Even though tooth loss is almost entirely preventable, there is a surprisingly high rate of tooth loss in the United States. About 25% of Americans over the age of 65 are missing all of their natural teeth. There are many causes of tooth loss including accidents, injuries, and cancer, but the primary cause of tooth loss is gum disease and poor oral health habits.
The implications of tooth loss are far more than just missing teeth. Once a natural tooth is lost, bone loss in the jaw begins. The natural chewing action stimulates bone growth in the jaw and when teeth are missing, this stimulation and bone growth ceases.
Dentures are the most common tooth replacement option, especially for older Americans but dentures do not stimulate bone growth. In fact, the pressure on the gums from dentures increases bone loss, a problem that is made worse when dentures are worn day and night.
As bone loss continues, the person’s jaw shrinks and their face begins to collapse. Dentures can replace the missing teeth, but cannot halt the progress of the shrinking jawbone. Dentures need to fit tightly to minimize problems with eating and speaking, but as the bone shrinks the dentures will loosen and need to be adjusted. As time goes on, the problem gets worse and more frequent adjustments are necessary to maintain a good fit.
Dental implants are a better solution for missing teeth because a dental implant takes the place of the tooth’s root. When an artificial tooth or a denture is attached to the dental implants, the chewing action stimulates bone growth just like natural teeth and prevents bone loss.
If you have dentures and are concerned about bone loss talk to your dentist about dental implants.
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs)are offered as a benefit by many employers to help make health care and child care expenses more affordable. Money that the employee contributes to a flexible spending account are “pre-tax” dollars that can be spent on qualified medical and child care expenses.
What many people don’t realize is that most dental care and treatments are allowable medical expenses. Any dental care for the prevention or treatment of dental disease can be paid for with pre-tax dollars from you FSA. This includes routine cleanings and checkups, sealants, fluoride treatments, x-rays, fillings, caps, dental implants, dentures, extractions, root canals, treatment of gingivitis or gum disease, and orthodontics.
The only dental expenses that are not allowable are those that are purely cosmetic such as teeth whitening. Everything else is an allowable health care expense. These days, many health care policies don’t cover dental care and even those that do often have high deductibles and co-payments for dental care. The irony is that poor oral health has been linked to a decline in health, especially in older Americans, and also to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Maintaining your oral health is important to your long term overall health and your FSA can help you pay for preventative and restorative dental care. Information complied by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) show that more than 30% of Americans have not had a routine cleaning and dental exam in the past year. If you have been putting off routine cleanings and checkups, now is the time to schedule your appointment and use your FSA to help reduce the cost of dental care.
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