What does your smile and mouth health say about your physical well-being? You’d be surprised. Periodontal disease is a precursor for some pretty serious medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. The healthier senior citizens’ mouths are, the healthier their bodies will be.
Dental Care For the Elderly: Make Sure Your Scheduling Six-Month Checkups
The aging process begins to affect oral health and puts seniors at higher risk for several common oral health problems such as:
- Dry Mouth. Dry mouth is a condition where the mouth stops making necessary amounts of saliva. It’s a common side effect of many medications, cancer treatments and dehydration. More than being a nuisance, decreased saliva production puts seniors at higher risk for developing gingivitis, tooth decay and mouth infections such as thrush. The dentist may recommend specialized mouthwashes or the implementation of a humidifier to help keep the mouth moist.
- Root Decay. Typically, gums begin to recede with age and as a result of gum disease. This will eventually leave the higher parts of the tooth, which are the lower portions of the roots, exposed and vulnerable to acids and other substances that lead to their decay. If dental roots are damaged beyond repair, it leads to dental extractions.
- Gum Disease. Also called periodontal disease or gingivitis, gum disease is most commonly caused by an accumulation of plaque on the teeth and along the gum lines. This hard substance allows bacteria to grow, causing inflammation (gingivitis) that leads to gum disease – the leading cause of tooth loss. Other common causes include smoking or the use of tobacco products, dentures, poor diet and certain diseases.
- Tooth Loss. As mentioned above, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. Losing your natural teeth is a serious business. While dentures may seem synonymous with old age, they are also synonymous with poor diet and a deterioration of the gum tissue and jaw bone. Dentures are typically uncomfortable and make it difficult for seniors to eat well, which leads to malnourishment, a compromised immune system and susceptibility to other medical conditions. The longer you can keep your own healthy teeth, the better!
- Uneven jawbone. Your teeth, gums and jaw have a very close relationship. When the teeth go missing or are extracted, the gums and jawbone begin to diminish, which can lead to misshapen jaws. If a senior does break or lose a tooth, get to the dentist immediately to determine the best solution. Implants or well-fitting bridges and dentures will help to slow down receding gums and jaws.
- Denture-induced stomatitis. Dentures must be cleaned, maintained and fitted on a regular basis or they can contribute to disease of the mouth. Denture-induced stomatitis occurs when poorly fitting dentures, poor oral hygiene or an accumulation of a fungus called Candida albicans, which causes the gums to become inflamed and potentially infected.
- Thrush. This is the same condition that can affect babies and young children. It is a symptom of a compromised immune system and is the result of a build-up of the aforementioned fungus Candida albicans.
Seniors are the most likely to stop seeing the dentist, especially in cases where dental insurance is no longer covered by a retirement health plan. The good news is that most dentists offer special rates for seniors and those who do not have dental insurance. They are often willing to work with you on payment plans. Seniors can also apply for CareCredit, which can be used like a credit card for dental and other health services and provides 0% financing for a set term limit.
Schedule your next dental checkup today!