Should you still be afraid of going to the dentist after the age of 75? While we have all had our fair share of bad experiences with the dentist, and according to the American Dental Association, a fifth of people over the age of 75 haven’t seen a dentist in the last 5 years. And there are many reasons for this. Fear is one of them, as well as impaired cognitive skills. In addition, there can be a history of medical issues all contributing to a lack of care. But in addition to this, the main problem for patients that are desperate for oral care, such as dental implants or false teeth, is that paying for it can be an issue. What are the key problems that older people face with their oral hygiene and how can they reduce trips to the dentist?
A Lifetime of Wear and Tear
Over time, the outer layer of enamel is worn down by crunching and grinding. The main problem with regard to wear and tear is that any vulnerabilities may go undetected because the nerves in the tooth lose sensitivity as we age. This results in a higher chance of tooth damage or requiring invasive procedures. In fact, the likelihood of getting a procedure like a root canal can triple over the age of 65. The key protection at this juncture is about age-old habits. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing can help to prevent some of the progression of tooth decay, but individuals who are unable to brush or floss properly should switch to an electric toothbrush.
Many types of medication can have a detrimental effect on your oral health. Anti-seizure drugs and calcium channel blockers prescribed for heart disease can result in degraded gum tissue. In addition, lots of medications list xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, as a common side effect. A lack of saliva can result in irritation or infection of oral tissues and increases the risk of gum disease. In both respects, good oral hygiene can help mitigate some of these issues, and minimizing a dry mouth by sucking on sugarless candy can also help. There are also over-the-counter artificial saliva products.
The Cost of Dental Care
The final reason is the most important of all. Medicare that covers medical care for individuals age 65 and over does not include routine dental care. The insurance program Medicaid doesn’t require dental care to be provided. As such, many seniors lose their dental coverage through insurance plans as they retire. One approach to this is to find an appropriate insurance policy that covers dental care, but it is also so important to make sure that individuals write to their congressman or congresswoman. Unfortunately, this is a long-winded approach and doesn’t result in immediate and positive outcomes. You may be able to get dental benefits if you enroll in a Medicare advantage plan. But this can result in changes to your services.
The bottom line is somewhat blurry when it comes to medical care. However, there are approaches for individuals suffering from oral health conditions later in life.