Three years after Sue retired, her jaw began to hurt, at first only when she awoke, then eventually constant. As she had aged, a small overbite had grown to a large overbite, an overbite that was changing her mouth and her life.
Her dentist suggested several options, surgery, exercises and special devices. Eventually, Sue was sent to a specialist who created a mouth piece designed to help with a correction. Sue was shocked to receive a bill from the expert, and Medicare did not cover the procedure. The bill was $4,000, and it was due.
The oral device was not very efficient, and Sue’s overbite seemed to worsen. It became harder for her to relax, harder to eat and she became very conscious of her mouth. Eventually, she lowered her social interactions.
The next avenue was another specialist, an oral surgeon. The procedure he discussed was like watching a horror movie, plus it was expensive. It could be performed in his office, but it did require general anesthetic. The cost, plus the experience caused Sue to wait.
Things got worse.
Because of the expense, Sue consulted a second oral surgeon who offered a slightly different procedure. Since she was now retired, any additional oral surgery performed now was at her own expense. Her mouth became so severe that even the simple exercise of eating became a laborious chore.
Finally, the day came, surgery was performed, but the results were less than desired. The overbite was still evident, and the jaw showed some relief of pain. The problem was far bigger now, the expense for the oral procedure was almost $15,000. Sue is a retired school counselor and had saved her money for extra fun in her “golden” years. Now it seemed that those years might not have the attraction they once had.
My advisor who had helped me plan for my retirement had failed to explain a huge hole in my retirement planning, my dental care. The failure in correctly my overbite had caused other issues in my mouth, two crowns loosened and one fell out. The cost to repair the two crowns came to another $2,800. Plus, her overbite was still evident.
Eventually, I was referred to a third oral surgeon who successfully fixed my overbite and got my mouth corrected. The overall cost came to almost $35,000. $35,000 that Sue had to remove from her IRA.
She thought she was prepared; she wasn’t. Her retirement advisor had failed to mention the shortages of coverage when it came to oral care. Medicare does not pay for dental care, make sure you find out exactly what your medical and dental insurance will cover as you age.
Just like you would have as an emergency fund to replace the stove, set aside a different contingency fund for care of your mouth, the out of pocket expense can be horrendous. An expense that can hurt those living on fixed retirement income.
A recent report from the American Dental Association found that 25% of those on Medicare said oral expenses becomes the barrier for good dental health. Many just choose to neglect their teeth because of the cost.