HEALTHY MOUTH TIPS
Caring for Your Teeth as You Get Older Part I
Times have changed and so have attitudes toward aging. Today, most adults over age 65 maintain active, healthy lifestyles and enjoy many activities that were once reserved for those under the age of 40. Per US Census data, the population of adults age 65 and over will reach about 98 million by 2060, representing 24% of the general US population. One way to maintain your general health as you get older is to make sure that you’re taking excellent care of your teeth. Oral health is directly linked to overall health, and many health problems experienced by older adults may stem from untreated dental problems. Those with the most compromised oral health tend to be seniors who lack economic resources, such as dental insurance, and are often members of racial and ethnic minorities. The risk also increases for those with disabilities or those living in nursing homes. Luckily, even if you fall into one of these groups and have neglected regular oral health care for many years, it’s never too late to get back on the right course and take great care of your mouth, contributing to better all-around health. Some of the most common oral health problems in mature adults include the following:
- Tooth decay: About 96% of adults aged 65 years or older in the US have had at least one cavity in their lives, while about 1 in 5 are affected by untreated tooth decay.
- Gum disease: It is also estimated that some 2 out of 3 adults, or about 68% of adults over the age of 65 suffer from gum disease, including bleeding, swelling, and receding gums, and infections such as gingivitis.
- Periodontal Disease: Gum disease, if left untreated, may affect the underlying bone, causing periodontitis. Once periodontal disease has set in, other complications such as tooth loss, may develop. When caught in time, both gum disease and periodontal disease may be successfully treated.
- Tooth loss: By the time we reach our early 60’s, many individuals have experienced some tooth loss. In fact, between the ages of 65 and 74, about 14% of adults have lost all their teeth, while the figures jump to 26% among adults aged 75 and older. Tooth loss can affect general health, because it affects nutrition. Adults who have missing teeth or those who wear dentures may limit their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats in favor of more processed foods which may be softer and easier to chew.
- Chronic illness: Adults who suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and such conditions as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be more at risk for developing gum disease and periodontal disease than other adults. Sadly, many adults suffering from chronic illness are less likely to get dental care than their healthier counterparts.
This is the first part of our series on how to take care of your teeth as you get older. A nice summary can be found on our YouTube channel shown below:
Reach Out to Us Today
If you would like to have better care for your teeth, please do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Steve S. Kim, DDS today.