20 Mar 6 Dental Health Risks for Philly Seniors to Understand
In your elder years, taking care of your oral health is more important than ever.
Dental health is important at any age, including a person’s senior years. Older adults experience many of the same dental health issues as younger people, including tooth decay and gum disease, but they also have other tooth and gum problems. The statistics are concerning: Almost 1 in 5 seniors over the age of 65 have no teeth, 2 in 3 have gum disease, and 1 in 5 have untreated cavities. Dental health is a hidden health crisis for seniors in our community which has far-reaching impacts on their overall wellness.
Studies have shown that there is a significant link between poor oral health and diseases and conditions. These include diabetes, heart disease, respiratory infections, malnutrition, and even social isolation.
Lack of access to basic oral care can cause seniors to neglect their teeth. Coverage is another concern as Medicare does not currently pay for dental care. Certain medications can cause dehydration, reduced saliva production, and dry mouth. Since saliva helps wash away food debris and reduce plaque, having dry mouth can lead to gum disease and severe tooth decay if left untreated.
To highlight the importance of dental care and its connection with good health for seniors, here are 6 dental concerns for elder to look out for to keep their dental health in check.
There are around 35,000 cases of oral cancer diagnosed each year. The average age of those with this diagnosis is 62, according to the American Cancer Association. Oral cancer may not always cause pain in its early stages. It’s important to see a dentist regularly so that they can check for signs and symptoms.
As the years go by, enamel thins out and erodes through consuming foods and beverages that contain sugar or are high in acidity. As enamel thins, the next yellow layer of teeth begins to be exposed which is called dentin. This is the tissue under the layer of tooth enamel. In addition, dentin is changed overtime by the consumption of stain-causing foods or tobacco use.
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is very common among elders. With the disease, gums bleed easily and can be irritated, red, and swollen. Usually, it’s a painless condition until it reaches its later stages. This is why it’s more common for older adults. The disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque. It’s made worse by food stuck in teeth, bad diet, tobacco use, and poor fitting dentures and bridges. If not treated, gum disease can destroy gums, bone, and the tissue supporting teeth. Regular dental visits are crucial for catching the disease early, and it can be treated easily.
Elders are prone to cavities for the second stage of their lives, after the first which is childhood. Teeth wear down over the year. This leaves them more vulnerable to the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth. Seniors who struggle with dry mouth have an increased risk of getting cavities because saliva remineralizes the enamel (the protective outer layer) of teeth. When a mouth lacks saliva production, it is unable to help teeth fight off acid attacks. Therefore, plaque builds up and erodes the tooth, creating cavities.
The loss of teeth can have a major effect on someone’s health and nutritional status. Seniors who are missing teeth or who wear dentures will typically prefer food that is soft and easy to chew over food that is crunchy or chewy. This means older adults that are missing teeth or dentures may avoid fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in nutrition and dietary fiber. That can lead to a compromised nutritional status.
Contrary to popular belief, dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. Many older adults do experience the problem because it is a side effect of many medications and treatments for different conditions. This includes asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Certain medications and treatments decrease saliva production, leading to dry mouth. If you experience dry mouth, talk to your dentist about ways to relieve your symptoms.
By understanding the dental health risks in seniors, you can feel more empowered to take charge of your dental health. Additionally, it is important to understand how dental health can impact your overall health. Visit your dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene to promote improved well being and dental health.
For elders or loved ones that need additional support, caregivers at Chosen Family can be your partners in promoting strong dental and general health. Caregivers can monitor seniors through a proven training program and can provide support for activities of daily living. If you need help with assistance at home for you or your loved one, you can count on professional and quality support from Chosen Family Home Care right here in Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester counties of Pennsylvania.