Senior Dental Care: 5 Surprising Dangers of Poor Dental Health

5 Reasons to Make Senior Dental Care a Priority

Seniors with all their teeth have a better chance of living longer than their peers with fewer or no teeth. I have seen this effect in my own practice by observing patients who have kept all their teeth having a longer lifespan. Patients in my practice who have replaced their missing teeth with implants can even begin to look healthier and younger.

Many years ago, People magazine published an article showing a set of 90-year-old triplets who lived in Pittsburgh. While viewing the photograph it clearly demonstrates that one sister had all her teeth, one had no teeth, and one had some of her natural teeth.

Senior Dental Care: 7 Surprising Dangers of Poor Dental Health

The striking element in the photograph is that the sister with no teeth looks 10 years older than her natural age, the sister with all her teeth looks 20 years younger and the sister with some of her teeth looks about 90 years old. It is apparent that having kept all her teeth, the sister who kept the most teeth looks youngest.

What are the key factors in retaining your teeth to help you live a longer healthier life?

  1. Smoking cessation curbs the risk of devastating oral cancer and promotes better circulation. If necessary, the physician may be helpful with quitting smoking programs. Oral cancer risk is greater for those who chew tobacco or smoke. Dental exams can screen for incipient cancerous lesions.
  2. Brush at least twice daily or after every meal with fluoride toothpaste. An electric toothbrush makes dental hygiene faster and more effective.
  3. Do not miss a regular dental visit for a cleaning and exam. This will catch problems when they are small and help preserve teeth with proper treatment. Some patients need cleanings 2, 3 or 4 times per year to maintain gum health.
  4. Silent gum or periodontal disease is present in most seniors and is the biggest reason for tooth loss. This is both preventable and controllable by frequent professional cleanings. After 40 years of observations in my practice, the patients who return for cleanings every three months are the patients who have kept their teeth into their nineties and later.
  5. Gum disease causes inflammation in the body. This inflammation increases the risk of heart disease and produces a higher risk of stroke and heart attacks. It also affects blood sugar control in people with diabetes. The bacteria in the mouth that grow during gum disease are inhaled and are responsible for a higher incidence of bacterial pneumonia. Maintaining good oral hygiene lowers the risk of this debilitating and sometimes fatal disease in seniors. Dry mouth is a common condition caused by multiple medications taken by seniors. Since saliva is necessary to reduce levels of bacteria, dry mouth multiplies cavities rapidly. This can be disastrous and can only be prevented by preventive dental visits.

The dentist is trained to detect signs of deterioration in the mouth and is proficient in preventing problems when they are small, so tooth loss is prevented. This is your best resource for keeping your teeth and your teeth keeping you into your nineties and beyond.