Many dentist offices emphasize the importance of bringing kids to regular checkups at a family dentistry practice — so much so that you would assume the importance of visiting your local dentist office dwindles as you get older.
However, the exact opposite is true, according to a February 8 USA Today article. Among senior citizens, poor dental health is a problem that runs rampant, even as dental technologies improve to make the trip to a dental checkup more comfortable.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention reported in 2008 that an astonishing 20% of people aged 65 years or older had untreated cavities. Cavities result in pain, tooth decay and eventual tooth loss — which may explain why 15% of people aged 65 to 74 and 22% of people over 75 have lost all their teeth.
“Many a person has come into my office saying, ‘I always had really nice teeth and now I’m getting cavities. What’s going on?’” Christine Downey, assistant professor of dental ecology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told USA Today.
There are plenty of factors that put today’s seniors at risk for cavities. Sugar-laden diets filled with soda and citrus fruits can put anyone’s dental health in jeopardy.
More than 500 medications — many of which are used by seniors and older adults — list dry mouth as a side effect. When saliva has a cleansing effect on the teeth that helps keep cavities at bay, a saliva deficiency makes one more at risk for tooth decay.
Another key factor behind senior dental cavities? When many people retire, they also lose access to their employers’ dental care plans; dental care isn’t covered by Medicare, either. As a result, many senior citizens can’t afford to visit the dentist office as often as they should, worsening their tooth decay.
As you age, it’s crucial to remember the importance of maintaining a healthy set of teeth. When more than half of cosmetic dentistry patients are between 41 and 60 years old, it’s clear that older adults and seniors are just as, if not more, at risk for dental problems as young children.
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