Many of us dread visits to the family dentist, even if it’s the best dentist in Scottsdale AZ. You know you need preventive dental care, but you don’t attend dental check-ups. Ten years later, you still haven’t been to the dentist, and all of your teeth are falling out.
The elderly are especially likely to steer clear of the dentist, and insurance typically ends when you are no longer employed. A good low-cost dentist is hard to find. Nevertheless, ignoring your dental health will cost you more in the long run.
Here are seven reasons why preventive dental care for seniors is essential for health and well-being:
The earliest stage of gum disease is gingivitis. Without daily brushing and flossing, plaque builds up on tooth and gum surfaces. Bacteria in the plaque irritates gum tissue and causes inflammation. Gums bleed easily while brushing.
If gingivitis is allowed to progress, it will transition into periodontal disease. The gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets. Teeth become loose because there isn’t enough gum tissue to hold them in place.
Food particles get stuck in the pockets and foster bacterial growth. The bacteria feed on the food particles and gum tissue, and the pockets get larger and deeper. Painful abscesses can form on the gums beneath affected teeth.
The CDC tells us that two-thirds of seniors over age 65 have severe gum disease. Many seniors don’t even know they have it until the symptoms become serious. Good dental hygiene and regular exams and cleanings can control gum disease or prevent it altogether.
One in five seniors has untreated tooth decay. When plaque builds up on the teeth, bacteria can attack the enamel and cause cavities. Most cavities developed by seniors are caused by a dry mouth.
Insufficient saliva is a side effect of many common medications taken by older adults. Insufficient saliva causes cavities to multiply rapidly. Fortunately, regular dental visits can keep cavities caused by a dry mouth from digging in.
Researchers have learned that people with inflammation caused by gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease or a stroke. Studies have also shown that gum disease can make existing heart conditions worse.
Chronic conditions like arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may increase the risk of gum disease and periodontal disease in older Americans.
Older adults with diabetes are at risk for gum inflammation and gingivitis. High sugar content in the saliva encourages bacteria to grow in the mouth. Additionally, blood sugar levels are negatively affected when you have gum disease.
Seniors with chronic conditions are less likely to see a dentist or to receive regular preventive dental care. This might be due to the inaccessibility of a low-cost dentist.
Seniors who smoke and have poor dental hygiene are at risk for bacterial pneumonia. As you breathe, bacteria in your mouth spreads to the lungs. The odds of contracting this type of pneumonia can be reduced in seniors who practice good oral hygiene.
Oral cancer and pharyngeal cancer are primarily diagnosed in adults who are age 62 or older. Most oral cancer is related to alcohol, tobacco or a human papilloma virus infection. With regular dental visits, oral cancer can be detected and treated early on.
One-fifth of all seniors over the age of 65 are missing teeth or have no teeth. Without teeth, it’s hard to chew nutritious food that’s packed with vitamins and minerals. Many older adults with missing teeth or loose teeth eat soft foods only.
When people lose teeth, they also lose bone mass in the face. It can give some people a sunken appearance. If you have advanced periodontal disease, you might start to lose teeth during meals.
Seniors with all or most of their teeth live longer, are healthier and look younger than seniors with missing teeth or no teeth. Seniors who have replaced missing teeth with implants also experience these benefits.
Electric toothbrushes can thoroughly clean the visible surfaces of your teeth. Waterpiks remove plaque and food particles between the teeth where toothbrushes can’t go. Along with regular checkups and cleanings, these tools can reverse gingivitis and prevent periodontal disease altogether.
With gum problems, it’s essential to see a dental hygienist every six months. They will deep-clean pockets and remove hardened dental tartar using special instruments. By practicing preventive dental care, many seniors keep their teeth well into their nineties.
Poor dental health in older Americans is most prevalent in ethnic and racial minorities and among seniors who are economically disadvantaged. Adults over 50 who smoke are less likely to visit the dentist and more likely to have poor oral health.
Seniors who are housebound, disabled or in nursing homes are more likely to have poor oral health. Medicare insurance does not cover dental cleanings and checkups.
Full dentures and partial dentures do not always solve the problem of lost teeth. Dental appliances can irritate the gums and cause raw sore spots. Dentures may not stay in place when you eat.
Many older adults don’t realize that it can take several follow-up visits for a dentist to achieve an ideal fit. Some seniors get discouraged and don’t go back. Many of them give up on wearing dentures altogether.
Good dentures, whether full or partial, require a bit of cosmetic dentistry to look their best. A good dental lab and a dentist with an artistic eye can give you a megawatt smile with dentures that fit like a glove.