Q: Several of my neighbors in the elder housing where I live disagree on whether or not it is still important for us to have regular dental check-ups. Some of us don’t have dental insurance so we have let this go the last couple of years. Can you settle this and tell us if this is something we should be doing?
A: Most people are aware for young children cavities are almost preventable with consistent mouth care at home and regular visits to the dentist. Dental care doesn’t end just because someone has reached the later stage of life. Oral health directly impacts the health of the rest of our body which makes it extremely important for an older adult who may be dealing with chronic medical conditions.
For elderly patients visiting a dentist isn’t just about checking for cavities. Dentists and licensed dental hygienist are trained to look for potential problems in the mouth. Once detected, treating peridontal (gum) disease may help to control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes or limit the severity of heart disease. The professionals will also be looking for any signs of oral cancer.
Dry mouth is one condition associated with aging, this occurs when the saliva flow is reduced. Sufficient saliva isn’t just about comfort it actually protects teeth from decay, helps sores in the mouth to heal and prevents infections. As we get older gums tend to recede leaving tooth roots exposed which can result in decay. When this is more severe the dentist may recommend procedures to correct the issue. Individuals who have arthritis of the hands may think they are brushing their teeth correctly but aren’t doing an adequate job because of limitations with range of motion.
So the answer to your question is “Yes!” Dental care remains important all through your life. If payment is a major concern there may be dental programs in your area which provides low cost care of dental insurance at an affordable cost. Do some on-line research or call Age Information Department at 1-800-892-0890 for assistance.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.