent). That’s likely because 28 percent of the participants said that they did not have dental coverage at all, and an even larger 50 percent was unsure how they would pay for dental care after turning 65, since Medicare doesn’t cover routine dental care.
Poll participants were likely to cite cost as the biggest hindrance to getting proper dental care, but other major factors reported were a lack of time, an inability to find a dentist and even fear of going to the dentist. “The reality is that oral health is a low priority for most of the population” says Dr. Hamsayeh. “We get one set of teeth, so either be true to them or they’ll be false to you!”
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