Aging brings with a bevy of health concerns that we have to manage or watch out for. Many of these conditions are thought to be an inevitable part of aging, including oral health concerns. When it comes to our dental health, there’s no reason that this needs to be true. The idea that tooth loss is a natural part of aging is a misconception. With proper care and routine dental visits, it’s possible to keep our teeth bright and healthy well into our old age. It just requires following a solid dental hygiene routine and maintaining consistent dental visits.
The Truth Behind Oral Health And Aging
Studies have revealed that it isn’t inevitable that our oral health will decline as we get older. However, what these studies have shown is that consistent dental hygiene and professional care are necessary to keep tooth loss at bay. One result that keeps occurring during this study is that a lack of consistent professional care can have a detrimental impact on our oral health. A combination of factors come together to make this care difficult for some senior citizens to get. Some of the things that play into poor oral health as we age are:
- Reduced access to dental insurance
- Weakening enamel
- Environmental factors
- Growing health concerns
- Genetic factors
- Economic disadvantage
- Reduced physical ability to perform dental hygiene
- Dilated vessels in the gums impact blood flow
Each of the points on this list is a significant contributor to oral health concerns in the elderly. However, a major contributor to increased oral health concerns in the elderly isn’t health or hygiene. It’s a limited ability to afford proper dental care due to limitations in insurance, especially Medicare/Medicaid. Without receiving the proper care, the above list of concerns goes unaddressed or untreated. This leads to the following health concerns plaguing older patients:
- Gum Recession: While gum recession has been shown to be a normal part of aging, good hygiene can slow it. As our gums recede, the more vulnerable surface of our roots becomes exposed to more bacteria and acids.
- Tooth Decay: Our enamel tends to thin as we age through the natural process of wear and tear. Even though it is the most resilient substance in our body, it will eventually break down. Eventually, that is, unless we get consistent professional dental health care. Dentists can provide options such as sealants and fluoride treatments to help strengthen and protect enamel.
- Dry Mouth: Another common oral health difficulty senior citizens face is dry mouth. Our saliva serves to protect our teeth by balancing the pH level and washing away plaque and debris. A range of medications can limit the amount of saliva we produce, resulting in dry mouth. This also makes us more susceptible to thrush, an oral yeast infection.
Greater Senior Access To Dental Health Care Will Help
While every patient’s case is different, your dentist is always able to help maintain your oral health. Provided, of course, you can afford to get into their office and pay for the treatments. It’s essential that greater access to oral health care is made possible for seniors to ensure their smiles last a lifetime.