Oral Health for the Aging American

According to the US Census, the number of US adults over the age of 65 is expected to reach 98 million by the year 2060; 24% of the overall population.  In America, dentistry has shifted to aging people with their natural teeth.  But what happens when these people can no longer advocate for their own oral care needs?  The current pandemic is highlighting the need for dental care for our nursing home residents more than ever.  As a country, we need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to traditional dental care treatment planning.

Oral health problems in older adults include the following:

  • Untreated tooth decay. Nearly all adults age 65 or older (96%) have had a cavity; 1 in 5 have untreated tooth decay.
  • Gum disease.  Approximately two out of every three adults over the age of 65 have gum disease.
  • Tooth loss. Nearly 1 in 5 adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth. Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among adults over the age of 75 (26%) compared with adults between the ages 65 and 74 (13%).  Missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures can have a negative impact on nutrition.  People without teeth or with dentures often prefer soft, easily chewed foods instead of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Chronic disease. Most older Americans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.  Many of these medications can cause dry mouth. Reduced saliva flow increases the risk of cavities.

Health conditions that have been found to be associated with poor oral health…

  • Endocarditis
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Pneumonia

Being an advocate for others who can no longer manage their oral care needs is a necessity!  Ask your loved one’s primary care provider, dentist or nursing facility about options for preventative dental care.

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