DENTAL HEALTH is important at any age, but it’s especially true for our senior populations. Today’s seniors likely didn’t have the benefit of fluoridated water and other products as children, and there are few healthcare programs that offer comprehensive dental care; both Medicaid and Medicare only offer scant coverage at best. The issue is so severe that, according to the CDC, older adults may statistically have higher rates of tooth decay than children.
THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF POOR ORAL HYGIENE
Oral health affects many other aspects of a senior’s life. First and foremost, sore, loose, or missing teeth can make eating difficult, meaning that seniors might not be getting adequate nutrition. Also, there is medical data that suggests there is a connection between poor oral hygiene and poor cardiovascular health. Similarly, the emotional toll of having teeth that hurt or that are missing is just as damaging to self-esteem and emotional health as it is to physical health.
FACTS ON SENIOR ORAL HEALTH
The following statistics and data on senior oral health show how serious the issue is and highlights the need for everyone to focus on promoting the dental health of our elderly populations:
• Approximately 25 percent of adults 60 years old and older no longer have any natural teeth.
• The leading cause of tooth loss — periodontal (gum) disease — increases in severity with age. Approximately 23 percent of 65- to 74-year-olds have severe gum disease.
• Oral and pharyngeal cancers, which are primarily diagnosed in the elderly, are responsible for over 7,000 deaths a year. These cancers are usually first detected by dentists, and earlier detection would likely increase the survival rate.
HOW COMFORT KEEPERS HELPS
In addition to advocating for increased dental care for the elderly, our Comfort Keepers can also assist seniors with maintaining a healthy oral routine, in addition to other hygiene/grooming/bathing needs. Additionally, we can also take our senior clients to and from dental and other healthcare appointments.
This column is sponsored by Comfort Keepers of Polk County.
column by TRACY KELLEY
BIO: Tracy Kelley is the owner/operator of Comfort Keepers of Polk County. For more than 14 years, she has been leading professional and extensively-trained caregivers to help seniors of Central Florida maintain their quality of life. Her motto — and that of Comfort Keepers of Polk County — is “We get to help the hands that built America.” For more information about Comfort Keepers, visit lakeland-381.comfortkeepers.com or call (863) 701-9100.