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Seniors and Dental Care: Some Advice to Sink Your Teeth Into

March 9, 2020

As with those of any age, seniors would do well to watch their mouths, because it can literally get them into trouble.

Those aged 65 and over face a battery of oral-health challenges. There are higher incidences of dry mouth, gum disease, tooth loss and root decay. All those things can threaten seniors’ general health. That means that as much as the brush/floss/rinse mantra applies to younger generations, it applies that much more to seniors.

From recent studies, 18 to 20 percent of seniors are dealing with untreated tooth decay. This issue is in fact more prevalent among those in that age cohort than it is among school kids. And consider these facts:

  • 17.2 percent of seniors are dealing with gum disease
  • 27.27 percent have no remaining teeth
  • 8.32 percent are missing at least one tooth (a rate that increases to 9.41 percent among those 75 and over)

Tooth decay or gum disease can result in health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory problems. That’s because doctors believe the inflammation from such conditions travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.

Seniors who are missing teeth (or who experience discomfort from ill-fitting dentures) also run the risk of not getting the nutrients they need. That too can lead to health problems.

In addition, it should be mentioned that the median age for oral cancer is 62. The incidence of that disease has increased by 15 percent since the mid-1970s. That means nearly 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year.

Again, common sense comes into play. Seniors should brush their teeth at least twice a day and rinse with mouthwash at least once. Another concern seniors should be aware of is dry mouth. One of the reasons dry mouth occurs is due to medication. It is estimated that 90 percent of seniors are using one prescription drug or another. Results of using many medications can lead to cavities.

It has been suggested that several steps can be taken to alleviate dry mouth. One way is to avoid drinks such as coffee, alcohol, soda and fruit juices. It’s also important to consume more water. One trick is to carry around a water bottle so you are more inclined to drink throughout the day.

It goes without saying that regular dental visits are crucial in dealing with all these issues. Surveys show that while nearly half of seniors have been to the dentist within the last year, a whopping 23 percent have not gone in the last five.

A major factor as to why seniors do not go to the dentist are finances. Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t cover such visits. There is however the Medicare Advantage Plan and AARP offers dental insurance. Also, many dental societies sponsor assistance plans. Such plans enable seniors on fixed incomes to receive services at a reduced rate.

In all these ways, seniors can watch their mouths. It is imperative that they do so.

Categories: General