Small children often need frequent reminders to brush their teeth properly. It turns out that a lot of seniors could use those same reminders. Often, seniors don’t brush the way they should because of health problems; they get tired standing, or their arthritis makes it difficult.
Many older Americans have not seen a dentist in years. One of the reasons is lack of dental insurance — people usually lose this benefit when they retire. But regular dental visits become even more important as we age because problems with our mouth can lead to problems with our overall health.
Here are some of the issues the dentist may find:
Dry Mouth – Many elderly people suffer from dry mouth as a side effect of medications. The reduced flow of saliva leaves the teeth more prone to cavities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults as a group may get cavities at a higher rate than even children.
Gum Disease – Gum disease is caused by plaque buildup. (And plaque builds up fast without regular cleanings.) It’s also associated with diabetes, and tobacco users have a much higher rate of gum disease. Untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
Missing Teeth – Missing teeth are more than just a cosmetic problem. People with missing teeth are more likely to aspirate food particles, leading to pneumonia.
Poorly Fitting Dentures – People whose dentures don’t fit correctly may be at risk for malnutrition. Eating becomes difficult, so they don’t eat enough healthy food. This issue is being remedied in a lot of cases with Implant Supported Dentures that fit the patient’s mouth better.
Oral Cancer – Dentists are often the first to detect the signs of oral cancer.
The best advice is to have your elderly parents see their dentist twice a year to head off problems and encourage them to brush and floss regularly.