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Dental care for seniors is an important part of overall health.
Good dental care can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other health problems like heart disease.
If you're a caregiver for a senior, here's what you need to know about dental care.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), oral diseases are common causes of medical or emergency visits, especially among the elderly.
Chronic diseases and multiple medications increase the need for medical care.
This is true of dental issues as well.
And one of the common dental problems that our seniors face, dry mouth can be a side effect of medication as well as a normal response to aging..
Normally, saliva helps protect the gums and teeth by fighting off plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
However, the body’s ability to produce saliva reduces as we age. And this places older adults at greater risk for cavities, eventually leading to tooth decay.
Another common problem they face is gum disease or periodontitis.
68% of older adults have this condition. It’s mainly from smoking and poor oral hygiene, which can lead to bleeding gums or severe infections causing tooth loss.
Tooth loss also affects a senior’s nutrition. Older adults with missing teeth and receding gums won’t be able to chew foods easily. This reduces the body's ability to heal.
Last, one of the worst dental problems they can have is oral sores. These are painful lesions forming around the soft tissues appearing on the roof or floor of the mouth, cheeks, and gums.
And for the elderly who regularly smoke or drink alcohol, the risk is even greater. If these sores progress they can lead to oral cancers.
Dental care can be expensive. Fortunately, there are affordable plans available for low-income seniors.
Many dentists offer their health services with complimentary senior discounts. They may even charge reduced fees through dental society-sponsored assistance programs.
Other dental offices also provide in-house membership for new and existing patients.
This membership offers to help individuals without insurance buy care in advance at lower costs.
Other sources include local health departments and federally funded health centers that provide free or reduced-cost services, including routine dental care.
And since help varies depending on locations, seniors can call their local dental clinic for information.
Caregivers and health workers can ask about the nearest assistance programs and affordable clinics.
Seniors can also go to local universities and dental school's clinics. At certain times, interns and practicing dentists would need participants for consultations or minor procedures.
Some dental hygiene schools also provide preventive dental care at low costs as part of their internship experience for dental hygienists.
Finding the right dentist for our seniors can be easily overwhelming at first. But it doesn’t have to be.
The key is to know where to look. And this is where caregivers and senior advocates can come in.
Here are some tips to help choose the right dentist for the elderly.
Asking other seniors, families, or friends where they go for their dental needs is a good way to start.
They can share their experiences and insights with their dentist, and even refer you to them. It’s also good to check and read the patient reviews on sites for more useful information.
Once you’ve listed your options, it’s time to look into the dental team’s background and experience.
Check how many years the office has been running, and who makes up the team. Know whether they have the qualifications and if they can provide the services you need.
Booking an initial consultation and meeting the dental team helps to know whether seniors are comfortable working with them.
It’s great to have someone who can look after our seniors without judgment.
They’ll be able to raise concerns about their oral health. And these professionals will also offer genuine advice based on their experience.
Always consider what insurance plans they accept and which payment methods they prefer.
You would also want to inquire whether they’re following the dental fee guide.
And if the seniors have their major dental procedures, see if the dental clinic offers payment plans.
There are a variety of dental problems that commonly affect seniors. These can include tooth loss, gum disease, and dry mouth.
There are many different types of dental care available to seniors, including dentures, implants, and bridges.
It is important to find a dentist who specializes in senior dental care and who can offer your loved one the best possible treatment.
Watch out for our next blog post where we discuss choosing the right dentist for your needs.
That's all for today.
Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!