As we age, we notice our teeth start to discolor and weaken, making them susceptible to cavities and disease. Losing teeth is a consequence of years of wear from everyday activities such as eating and a lack of maintenance. But despite popular belief, our teeth do not have to fall out as we age.
With all the health concerns and doctor visits that accumulate as we age, it may be easy to neglect dental and oral hygiene. Oral health is just as important as any other health concern, and it should not be neglected.
At Vellore Woods Dentistry, we’re helping our senior patients keep their natural teeth thanks to the advancements in dentistry. If you keep up with routine dental services, you may be able to keep your teeth and avoid any complications down the road.
Here are your 6 essential options to keep your teeth as healthy as you want to feel.
Importance of Seeing the Dentist
Many diseases have a root cause starting with poor oral health. Going to the dentist is important for many reasons:
- Undetected gum disease can lead to tooth loss
- Dry mouth can cause digestive issues
- Poor oral hygiene is linked to pneumonia
- If missing teeth are not replaced, other teeth can shift
- Teeth become discolored without proper care
- If not properly monitored, medications and conditions such as diabetes can cause gum diseases
A dentist can cure any of these problems in the following ways:
When left in the mouth for too long, plaque turns into tartar. Plaque can be removed at home with brushing and flossing, but only a professional dental hygienist can remove tartar.
Tartar is the culprit for cavities and decaying teeth. Regular cleanings, when recommended by your dentist and hygienist, can keep decay in check and help you keep your natural teeth for your whole life.
2. Dental Exams
Dental exams go beyond a quick look at the teeth for cavities. Dentists perform a comprehensive observation of oral health. A dentist cannot diagnose health issues, but they are usually the first to spot signs of diseases that show oral symptoms.
Dentists can provide a unique treatment plan that suits your lifestyle. As we grow older, we may not be able to use a manual toothbrush effectively. The dentist may recommend an automated toothbrush. They may also be able to recommend diet and lifestyle changes that can improve your overall oral health.
3. Oral Cancer Screenings
During dental exams, dentists are qualified to provide oral cancer screenings. The dentist will inspect your mouth or use a rinse or light to detect any unusual, possibly cancerous spots. The earlier you detect cancer, the better your chance of treatment and recovery. Your dentist cannot treat cancer, but they can refer you to the proper professional for a second look and treatment options.
The following are risk factors for oral cancer in seniors:
- Tobacco use (both smoking and chewing tobacco)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Heavy sun exposure can cause cancerous spots on the lips
- Previous history of oral cancer
4. Perio Maintenance
Periodontal disease refers to a disease of the gums. Unfortunately, there is a positive correlation between the increase in age and risk of periodontal disease. Maintaining your gum health helps to preserve your teeth and prevents complications such as pain and swollen gums.
In its early stages, periodontal disease is completely reversible, but when left untreated, it can become a hassle. Gum disease has been directly linked to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. It causes side effects such as:
- Bad breath
- Inflamed and bleeding gums
- Receding gum line
- Loose teeth
- Pain when chewing
Luckily, periodontitis is completely preventable. If you are already suffering from periodontics, regular perio-maintenance appointments can help retain your gums and help you live pain-free.
If you have dentures, you may think that you do not need to visit the dentist regularly—this is far from the truth. Complications with dentures can cause pain, making it hard to eat. Losing weight due to malnutrition can be extremely dangerous for a senior’s health.
During a routine visit, the dentist will make sure that dentures are fitting properly and examine the soft tissue of the gums.
With more seniors opting to maintain their natural dentition, implants are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to dentures.
Implants are secured into the jawbone, creating a more natural looking appearance. They also act just like real teeth, allowing you to chew and talk with no issues. Implants are available to replace just one missing tooth, or even to entirely reconstruct your smile.
The main benefit to implants over crowns, bridges, and partial dentures, is they maintain the bone density in your mouth. Implants are more of an invasive procedure than dentures, but they are completely safe for seniors.
How Can You Afford Dental Care?
Sadly, it is not always unwillingness that steers people away from going to the dentist but financial concern. Medicare does not cover non-emergency dental visits. Most seniors rely on private insurance or Medicare Advantage to cover dental services. Luckily, there are resources and alternatives out there for seniors.
- PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly): This Medicare and Medicaid program aims to help seniors access their health care needs. Luckily, PACE includes dentistry. To qualify for PACE, you must be at least 55 years old, in an area where dental benefits are offered, and be eligible for nursing home care.
- Veteran’s Benefits: Veterans may be eligible for dental benefits. You can check with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to see if you qualify.
- Financing: Consult your dentist and dental office staff about the possibility of financing and payment plans. Many seniors are on a fixed income and cannot afford to pay for an entire procedure out of pocket. Luckily, many offices are willing to work with you to get the care you need.
- Medicaid: If you are eligible for Medicaid, check to see if dental benefits are included. Depending on a state-by-state basis, you may be eligible for benefits.
At Vellore Woods Dentistry we offer compassionate care for seniors. If you are looking to get your oral health on track, do not hesitate to contact us today online or at 905-417-5550.