Our teeth and gums change as we age. The years of wear and tear will take a toll, often leading to thinning enamel and broken or lost teeth. And even when teeth are repaired, with crowns, fillings, root canals or bridges, they are still less hardy. And gums recede, leading to sensitive areas of the teeth not covered by enamel to be exposed.
Some common health conditions, such as diabetes or acid reflux, can change the oral environment in ways that can lead to increased tooth decay and gum disease. And conditions like dementia, arthritis, parkinson’s disease, strokes, or any number of others may make it difficult or even impossible to brush and floss effectively. Many of the common medications prescribed to seniors as well will decrease salivary flow, and the resulting dry mouth can lead to extensive tooth decay.
Medical science is constantly learning more and more about the connection between oral health and overall health. Top policy experts are calling for dental care to be rolled into Medicare and other insurance coverage, as well as integrating dental health with other healthcare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the United States, $6 billion is lost annually in productivity due to people dealing with oral health issues.
Poor dental health has been linked to a number of other conditions that wouldn’t seem related at first. Malnutrition, social isolation, hypertension, heart disease, and dementia have all been surprisingly linked to poor oral health. Modern dentistry has made great strides in helping seniors. Do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment with your dentist and learn what to do to keep your mouth at optimal health.