Our oral health is a direct contributor to our overall health, whether we are young or old. As we age, our dental needs change. For older adults, medications and chronic diseases can have a large impact on our overall dental health, causing issues such as teeth decay or gum disease. It is just as important to keep up regular visits to the dentist when we are young as when we are old. Below are a few things that seniors should keep in mind when it comes to their health and dental care.
- Gum disease has been linked with heart disease. A Harvard study has found a strong link between heart disease and teeth plaque, which causes gum disease. In fact, those with periodontal disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack. The correlation between these two diseases may be more about lifestyle habits, such as smoking and diet, which contribute to the development of these diseases rather than causation. But the verdict on that is still out. Until researchers know more, it’s best to stay cautious and get regular teeth cleanings to reduce plaque build-up and prevent the development of periodontal disease.
- Dry mouth is more common in seniors and can lead to the development of cavities. There are many factors that can cause older adults to suffer from xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth. From the medications that we take, to hormonal changes, high blood pressure or Alzheimer’s disease, dry mouth is extremely common in seniors. Unfortunately, this is not just an uncomfortable ailment, but also one that can increase chances of cavities. Saliva helps prevent cavities by washing away debris, breaking down food and aiding in digestion. If you, or a loved one, are struggling with dry mouth, there are several over-the-counter medications that can help. In addition to these over-the-counter remedies, it is best to talk to Dr. Bowyer to determine the underlying cause of your dry mouth.
- Tooth loss. Over 26% of adults 65-74 years old have lost all of their teeth. This may be surprising, especially as the ramifications of tooth loss are often well-masked by dental care that patients receive. However, tooth loss does not have to be an inevitable part of aging. The main causes of tooth loss are periodontal disease, gingivitis and periodontitis. A major factor in preventing the development of these diseases is regular tooth cleaning and dental appointments, even as we get older. Dr. Bowyer can help monitor your mouth for signs of issues and provide treatment options if the development of them occurs.
- Diabetes can contribute to tooth decay. About 25% of adults 65 and older have diabetes. For patients with diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar and medical health are not the only important things to keep in mind. It is also important to keep closer track of your dental health. Increased glucose in saliva can increase the development and growth of bacteria in your mouth, making it all the more important to attend regular dental checkups and cleanings.
For many seniors, cost can be a concern when it comes to seeking dental care, as Medicare does not cover the majority of dental services and obtaining dental insurance is harder than when adults are employed. If you have a concern about financing your dental care as an older adult, give Dr. Bowyer’s office a call to discuss treatment options that fit into your budget. Dr. Bowyer also offers free consultations, so you can figure out what you need most.