Tips For Affordable Dental Care For Children, Students, Families & Seniors

Staying current with dental care cleanings and treatments is important – regardless of your age.

In today’s economy, however, some look at preventive dental care treatments as an extra cost that can be cut. Unfortunately, doing this tends to only lead to more painful situations – for both your teeth and your pocket book.

First, we’ll explore the challenges of paying for dental care for each age group, including children, students, newlyweds and seniors. Then, we’ll provide a solution that can help make dental care more affordable at any age.

Dental Care Budgeting Challenges for Each Age Group

Children from Kindergarten to 12th Grade

For families on limited budgets, or families just temporarily hurting from the tough economy, preventive visits to the dentist may get lost in the budget cuts.

This is unfortunate, because dental disease currently accounts for 51 million lost school hours per year, and it is preventable in most cases.

Many parents share the misconception that dental care can be postponed until their children’s baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth. But on the contrary, dental health issues from childhood often transfer to adult teeth.

A simple way to reduce the chances of lifetime dental health issues for your children is to take them to the dentist twice a year for preventive checkups and cleanings – in order to catch and fix problems in early stages.

College Students

While many students operate on a shoe-string budget during these years, it’s still important to keep dental care cleanings and treatments current.

Doing this, however, becomes trickier as access to family dental insurance plans waivers based on age and student status limitations.

In situations where students do not have dental insurance, it’s easy to see treatments and checkups as auxiliary costs that can be temporarily dropped. With an already limited budget and no assistance with dental care costs, a root canal or other major dental procedure can become a very painful and expensive experience for a college student.

Just Married

For those who get married in their 20s or 30s, other major purchases may take away from the health care budget.

Buying a house, getting a new car or even making room in the budget for future additions to the family make it tempting to lengthen the time between dental checkups and cleanings.

However, just as with other age groups, postponing preventive checkups and cleanings can lead to much bigger problems down the road – especially when the dental care budget has already been reallocated for other expenses.

Golden Years

Many seniors find themselves on a fixed income and unfortunately, with age, the risk for dental problems increases.

A study conducted in New York showed that among seniors, 15% listed cost as the main barrier to accessing the dental care they need. For the other 85%, transportation was the leading barrier, which in many cases may tie indirectly to financial problems.

Seniors have a 300% greater chance to develop cavities than children and about 30% of all seniors lose their natural teeth. With statistics like these, it is easy to see why it’s so important for seniors to maintain regular dental checkups and cleanings.

A Dental Care Solution for Any Age Group

All too often, when people of any age group find themselves lacking either medical or dental insurance, they go into “wait until something happens” mode. And this can be a very costly mistake.

How Will the Affordable Care Act Affect Your Access to Dental Care?

As time passes, it seems more and more likely that the hotly contested Affordable Care Act will in fact be put in to action across America in 2014. Commonly called ‘Obamacare,’ the Affordable Care Act aims to provide more affordable health insurance and care to those who previously could not afford it or did not qualify. But what does the ACA mean for dental care?

Currently, it’s estimated that around half of American adults do not have dental insurance. Cost is the major prohibitive factor for most; those who live in rural areas also may not have easy access to an oral care professional.

What’s going to change:

Under the ACA, insurance companies will be required to provide dental care to children; it is estimated that around 8 million previously uninsured children will benefit from additional dental care. This act will also implement programs aiming to educate the general public about proper preventative care and the importance of regular dental checkups and cleanings.

The Affordable Care Act will also focus more funds on providing care to rural or sparsely populated areas, where people are less likely to seek regular checkups due to difficulty in finding a dentist within a reasonable area.

What about coverage for adults?

For adults ineligible for Medicaid without dental coverage, not a lot will change. If you already have some kind of dental insurance, don’t drop it in anticipation of the ACA- while dental care will be required for children, insurers will not be obligated to cover adults. However, individual states will have the ability to provide certain benefits through Medicaid; depending on the state in question, an individual covered under Medicaid may receive no dental coverage, limited to extensive coverage, or emergency dental services only.

Somewhat paradoxically, those who enroll their children in insurance plans provided by their employers may have to pay up to 57% more each month to provide their children with dental care; research by the National Association of Dental Plans suggests many adults will opt to drop their own coverage in order to provide for their children.

Organizations like the ADA, the American Dental Association, are very concerned about the lack of dental care, especially since the medical community is becoming more and more aware of how strongly oral health impacts the rest of the body. Only around 5% of currently uninsured adults are expected to receive dental benefits related to the ACA, while it’s probable that many people will continue to seek ER care for dental issues that could have been prevented with regular dentist visits.