Oral Health Benefits are an Important Topic for Older Americans Skip To Main Content

Oral Health Benefits are an Important Topic for Older Americans

December 11, 2013


ATLANTA - (Dec. 11, 2013) A new Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia survey, which examines how Americans (age 45 and older) view dental coverage benefits, reveals that Americans over age 45 understand that good oral care can positively affect their overall heath. However, while 83 percent of Americans surveyed say they have medical coverage (from either an employer or the government), only half as many are covered by dental insurance. And, as baby boomers plan for retirement, those with dental coverage say they need more information about future costs and changes to their dental plan upon retirement.


This survey also shows that nine out of 10 older Americans (93 percent) believe good dental care is important to their overall health and that routine dental check-ups can help prevent heart disease and other chronic conditions (90 percent). This awareness contrasts with the fact that only four in 10 older Americans (41 percent) say they currently have dental coverage (from an employer, private and/or supplemental). Furthermore, 32 percent of those without insurance admit to forgoing dental benefits because they have other expenses to worry about. 


In addition, older Americans with dental insurance are concerned about maintaining their dental coverage upon retirement, with the majority admitting they are not aware of all their options. More than half (53 percent) of older Americans who have dental insurance worry about how they will afford coverage upon retirement and 62 percent say they are concerned about how coverage will change. And, two-thirds of older Americans say they lack information about dental insurance for retirement and they want more information about the dental insurance options available after retirement (67 percent) and about supplemental dental insurance coverage (65 percent).  


“The good news from this survey is that Georgia’s seniors are increasingly aware of the link between dental care and overall health,” said Morgan Kendrick, President of BCBSGa. “However, the survey uncovered a knowledge gap about dental insurance options for seniors.  It’s important that insurers and employers address this issue as more baby boomers enter retirement.”

According to the survey, older Americans look at a variety of sources for information about dental insurance. Heath care providers top the list (17 percent), followed by insurance company websites (14 percent), human resource departments (13 percent), family members (12 percent) and friends (11 percent). In comparing baby boomers to the previous generation, baby boomers are significantly more interested in information about dental insurance options (70 percent versus 59 percent) and supplemental dental coverage (68 percent versus 58 percent) for retirement.


Furthermore, older Americans with dental insurance (62 percent) say they would like a plan that bundles dental and vision insurance together. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia’s Georgia Extras Packages for seniors offer a supplemental coverage plan for both dental and vision services. This package includes dental exams, cleanings and comprehensive vision exams, as well as older adult care support resources, a member assistance program with counseling services, and travel assistance for those who encounter a medical emergency while traveling abroad (including medical evacuation to the nearest appropriate treatment facility, bedside visits for a family member or a friend if hospitalized for more than seven days or if in critical condition, and assistance in replacing lost prescription medications or contact lenses. Check the local plan details for the specific offerings that are available. 


Additional survey results found:

          Older Americans select dental coverage because it is vital to their overall health (58 percent); is inexpensive compared to paying out-of-pocket dental costs (52 percent); and protects them in case of dental emergencies (44 percent). 

          As part of their dental coverage, older Americans with dental coverage are most interested in diagnostic and preventative services (77 percent), minor restorative dental services (67 percent) and prosthodontics (54 percent). 

          Nearly half of older Americans with dental coverage are interested in coverage for oral surgery (47 percent), while four in 10 are interested in emergency coverage (44 percent) and coverage for root canals (42 percent).

          Six in 10 Americans with dental insurance (61 percent) report they would pay more for comprehensive dental coverage, while more than a quarter (27 percent) would pay more for dental insurance if it included benefits such as fitness programs and/or legal or financial counseling services.


The online survey was conducted using the field services of TNS, a national research agency. The study reached a national sample of 2,500 American adults ages 18 and older, of which 1,563 were over the age of 44. For the purposes of this survey, “older Americans” are defined as Americans who are ages 45 years and above (n=1,563), including Americans 45-64 (described as baby boomers=1,142) and Americans 65 years and above (n=421).  The margin of error for the older Americans sample is ±2.5% at the 95 percent confidence level. This means that if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results (within 2.5 percentage points) 95 times out of 100. 


About BlueCross and BlueShield of Georgia
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012, and as the state’s largest and longest-standing insurer, serves more than 2.4 million members, offering a variety of healthcare plans, including medical, dental, life and specialty programs. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthcare Plan of Georgia, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association®. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia is available at www.bcbsga.com.




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Media Contact:
Debbie Diamond
Ph: (404) 479-8735