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Maintaining Oral Health In Retirement: Budget-Friendly Tips

Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, provides budget-friendly tips for retirees to keep their smiles bright and healthy.

“Retirement should be a time of relaxation and enjoyment, but often, dental health can become a worry due to reduced income and the cessation of employer-sponsored health benefits,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“According to the National Institutes of Health, as we age, we become more susceptible to oral health issues, including caries (tooth decay), dental root decay, periodontitis (gum disease), infections (oral thrush) and oral cancer. Research also shows poor oral health is also linked to other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Maintaining good dental hygiene and regular checkups helps prevent these problems and leads to a healthier, happier retirement.”

Practice Preventive Care

The most cost-effective way to handle dental expenses is to avoid them in the first place. This means adhering to a rigorous oral hygiene routine:

Brush and Floss Regularly

Brush your teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. This reduces plaque build-up and lowers the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and replace it every three months or sooner if it is visibly frayed.

When brushing, position the brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Start with your upper teeth, using short up-and-down strokes from the gum line to the tip of each tooth. Focus on one tooth at a time before moving to the next. For the inside surfaces of the front teeth, hold the brush vertically and use up-and-down strokes. Follow the same method for your lower teeth.

For those with arthritis or difficulty reaching the back teeth, consider using grip aids that attach to the handle of your brush for better control or an electric toothbrush, which offers more brushing actions through vibrations than manual brushing.

Clean Dentures Properly

Daily cleaning of dentures is essential and should be done using specially formulated denture cleansers and a soft brush. It is also recommended that denture wearers do not sleep with their dentures in, as doing so can lead to denture stomatitis or oral thrush, which may develop into pre-cancerous conditions and double the risk of pneumonia in the elderly.

It’s crucial to visit a dentist if you notice any whitish patches, redness, swelling, or pebble-like textures in the area where the denture sits or if you experience any burning sensations or changes in taste. Dentures should be replaced every three years to accommodate changes in the oral tissues caused by the loss of natural teeth, which can make dentures fit less securely over time.

Use an Antiseptic Mouthwash

Antiseptic mouthwashes are specifically formulated to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. They often contain active ingredients such as chlorhexidine, which destroys harmful mouth germs, treats gingivitis, and promotes the healing of inflamed gums.

Regular Dental Checkups

Early detection and treatment of problems like gum disease and dental decay can prevent the need for more costly treatments later. Most dental plans cover two preventive visits per year.

Explore Discount Dental Plans and Dental Schools

For those without insurance, discount dental plans can be a viable alternative. These plans offer discounts on services at participating dentists for a yearly membership fee. Another option is to seek treatment at a dental school clinic. Many universities with dental programmes offer reduced prices for services performed by students under the supervision of their instructors.

Adopt a Tooth-Healthy Diet

What you eat impacts your dental health. Retirees should focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods, which can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Avoid sugary snacks and beverages, as sugar encourages bacterial growth and acid production in the mouth, leading to decay.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps maintain saliva production, essential for healthy teeth. Saliva helps wash away food particles and neutralise harmful acids that attack tooth enamel.

Take Advantage of Community Resources

Many communities offer free or low-cost dental clinics sponsored by local health departments or charitable organisations. These can be excellent resources for routine care or more extensive dental procedures.

Maintain Regular Physical Health

Physical exercise reduces and regulates the body’s inflammatory response, lowering the risk of gum disease. Exercise is also crucial for blood sugar regulation, which is especially important for people with diabetes, who are at a higher risk of developing gum disease.

Examine Your Mouth Regularly

Monitor any changes within your mouth as your susceptibility to oral cancer escalates with age.

Consult a doctor or dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms persisting for over two weeks:

    1. Any sore or uncomfortable spot in your mouth, on your lip, or in your throat.
    2. White or red patches inside your mouth.
    3. Difficulty with chewing, swallowing, or moving your jaw or tongue.
    4. Numbness in your mouth or tongue.
    5. Swelling of your jaw.
    6. Pain in one ear without any loss of hearing.

Speak to Your Dentist About Dry Mouth

Dry mouth occurs when there is insufficient saliva to keep the mouth moist. It can complicate eating, swallowing, or speaking and may also increase the risk of tooth decay or infections.

Dry mouth is often a side effect of various medications. It can also result from specific health conditions, such as diabetes, or from undergoing cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.

If you’re experiencing dry mouth, consult your doctor or dentist to explore potential remedies and management strategies.


Maintaining dental health in retirement does not have to be a financial burden. With a combination of preventive care, wise use of insurance and discount options, and lifestyle adjustments, you can protect your teeth without breaking the bank. Investing in your dental health is crucial to maintaining your overall health and ensuring a happy, active retirement.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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