Tips to Help You Keep Your Teeth for Life

Did you know that one in four Americans over 65 have no teeth? That being said, a healthy smile can be an impressive asset! Your teeth vary in shape and size depending on where they are in your mouth. These differences allow them to do many different jobs. They help us talk, pronounce different sounds clearly and give our faces their shape! Because they are so important, it makes sense to give your teeth the best care possible. For most of us, thorough daily oral hygiene lays the foundation for a healthy smile. Just a simple routine of brushing and flossing, in addition to regular dental checkups, can be enough in most cases to help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

Follow these tips to hold onto your smile!

Floss, then brush.

We have heard this our whole lives, but not many of us do it. If you floss before brushing, you remove food that is trapped in tight spots – which are major “bacteria growth” zones. Place your brush at a slight angle toward the gums when brushing along the gum line. Use a gentle touch—it doesn’t take much pressure to remove the plaque from your teeth, and a vigorous scrubbing could irritate your gums. Concentrate on cleaning all the surfaces of the teeth. To help prevent tooth decay, use a fluoride-containing toothpaste.

Good eating habits.

Many people think that having a high level of sugar in your diet is the most common reason for tooth decay. This is not true – it is how often you have sugar in your diet, not the amount. It takes up to an hour for your mouth to cancel out the acid caused by eating and drinking sugar. Give your teeth a cleanse by munching on crunchy vegetables or fruits at the end of a meal, this serves as a type of mini tooth-brushing session. The hard flesh acts as a cleanser and the chewing motion stimulates saliva production. Replace your afternoon soda with tea – tea leaves contain the tooth protector fluoride. Studies show that green tea drinkers have a lower incidence of advanced gum disease. As an added bonus, researchers believe that the catechin in green tea is more effective than mints at combating bad breath.

Take your vitamins.

Vitamin C, Calcium, Vitamin D and Omega-3 are vital for maintaining and repairing gum tissue. Everything from tooth sensitivity to receding gums can often be attributed to Vitamin C deficiency.  Calcium is crucial for strong teeth and healthy bones. Vitamin D helps maximize calcium absorption. Omega-3 or fish oil supplements can help gum tissue heal.

Watch your medicine intake.

Medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter, can often cause decreased saliva production. This is dangerous because saliva serves as a protective barrier against gum and tooth decay. When on medicine, be sure to take frequent sips of water or chew sugar-free gum to help relieve dry mouth. If this doesn’t do the trick, consult your dentist!

Regular dental check-ups.

Only a dentist can truly assess the health of your gums. It is important to keep up with cleanings and regular six-month checkups. Gum disease is a serious infection that can lead to tooth loss and compromised health if left untreated. These are some of the warning signs that should prompt you to see a dentist:

  • Tender, swollen or red gums
  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • Gums pulling away from the teeth, which will make your teeth appear longer
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Mouth sores or other pain
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

Changes Coming to Medicare Benefits in 2021

Like health insurance benefits, Medicare benefits can also change from year to year. Most of these changes tend to be minor, but for seniors who may be living on a fixed income it’s important to factor any Medicare rate changes into your budget planning.

So what can Medicare enrollees expect in the coming year?

New in 2021

Medicare premiums are recalculated annually with the changes going into effect on January 1 of the following year.

Medicare is primarily funded by payroll taxes, premiums, and federal budgets. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting the latter source, Medicare Part B premiums would spike in 2021 without Congressional intervention. Protecting enrollees from rising Medicare premiums is an issue that receives bipartisan support and is expected to be addressed in the next coronavirus relief package, or later this fall.

According to CNBC, “The idea is to protect Medicare’s 62.5 million beneficiaries — the majority of whom are age 65 or older — from a spike in Part B premiums due in part to reduced money flowing into the program from pandemic-related economic troubles.”

But while official rate changes haven’t been announced for the coming year and the state of the economy is in uncharted territory, industry experts are still able to make educated estimations on what changes may be forthcoming.

According to USA Today, “The standard Medicare Part B premium is expected to rise 2.7% (or $3.90) to $148.50 per month in 2021 from $144.60 per month in 2020.” Final rates should be announced in October of this year.

Protecting Your Savings

Medicare Supplemental insurance (also referred to as a Medigap policy) helps to fill in the “gap” in coverage between what Medicare Parts A and B cover and what you are forced to pay out of pocket.

If you or a loved one are turning 65 and have questions about your Medicare options a Medicare specialist may be able to help.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Group Health Planning and Renewals

This time last year we never suspected that wearing a face mask in public and social distancing would become part of our new normal. Concerts, festivals, and sporting events have been rescheduled or canceled, countless businesses have been forced to permanently close, and even Disney World temporarily shut their doors to the public.

With health and safety becoming a major focus this year for everyone, how can employers prepare for changes to the group health and benefits planning process?

Planning Your Benefits

To accurately plan your health benefits for next year, you’ll want to begin by identifying any trends or changes from this year. Here are a few questions you should be considering:

  • Have your claims gone up?
  • Have you lost employees?
  • Does your plan offer a low or no copay telemedicine product?
  • Is this the year you should consider a level-funded plan (which can save 10%-15% in premium costs)?
  • Do you have capabilities for employees to enroll online without having to collect paper forms?
  • Do you need to get even more creative with plan options and your contribution strategy?

Do you normally host enrollment meetings between your employees and broker agent? You may want to plan for virtual meetings this year assuming your agent has the ability.

Our team can offer expert advice, creative solutions, telemedicine, and best-in-class digital capabilities so you never need to collect paper enrollment forms again.

The Newness of the Virus

While plenty of data exists for viruses that have been around for decades, there just isn’t a lot of solid information on COVID-19 costs yet – which can make planning for the next year difficult. How long will the virus last? How much will treatment cost? Will there be any long-term health complications from the virus? These are the kinds of questions that the medical, healthcare and business communities don’t yet have answers to.

How to Work From Home With Pets

Millions of Americans are having to adjust to working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to all the technological changes that has led to, it also means that you and your family have had to adjust to significant changes to your routines—including those involving your pet.

Pet owners should spend 1-2 hours (a day? a week?) with their cat or dog. But when working from home, you can expect that amount of time to increase. It’s important to develop a new sense of normal with your pet, without them expecting your complete attention during working hours.

So, what can you do to make sure you’re still able to be productive while working from home?

Start the Day Off on the Right Paw

When working from home, it may be tempting to sleep in without having to worry about the commute, but that extra time in the morning may be better spent with your pet. Providing food and playtime in the morning will help tire your pet and leave you with more time to work uninterrupted.

Redirect Attention

Have an upcoming call or task that will require your undivided attention and concentration? Be sure to attend to your pet’s needs in advance. Potty breaks, food and water, and toys can help keep your pet distracted and entertained without you (at least for a while).

Practice Positive Reinforcement

Has your coworker been good? Reinforce their good behavior with treats, their favorite toy, or some one-on-one playtime. As with any kind of training, it’s important to reward good behavior and work to improve the bad.

Keeping Your Pet Healthy

As of August 2020, only 20 dogs and cats have been positively diagnosed with COVD-19 in the United States. So while it is possible to pass the virus on to your pet, it appears to be far less contagious to animals than it is to humans.

Do You Have Enough Life Insurance?

If something happened to you, would your loved ones be in a tough spot without your income? It may be difficult to consider that scenario, but life insurance is a way to help ensure your family will stay financially afloat after you’re gone.

If you purchased life insurance years ago (perhaps before you had a house and children) it may be time to bump up your coverage. Your employer may offer a plan, but everyone’s needs are different. Below are a few questions to help put you on the right track.

How old are your kids?

The younger your children, the more coverage you’ll want. If you have toddlers, your life insurance needs will probably differ from someone with teenagers. If you die and leave your spouse with a 1-year-old and 3-year-old, he or she has nearly two decades to get through without your income — not to mention the cost of college. Life insurance can help make that time easier financially.

Has your income changed?

The general rule of thumb is that you should invest in 7 to 10 times your income in life insurance.1 If you first bought life insurance 10 years ago, you probably weren’t earning the salary you are today, therefore, you have more you need to protect for your family if something were to happen to you.

What do you still owe?

List the expenses in your life that are ongoing — mortgage, car payments and any big credit card balances or private student loans. Debt doesn’t disappear when you die, and your spouse will have less income to make payments with.

Some debt, such as credit card debt, may be forgiven if the estate doesn’t have enough in assets to pay the balance — but if a spouse was a joint account holder, they’ll be liable. Having enough life insurance to pay off any major debts, or at least to make it easier for your spouse to continue making payments is something to consider when reassessing your life insurance needs.

Do you plan to cover college expenses?

If your children are likely to attend college, that’s a massive future expense. In addition to buying coverage at a multiple of your income, you may want to add extra for anticipated college costs. Consider bumping up your life insurance by $100,000 for each child’s college fund.

What about funeral expenses?

The typical funeral costs between $7,000 to $10,000, which is a big bill to cover if an income-earner has just died. If you factored this into your original total, that’s fine. If you didn’t, you may want to consider increasing your coverage amount as needed.

Knowing the Difference Between the ER and Urgent Care Could Save You Thousands

Not knowing where to go when you or your child gets sick can be terrifying. Your family doctor may not always be available when you need them, but your circumstances may not be severe enough to warrant a trip to the ER.

But how do you know if a visit to an urgent care center will work just as well and save you money?

Seeking Urgent Care

Thousands of urgent care centers and walk-in clinics have sprung up around the country to help families receive quick medical attention for a variety of issues. According to a December 2019 Forbes article, the number of urgent care centers in the U.S. (9,272) increased by 6% from the previous year. This is just the latest in a series of positive annual growth statistics specific to the urgent care industry.

Many of these locations can test, diagnose, and treat common viral infections, administer stitches to minor lacerations, and much more. But not all urgent care centers or walk-in clinics provide the same services. Before making an appointment or visiting a physical location, be sure to find out which services they offer first (most will have their range of services listed online).

Another increasingly popular service, telehealth, is helping to bring the doctor’s office to the convenience of your couch. Telehealth (also known as telemedicine) has provided relief for overwhelmed doctors offices and urgent care centers alike throughout the COVID-19 crisis and has allowed families to get the care they need while staying safe.

Regardless of how you seek treatment, you may be referred to an ER, specialist, or follow-up appointment if your condition warrants further medical attention.

When to Visit an Emergency Room

Going to an ER may seem scary (not to mention, expensive) but in some cases, it may be necessary.

According to Scripps, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you should be evaluated in an emergency room, where medical professionals have access to a full range of resources to treat you:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting
  • Changes in mental state
  • Serious burns
  • Head or eye injury
  • Broken bones or dislocated joints
  • Fever accompanied by a rash
  • Seizures
  • Severe cuts
  • Facial lacerations
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms
  • Vaginal bleeding with pregnancy

Covering the Cost of Care

Major medical health insurance can help cover the cost of these types of healthcare. The annual open enrollment period for ACA-compliant health plans runs from November 1 to December 15. If you’ve experienced a qualifying life event (QLE) outside of that period, you may be eligible for a special enrollment period.

Two Reasons to Check Your LTD Plan

It’s easy to think that a long-term disability diagnosis will never happen to you. But having a safe profession and low-risk lifestyle does not negate the need to protect your income if you are no longer able to perform the duties of your occupation.

Here are two big reasons to consider this coverage:

Reason #1: The risk is real, even if you don’t think anything will happen to you.

What are the chances of being diagnosed with a long-term disability if you work a desk job? The answer may surprise you: it’s the same as everyone else.

More than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year due to a disabling condition before they reach the normal retirement age.1 Even if you work a desk job (and have no intention of skydiving or swimming with great white sharks) you still face more risk than you may think.

A long-term disability can range from something as common as arthritis to something as serious as cancer. Contrary to popular belief, the leading causes of disability claims (and loss of income) for workers are musculoskeletal disorders and disease—not catastrophic accidents.2

Reason #2: Employer-provided disability plans often cover only a fraction of your income.

If you have long-term disability coverage provided through your employer, you may want to review your current coverage amount and make changes if needed. Employer-provided plans will often only cover a limited portion of your salary and may not factor in any bonuses that you and your family rely on to pay your bills or maintain your lifestyle.

Hopefully, you will never have to file a claim and collect the benefits of a long-term disability policy, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have one.

 

 

1 Social Security Administration, July 2019, https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf
2 The State of Disability Coverage in America – Key Facts in 2019, https://disabilitycanhappen.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/DIAM2019_Facts.pdf

A Smile Has More Power Than You Think

The act of smiling is part of a universal language that everyone understands. When someone cries, they are sad or hurt; when someone laughs, they felt something was funny; and when someone smiles, they are happy or being friendly. No matter where you are in the world, a smile will always be welcomed and understood.

But could smiling have more health benefits than we thought?

Health Benefits of Smiling

According to NBC News, “science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life.”

Smiling triggers the body to produce serotonin and dopamine resulting in an elevated mood. Not only are these chemicals part of the recipe for happiness, they may also play a part in boosting the immune system.

In one study, participants were separated into two groups, and both exposed to a virus. The first group was exposed to happiness-inducing stimuli and the second group was not. The results of the experiment showed that the group not exposed the happiness-inducing stimuli experienced higher infection rates than the other, leading some scientists to suggest that happiness can have an impact on one’s immune system.

This is just one study of many to suggest a link between those who are unhappy and those with weaker immune systems.

In addition to boosting immune systems, smiling has also been scientifically linked to:

  • lowering heart rate
  • lowering blood pressure
  • longevity

3 Tips to Help Avoid a Disability Diagnosis

With rising medical costs and a lack of emergency savings, many Americans are at risk of financial difficulty if they miss work due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. This is why it’s more important than ever to prepare for the unexpected.

The best way to prevent disabilities caused by illness is through early diagnosis and treatment. But there are also some things you can to do help minimize your chances of developing a disability altogether.

Exercise daily. Most experts agree that just 30 minutes of exercise can reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, and stroke.

Eat right. For example, foods such as blueberries and cinnamon may have cancer-preventive properties, while avocados and wild-caught salmon are heart-healthy superfoods.

Get regular check-ups. Sudden changes in weight, sleep patterns, or appetite can sometimes indicate an underlying illness. Checking in with your doctor on a regular basis gives you the best chance of early detection.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help you weather the storm physically, while long-term disability (LTD) insurance can help you get through the financial impact of a disability. LTD insurance pays you a monthly benefit that you can use to help pay your expenses if you become disabled and cannot work to earn a living. Many LTD plans also offer return-to-work features that help you ease back into the workplace when you’re ready.

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