An Aging Matters reader asked, “I would like information about paying high dental costs. Do people have two dental policies? Do they go to Canada or Mexico for care? Do any states have programs for middle-income retirees?”
Dental care is expensive. For some, there is not sufficient funds to care for their teeth. They’re forced to choose between paying for dental work or buying food. The lack of affordable dental care for older Americans is a problem across the country as baby boomers retire and people live longer. Many adults 65 and older don’t have dental insurance, according to dentists, health care workers and senior advocates. And dental care is among the top three unmet needs.
Notice: I’m not in the business of giving medical advice. I can’t say if traveling abroad for dental work is wise, safe or a best practice. That’s your decision. Medical tourism is not for everyone but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Here are affordable ways to keep your teeth in good shape and not break the bank.
Dental Schools — Do a Google search to find a dental school near you and learn about the services they offer. In my area, the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, one of the largest dental providers in the Dallas region, gets 100,000 visits annually at the school’s various clinics. Students provide treatment under the supervision of licensed clinical faculty. The cost for treatment at the College of Dentistry is 30 percent to 40 percent less than fees charged at private dental offices.
Travel Abroad — You can save up to 75 percent on the cost of dental care traveling to Mexico, Thailand, Costa Rica and dozens of other destinations. But does it make sense to do that? It depends. What type of care is needed? If you need only fillings, or a single extraction, or a simple check-up and cleaning, the money spent on travel and lodging might not be worth the trade-off unless you already have plans to travel to a given destination. The greatest savings are multiple implants, full dentures, full mouth reconstruction and other costly procedures.
Are foreign dentists safe? Yes, especially in popular dental destinations like Costa Rica, Mexico, Hungary and Thailand. Most have completed specialty training at elite US, UK and Australian dental colleges and are members of the American Dental Association, the Australian Dental Association, and the British Dental Association. Search online for reviews about specific dentists plan to visit and check their credentials, https://www.dentaldepartures.com/article/clinics/.
Some patients have saved thousands of dollars. The difference in price between having two or three implants or crowns done in the U.S. versus Mexico – or Australia versus Thailand outweighs the $1,000 worth of flight and lodging expenses. The more dental work you need the more money you are likely to save.
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Carol Marak, aging advocate, Seniorcare.com. She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.