As age progresses, there are areas of our health that we tend to think is okay to let go of and dental health is one of the steps in our personal hygiene that gets forgotten. Unfortunately, dental health is connected to our whole-body health and it is vital that a senior’s family or close friends give them nudges or assist them in keeping their oral health as a top priority.
Reasons Dental Health Is Vital For Seniors
Oral health has a direct correlation to the health of our whole body meaning that dental issues even those that are common such as dry mouth all the way up to periodontal disease should be taken seriously. Taking care of the aged teeth and gums is right up there with taking care of your digestive system or heart health. Let’s look at reasons why dental care for seniors is so critical.
Studies indicate that there are connections between heart disease and gum disease. Keeping up with good oral hygiene is a powerful way to fight against heart attack, other forms of heart disease, and stroke. According to the American Periodontology Academy, those with periodontal disease have nearly two times as much chance to have heart or coronary artery disease. Studies find that issues within the mouth such as gingivitis, missing teeth and cavities, were just as effective at predicting heart disease as is cholesterol levels.
Older adults with poor oral health have had links to pneumonia as they breathe in bacterial drops through the mouth and into the lungs, making them more prone to the condition whereas good oral hygiene combats this bacteria.
Periodontitis which is a severe type of gum disease will hinder the body’s ability to use insulin. Higher blood sugar which is a known effect of diabetes will lead to infected gums. Taking good care of the teeth and gums along with calling the dentist for regular checkups will aid in prevention.
Plaque causes gum disease in the mouth through food that is left in the teeth or the use of tobacco products, poor-fitting bridges or dentures, unhealthy diets, or diseases such as cancer, anemia, and diabetes. It can bring on tooth loss and has the potential to be very serious in the whole body’s overall health as it’s been linked to many poor health issues.
Dry mouth is often a side effect of medications along with certain types of cancer treatments where radiation is used on the head or neck area. Saliva is responsible for keeping the mouth wet, which is a protectant for the teeth from any kind of decay and keeps infection away by controlling the bacteria levels, fungi, and viruses within the mouth.
This is brought on through the use of poor-fitting dentures, buildup of fungus known as Candida albicans, or bad dental hygiene. It is an inflammation of the tissue under the denture and can become quite uncomfortable for seniors.
Oral healthcare is not something that should be listed as your last priority when you’re a senior as it is associated with our overall whole-body health. It should, in fact, be among the top of our healthcare priorities. A lot of seniors are on fixed incomes and may find it difficult to fit dental care into their already tight budgets. How can you afford to take care of your oral health if you are a senior?
How To Afford Dental Care As A Senior
We know the importance of taking care of our teeth and gums as we age. The fact that the health of our mouth will determine our overall body function makes oral care critical and means that, as seniors, there needs to be room in the healthcare budget for dental health. Neglecting the dentist will tax the body with conditions such as rheumatism, diabetes, heart disease, or even stroke. Teeth that are missing or bridges and dentures that aren’t properly fit will cause chronic pain and interfere with the capability to provide the body with nutrition, make sleeping difficult, and downgrade your quality of life.
Fortunately, for seniors there are organizations that make affording this imperative service much easier. These are free and low-cost options for dental care for seniors. This is your opportunity to call to get set up for regular dental checkups.
- The first place to begin is with toothwisdom.org. This site is completely dedicated to older adults and their health. Not only do they provide articles that are very informative, but there are tools to find care that will direct you to low-cost dental providers in your area. The site is operated by OHA or Oral Health America which is a nonprofit, nationwide, based out of Chicago with a mission to connect people to resources where they are able to access care, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
- Dental Life Network will offer ‘access to comprehensive dental services for those with disabilities or those who are elderly or those medically at risk.’ It is a flagship program, Donated Dental Services or DDS, provides a network nationwide of over 10,000 volunteer dentists who provide free treatments. Visit their website to see if you qualify or call 303-534-5360.
- Dentistry From the Heart is a nonprofit that gives ‘free dental care to those in need’. Dentists/hygienists volunteer and donate time at events throughout the country for cleanings, extractions, and fillings.
- Freemedicalcamps.com will help to locate inexpensive or free dental services. There are also dental schools as an option for good low-cost treatments as they offer clinics where the students are working to gain experience with patients, particularly those with dentures.
- HRSA or Health Resources and Services Administration is a support for health centers that are federally-funded for people who have no insurance or are limited in their income. Many will offer a sliding scale payment options based on what you are able to afford. You can either call 888-275-4772 or visit the website.
Medical experts agree that it would be extremely difficult for any of us to be in peak physical health if our oral health is not up to par. In so saying, you should think of your mouth as the entryway to your overall physical conditioning.