Your oral health impacts your health and overall quality of life. You may not realize that dental disease is a very common cause of emergency room and doctor visits. For many older adults, common chronic illnesses, and medications, like heart disease or diabetes, increase the potential of dental problems for seniors. Even though this is well known, senior dental care is still a problem throughout the U.S.
When someone retires, their dental care benefits usually stop, and Medicare doesn’t cover it. Issues like cognitive problems, physical disabilities, age-related memory loss, and no transportation may also result in the inability to go to dentist appointments and poor oral health for older individuals. Proper dental care for seniors can help prevent the most common issues, such as tooth loss, gum disease, toothaches, and the need for a holistic dentistry root canal. Also, when a senior has healthy teeth, they can enjoy food and eat nutritious meals. Keep reading to learn more about why dental health should be a priority for seniors.
Plaque that is caused by bacteria can impact your tooth enamel, causing serious cavities. A common reason that older individuals are at a higher risk for cavities is a condition called dry mouth. Saliva helps protect a senior’s teeth while reducing bacteria. However, dry mouth can occur due to some drugs that seniors often take, like medications for high blood pressure, asthma, and depression.
Two out of three seniors who are 65 or older deal with gum disease. Severe cases of gum disease, called periodontitis, can result in chewing issues, tooth loss, bleeding gums, and other health problems. Unfortunately, some people aren’t aware that they are dealing with gum disease because it doesn’t cause obvious symptoms until it worsens. Quality dental care for seniors and regular exams will help to prevent this condition.
Many older adults deal with tooth loss. It’s estimated that one out of every five adults aged 65 and older have lost all their teeth. When a senior begins losing teeth, it can impact nutrition since they may not be able to eat fresh foods such as vegetables and fruits.
Inflammation resulting from gum disease also increases the possibility of heart disease. Gum disease may also make some heart conditions worse and is often associated with strokes.
If someone has poor blood sugar control, they are at a much higher risk for dental issues, including gum disease and inflammation. That’s because excessive glucose (sugar) in your saliva causes bacteria to grow and thrive in the mouth. Gum disease also impacts proper blood sugar control for individuals with diabetes.
Older individuals who don’t follow good dental hygiene practices, especially those who smoke, are more likely to develop bacterial pneumonia. That’s because when someone breathes, bacteria in your mouth can move into the lungs. Making sure seniors follow good dental hygiene practices is a must to help reduce the possibility of them developing this type of pneumonia.
Older individuals are at a much higher risk of developing oral cancer. The risk is much higher in individuals who smoke cigars, pipes, cigarettes or chew tobacco. Making sure a senior goes to the dentist regularly can help ensure problems are detected early.
Tips to Help a Senior Loved One Improve Their Oral Health
If you provide care for a senior or if there is someone in your family who is over the age of 65, it’s a good idea to help them remember to brush and floss regularly. If they use dentures, provide the cleaning agents and other products needed. Be sure that they go to the dentist regularly and provide them with transportation if needed.
Ensuring your senior loved one receives regular dental care will help them enjoy better overall health, too. Keep the tips above in mind to minimize the oral health and overall health issues your senior loved one experiences.