Do You Think You're Too Old to Bother with Preventative Dental Care?


Senior Dental Care

If you're a bona fide senior, it's easy to believe that preventative dental maintenance is just a waste of time. You're not the only person to ever have felt that way, but it might surprise you to know that you couldn't be more wrong.

For anyone of any age, the benefits of preventative dental care extend to the entire body. The older a person gets, the more important it becomes. Unfortunately, that's exactly when those vital dental visits begin to get fewer and fewer. This happens for a variety of reasons.

Why So Few Seniors Take Time to See the Dentist

When it comes to a decline in dental visits, the lack of insurance is often a major reason. It is one of life's more unfortunate facts that not all insurance plans cover dental care. Although Medicaid does offer limited coverage according to your state of residence, Medicare and Obamacare are notoriously lacking in this regard.

As a result, as many as 98 out of every 100 older Americans are likely to do without dental insurance altogether. That's a huge percentage. Even those who purchase a supplemental plan may feel dismayed when learning the limits of its coverage.

A lack of insurance is only part of the problem. Many older adults are unable to get a ride or suffer from disabilities that keep them homebound or otherwise confined. Others feel that since some or all their teeth are gone, there really is nothing for a dentist to see. Regardless of the original reason, anyone of any age who decides to cut down on dental visits is bound to suffer the consequences.

Common Oral Problems in Older Adults

The unavoidable matter of advancing age increases the risk of problems with oral health. As the years go by, many will experience:

  • Darkening teeth.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Tooth loss.
  • Decaying roots.
  • Uneven bite.
  • Inflammation caused by ill-fitting dentures.
  • Fungal infections in the mouth.

There's more. According to seniorliving.org, more than 30 percent of older adults suffer from untreated cavities while as many as one in four harbors an undetected case of periodontal disease. In addition, the odds are good that nearly one in three people will eventually lose some teeth. Despite what many people believe, however, tooth loss is not an inevitable function of aging. Proper dental care can lower the odds, helping you retain as many of your pearly whites as possible.

How a Lack of Preventative Dental Care Can Come Back to Bite You

They might not be apparent right away, but the long-term effects of dental neglect can have a seriously adverse impact on your overall health. Most of the negative effects trace directly back to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth that can leave the point of origin and travel through the body, resulting in such maladies as:

  • Pneumonia. This affliction has a clear connection to poor dental health, particularly in the older adult. Once bacteria have set up housekeeping in the mouth, the normal act of breathing can send them down the windpipe and into the lungs.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Bacteria in the mouth can just as easily enter the bloodstream. From there, they migrate to the arteries, resulting in atherosclerosis and increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack.
  • Dementia. Bacteria can also travel from the mouth to the brain either through the bloodstream or via nearby nerve channels. Once there, they can cause cognitive problems that may eventuate in Alzheimer's disease.
  • Diabetic complications. Diabetes and dental problems tend to go hand in hand. While the condition itself can encourage the development of periodontal disease, gum problems can also wreak havoc with the best attempts at controlling blood sugar levels.

Of one thing you can be sure: As those birthday candles increase in number, the connection between oral and physical health is bound to grow that much closer.

Preventative Dental Care and General Well-Being

While the process of aging puts anyone at risk for adverse effects from dental neglect, the proper preventative care can vastly improve your overall health and happiness both now and far into the future. If you have spent years avoiding a dental office, fear or embarrassment might discourage you from making that all-important appointment. While that is understandable, it also amounts to a big mistake. Please don't let this happen to you. Call Dr. James White today for a full dental evaluation. We understand your concerns, and we can help.