As we age, every new year seems to bring with it new health concerns to be worried about. Thankfully, it’s a misconception that our oral health will inevitably decline as we age. With proper oral health care and regular visits to the dentist, we can keep smiling well into our old age. Unfortunately, there are reasons why it has become a common belief that our oral health will get worse as we age. Many of these reasons have little to do with oral health itself and more about its circumstances.
The Unspoken Facts About Oral Health and Aging
The effect of aging on our health has been the subject of countless scientific studies. The results surrounding oral health show that nothing makes it inevitable for it to worsen with age. Instead, these studies have demonstrated that a lack of consistent professional care has a much larger role to play than previously imagined. When researchers considered poor oral hygiene practices, it was revealed that these have more to do with physical ability than lack of effort. Consequentially, professional attention to oral health is more critical to these patients than usual. These studies also revealed additional factors that come into play regarding our oral health:
- Limited coverage from dental insurance
- Weak enamel
- Environmental circumstances
- Genetic factors
- Other health concerns
- Economic struggles
- Limited physical ability to keep up with dental hygiene
- Blood vessels in the gums becoming dilated
All of the above points have been found to contribute to dental health concerns in senior citizens. However, the worst offender on this list is a lack of dental insurance. Medicare/Medicaid and social security simply don’t provide sufficient coverage for the elderly to get their treatment. As a result, these concerns go untreated and unmanaged.
Common dental health concerns that appear in the elderly include:
- Gum Recession: Receding gumlines do tend to happen as we age. However, a consistent oral hygiene routine and regular dental visits can help slow the advance.
- Tooth Decay: Even though dental enamel is the strongest substance in the human body, it too can break down over time. Professional dental care can help. Dentists have treatments that can strengthen the enamel through the application of fluoride and dental sealants.
- Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is the root of a number of oral health concerns. The first is the increased risk of tooth decay. Saliva plays a central role in making an inhospitable environment for bacteria in our mouths. It also helps prevent an oral yeast infection known as thrush. Some medications provoke the onset of dry mouth.
Improved Dental Access For Senior Citizens Will Help
Improving the ability of senior citizens to get dental health care is the most effective way of protecting their teeth. Regular visits permit the dentist to suggest preventative treatments such as dental fluoride and sealants. Fluoride can strengthen our dental enamel, while dental sealants put a thin plastic coating over the teeth to protect from bacteria. Speak to your dental provider to find out what options they offer.