Posts for tag: Oral Health
While older adults have many of the same symptoms and concerns as younger patients, they are at higher risk for many oral health problems. Other medical issues, financial concerns and less attention to their teeth and gums can all contribute to a decline in oral health, and impact their overall health.
Nearly 1/3 of older adults have untreated tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is associated with a higher incidence of gum disease, which is associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.
Whether caring for natural teeth or dentures, those 65 and older should continue to follow the same dental regimen they did in their early years. Some of the issues that often arise, and complicate their dental care, include:
- Living on a fixed income
- No access to dental insurance after retirement
- Limited access to transportation
- Denture-induced tissue inflammation
- Dry mouth from medications
- Gum disease and decay of the roots of teeth
- Uneven jaw bone caused by tooth loss
- Thrush - an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth
- Increased risk of oral cancer
One problem often leads to another. Patients with severe arthritis can’t brush and floss effectively. Those with missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures find it difficult to eat a healthy diet. If taking multiple medications, patients often experience dry mouth, which can make it difficult to chew and eat properly, and lead to cavities and gum disease.
The best solution is to floss and brush your teeth thoroughly twice daily, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Aim to visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and oral exam. The cost of that visit is small compared to the cost of neglecting your mouth. Use an antibacterial mouth wash to reduce the risk of plaque and gum disease. Most importantly get to know your mouth. Pay close attention to any pain or sensitivity. It is better to address a problem sooner than later, especially if something doesn’t feel right.
If patients lack dental insurance, and paying out of pocket is not an option, find out whether Medicare or Medicaid covers your dental visits. Unfortunately, routine dental exams are not always covered, but medically-necessary procedures generally are, so in the case of a serious issue, you may be reimbursed.
The good news is that getting older, in itself, is not the problem, and people are keeping their teeth for longer now than ever before. However, those who take good care of their teeth, understand their limitations, and respond quickly when issues arise, are most likely to maintain their oral health - and their overall health - long term.
While the medical community is still learning about the link between oral health and heart health, one thing is clear: taking care of your teeth and gums can help reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious medical conditions.
Periodontal or gum disease is characterized by inflammation or swelling of the gums, and may be a warning sign of problems elsewhere in the body. When plaque builds up and clogs the arteries, this is an inflammatory process that can limit the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart and brain, increasing the risk of a heart attack of stroke. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection, and should be taken seriously anywhere it occurs.
Most of the bacteria that grows in our mouth is harmless. The body will naturally keep bacteria under control, and taking care of our teeth and gums aids in that process. However, if we don’t practice good oral care, that bacteria can multiply and lead to infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Some studies have shown that bacteria from the mouth can travel into the bloodstream and contribute to the development of heart disease. Whether this is proved true or not, it is important to keep your teeth and gums clean and free from inflammation and infection. And if you already have a heart condition, you should let your dentist or dental specialist know, and give them a list of any medications you take.
Bacteria and inflammation are also linked to other health issues including diabetes, dementia and some cancers. The exact relationship is not clear yet, but we know that link exists.
The best way to ensure optimal oral health and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious medical conditions is to practice good oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss at least once every day
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months — or when the bristles show signs of wear
- Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings
You should always pay close attention to the health of your teeth and gums -- and be aware that what happens in the mouth may be a warning sign for what is happening in the rest of the body.