Many of our province’s seniors are not getting the dental care they need. This is of great concern as poor oral health can have an impact on an individual’s general health by causing or worsening serious medical conditions. It can also compromise one’s ability to chew and digest food properly which can in turn, lead to significant nutritional deficiencies.
A recent research study conducted by St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences in Toronto revealed that approximately 45 per cent of people in Ontario age 65 and older did not see a dentist in the last year. The majority of these seniors are women, as females make up the majority of our elderly population.
Prioritizing dental needs
I have many senior patients who have decided that it’s time to fix that crooked tooth they’ve felt self-conscious about for so long, or to whiten their yellowing smile. While such cosmetic procedures are optional, they are important to them, so if their requests are viable from a dental health perspective, I am more than happy to fulfil their cosmetic dentistry wishes.
What is not optional for seniors, however, are the dental procedures and protocols that ensure the health and wellbeing of our aging population. Here are some dental issues that are commonly associated with the elderly:
Otherwise known as gum disease, periodontitis is a disease of the gums that can cause bleeding, bone and tooth loss. New research findings reveal that as people age, they are more likely to suffer from inflammatory diseases including periodontitis due to the drop in the level of a chemical called Del-1. Being vigilant about mouth care at home and having regular cleanings and check-ups at your dental office are important measure to take in the fight against periodontitis.
While anyone can suffer from dry mouth, seniors seem to be especially vulnerable to this condition. Some tips to help alleviate this condition include increasing liquid intake, rinsing frequently with water, applying lip balm, sucking on sugarless hard candies, avoiding salty foods and asking your dentist to recommend or prescribe special medications and mouth rinses.
When a tooth is lost, there are many reasons why it is important to have it replaced. For those of you who have lost a tooth, I’d suggest reviewing the information on his topic in my previous article as 40 to 60% of bone loss occurs within the first six months to one year after a tooth is extracted. Acting quickly could save you a lot of grief and expense in the long run. There are many different options for every individual’s unique circumstances and budgets including implants, full or partial dentures or even implant-supported dentures.
The aging mouth and jaw are constantly remodelling themselves. Once this happens, dentures that once fit well can start to slip which can lead to embarrassment, discomfort and a poor diet. Often adjustments to the existing denture can fix these problems. Be sure to take care of your dentures just as you would your own teeth. Properly fitting dentures can make all of the difference in the world to your physical and psychological wellbeing.