A new study shows that just half of Americans age 65 and over went to see a dentist last year. That’s according to new research published in the special Oral Health issue of Health Affairs this month.
The study showed that cost was a major barrier, which means that we need to find a way to make dental care more accessible to older Americans. That’s because tooth problems can lead to serious consequences for older Americans.
Health Consequences of Not Seeing a Dentist
For older Americans, serious health effects result from poor oral health. Of course, the risk of tooth loss increases without regular dental care. But the effects go far beyond that.
Tooth loss makes it hard for seniors to stay mobile. The jaw provides essential stability for the head and neck, and without good occlusion (tooth contact), seniors are more likely to suffer injurious falls. Combined with the social problems of not having dentures, this means that seniors who have lost teeth and who don’t wear dentures are more likely to be home bound.
Poor oral health has serious consequences for the rest of the body, too. Poor oral health can contribute to heart disease risk.
In addition, gum disease can trigger chronic inflammation that contributes to the development of early dementia. This includes Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of age-related dementia. It also seems that the very lack of teeth contributes to dementia risk, because chewing can stimulate mental activity. It’s even been shown that using dental implants to replace teeth can restore brain function.
A lack of good dentition can also limit a senior’s access to a healthy, varied diet. Poor nutrition can lead to a host of other illnesses. Combining all these factors, seniors who are missing more teeth are more likely to die at a younger age. And they experience a lower quality of life while they live, too.
Lifelong Dental Care for a Long and Happy Life
If you are looking to enjoy your coming years, it’s important to keep seeing the dentist as you get older. And it gets easier and more enjoyable to see the dentist when you have a dental home where you feel comfortable and welcomed.
If you are looking for a dental home in Wichita Falls, Texas, please call 940-322-2252 today for an appointment at StarImage Dentistry.