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Importance of Elderly Dental Care

Common Elderly Dental Problems

dental health among the elderly.

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Losing your teeth is not part of growing older, but for many seniors, itís a reality. For a variety of reasons, our older population is at a disproportionate risk for oral health problems. Here are some of the main issues:

  • Loss of dental coverage after retiring
  • Medicare doesnít cover most dental work
  • Medicaid coverage varies by state and is limited
  • Canít afford out-of-pocket dental expenses
  • Inadequate nutrition because of dry mouth, soreness, tooth loss
  • Dry mouth from medications can lead to cavities and gun disease
  • Supplemental dental coverage is limited
  • Lack of transportation for regular dental visits
  • Lack of access/poor care living in nursing homes
  • Poor oral health can lead to serious health issues

Preserving your health as you age may seem like a daunting task. However, dental health among older adults has improved in the last 50 years. Preventative oral health is paramount to maintaining your dental health among the elderly. overall health. Although aging can make oral hygiene more difficult, there are many steps you can take to ensure proper elderly dental care.

Comman Elderly Dental Problems

As you age, there are many oral health problems that may plague you. Tooth loss can occur due to lack of proper dental hygiene. Diabetes and cancer are two health conditions that can contribute to poor oral health in seniors. Medications for various health problems can also cause dental problems, such as dry mouth. This condition can contribute to the development of periodontitis and cavities.

The 2000 Surgeon General's report, Oral Health in America, has called attention to the connection between oral health and overall health. The report states that, if left untreated, poor oral health is a "silent X-factor promoting the onset of life-threatening diseases which are responsible for the deaths of millions of Americans each year."

Heart disease is a major illness for adults and seniors. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women. Numerous research studies have shown a connection between heart disease and key bacteria in periodontal disease.

Poor oral health, combined with other health factors, may contribute to heart disease.
Bacteria on teeth and gums can travel through the bloodstream and attach to fatty plaques in the arteries. This makes the plaques become more swollen. If one of the plaques bursts and causes a blood clot to form, a person can have a heart attack or stroke. Swelling in the gums can lead to swelling in other parts of your body, including the arteries. This type of swelling can also contribute to heart disease.

There is still ongoing research about the link between heart disease and oral health. However, maintaining good oral health may just benefit your heart at the same time.

If Medicare will not pay for my dental care, what other resources could help me pay?

Unlike inherited risk factors, you can take charge of your oral health. It is important to maintain a good oral hygiene to decrease your risk of heart disease.

Steps For Improving Elderly Dental Care

  • Brush your teeth, at minimum, twice daily
  • Regularly floss your teeth
  • Replace your toothbrush at least every three months
  • Visit your dentist for regular comprehensive checkups and cleanings
  • If you wear dentures, make sure they fit regularly
If you're suffering from arthritis, you may have noticed that oral hygiene has become difficult. Consult with your dentist about steps you can take to ensure that you're still able to brush. Some dentists recommend that seniors use an electric toothbrush and a Waterpik for brushing and flossing.


If you're smoking-stop! Chronic dry mouth is caused by a lifetime of smoking. Smoking makes you four times more likely to develop gum disease. Using smokeless tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol can also increase your risk of developing oral cancer.

One of the most serious diseases found in the mouth is oral cancer. Often curable in its early stages, oral cancers are a major cause of death and disfigurement in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. The oral cancer screening constitutes one of the most important components of a routine dental hygiene and dental exam.

Guest blogger Jennifer Vishnevsky is a writer for Topdentists.com, which is a part of EverydayHealth.com, as well as other health and lifestyle media sites.

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