Oral health significantly affects an individual’s overall wellness and quality of life. Proper oral care is important for all patients, but especially for seniors. Older patients often take medications or have illnesses that put them at higher risk for oral health problems.
Dental care for seniors is crucial, especially amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, when it may be harder to visit a dentist for routine dental care. Continue reading to learn more about common dental problems among seniors and the importance of proper oral care.
Your oral and overall wellness are connected; the health of one directly relates to the quality of the other. The mouth is full of bacteria and is also the portal to digestive and respiratory tracts. If oral bacteria is left unchecked, it can lead to decay or infections. The same bacteria can then travel throughout the body wreaking havoc on your internal systems.
Poor oral health contributes to conditions and diseases such as endocarditis, heart disease, pneumonia, and pregnancy and/or birth problems. The reverse is also true. Certain health conditions may cause dental issues. These include diabetes, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Poor oral health poses problems for all patients, but the risks are higher for seniors. The most common dangers of poor dental hygiene among seniors include the following:
Approximately 93% of seniors ages 65 or older have cavities.
An estimated 70% of seniors have some form of gum disease.
The earliest signs of periodontal disease include red, swollen, or bleeding gums. This stage is called gingivitis and is reversible. As gum disease progresses, pockets form around the base of the teeth, bacteria collects, and infections are possible. Tooth loss is possible in the advanced stage of gum disease.
Older adults are at a higher risk of dry mouth.
This is due to age, medical conditions, and certain medications. Each of these may lead to a decrease in saliva production. Without enough saliva, there is an increased risk of problems eating, mouth sores, oral thrush, gum disease, and tooth decay.
1 in 5 seniors has lost all of their natural teeth. Tooth loss is a common result of severe decay, advanced gum disease, poor oral hygiene, or dental trauma.
3 percent of all cancers are oral cancers, with the highest occurrences in older men.
As with any cancer, oral cancer brings risks to your overall wellness with the need for more serious medical treatment. However, with routine dental appointments and screenings, oral cancer can be detected and treated early.
Dental health care is important for seniors. Navigating the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for patients to receive their dental services. However, most dental practices are fully open for routine appointments, emergency care, and restorative or cosmetic dental needs. Additional precautions, such as masks, patient screenings, and staggered appointment times, help dental practices meet patients’ needs while protecting individuals in the office.
Between dental appointments, it is crucial to follow good oral practices at home to maintain a healthy mouth. This includes brushing and flossing regularly, using a mouthwash or oral irrigator, and eating a healthy diet.
At Dr. Roy Jennings Dentistry, we offer dental care for seniors in Monroe, NC. Good oral health is crucial for patients of all ages, but especially the elderly. We provide customized dental treatment plans and screenings to address our patients’ range of needs.