Oral Health and Aging: Are You Protecting Your Teeth?

Although it can fall in priority, maintaining good oral health is crucial for aging Americans. Almost a quarter of adults ages 65-74 suffer from severe gum disease, proving that more could be done to manage and improve dental hygiene. Some seniors may think maintaining oral health stops at teeth, but really, failing to maintain every aspect of oral health can negatively impact overall health and is even linked to issues like diabetes and heart disease.

Though keeping a healthy mouth can be more challenging as we age, it’s essential for seniors to discover ways to overcome these obstacles to sustain optimal oral health.

The Reality of Cavities

Many people believe the development of cavities is limited to children and adolescents due to a high sugar intake and poor brushing habits. However, the myth that only young people are plagued by these sugary pitfalls has been debunked; tooth decay can occur in any individual experiencing a buildup of plaque.

And, did you know teeth act like the bones in the human body, softening and wearing down over time? Coupled with daily wear-and-tear, this can actually make seniors more prone to developing cavities.

Another issue common to seniors that can increase one’s susceptibility to oral ailments is an elevated intake of medication. Many older adults consume medications to manage illnesses or other natural issues that accompany aging. Dry mouth caused by a reduction in saliva production is one common side effect of prescription and over-the-counter medications. A staggering 30 percent of older adults are impacted by this condition, which can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. While many medications are necessary, managing their side effects can be difficult.

Denture Care Essentials

Dentures should be cared for just like regular teeth, meaning you should incorporate the same daily brushing and gentle cleaning habits with your dentures that you would your natural teeth. To maintain healthy gums, remove your dentures every night to allow the tissue beneath them to rest and recuperate. You may think wearing dentures renders dental appointments obsolete, but it’s still important to as a healthy maintenance routine to prevent being at a higher risk of gum disease.

Visiting the dentist regularly for professional exams and cleanings is still the best way to maintain optimal oral health. Remember, dentists are trained to see even slight changes in gums or bone structure that denture-wearers may not sense themselves.

Paying for Care After Retirement

For some seniors, the benefits of maintaining oral health are not significant enough to justify the staggering costs of dental care. To combat health care costs, many retirees enroll in Medicare, which does not cover the cost of general dental care. On the other hand, options like the Affordable Care Act don’t generally include adult dental coverage and adding a dental package to your plan can increase your monthly payments exponentially.

However, dental savings programs can help ease the cost of dental care, providing an alternative to dental insurance that allows uninsured people to receive the quality care they need. A dental discount program can help seniors save 20% to ­50% off of the full price of general and advanced dental services for less than $10 a month. Dental discount plans are affordable, easy to sign up for, and are available to all who sign up.

Final Thoughts

While maintaining good oral hygiene may seem burdensome, the benefits of doing so are crucial to sustaining your overall health. Avoid some of the complications of aging by seeking out options for maintaining your oral health.

This post was sponsored by Dental Solutions.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

4 Comments

  1. I keep stressing every day to my kids how important dental care is. They get a good reminder each Sunday when we Skype with opa (always forgets to put in his dentures). The human body not too long ago was only supposed to last 40 years. Evolution did not make them last 80, it’s up to us to do so.

    We currently have delta dental coverage at $100 for the family. Last year we came out on top having insurance. This year with little teeth issues it seems expensive coverage. We will keep it though, who knows what the new year brings.

    I do feel a bit cheated about the whole “flossing is good for health” being debunked. Still do it though.

    • I’m with you on the flossing. It’s a habit I’ve developed over the years and I’ve had great success with maintaining my oral health. If it ain’t broke ….

  2. This is too coincidental – seconds ago I emailed my former employer about my dental coverage via COBRA. It’s $47 a month which is a bit steep for limited benefits. But I only have one shot at COBRA and I can always switch to another plan so we’ll see if it’s worth it.

    Great points in your post – especially about the effects of medicine on your teeth which people don’t realize. Something has got to be done, though, on the cost of dental procedures. Crowns and implants can bankrupt a person.

    • Thanks for sharing your story my, friend. As I point out continually on this blog, there is more to a satisfying retirement than just the value of your nest-egg. Physical health, of which dental hygiene/health is one component, is a critical piece of the larger pie.

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