The demand for dental care for seniors is growing. Population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that by 2030, all baby boomers will be age 65 or older. Also, by 2030, adult seniors in the United States will outnumber children for the first time in the country’s history. What should you know about seniors’ oral health if you or a loved one is a senior? And how can seniors on a fixed income or Medicare find affordable dental care?
Challenges to Getting Dental Care for Older Adults
Many older American adults face challenges in getting the dental care they need. Issues that affect whether they seek dental care include:
- No dental insurance
- Limited income
- Poor health
- Habitual smoking
Dental Care Tips for Seniors
What can you do to preserve your teeth and keep your gums healthy if you are a senior adult? Consider these hygiene tips and other factors that can affect your oral health.
- Keep brushing twice daily – Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your teeth and help prevent cavities. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes to ensure thorough coverage.
- Floss daily – Flossing is essential for removing plaque between your teeth and gum. It also helps prevent gum disease and tooth loss. The Journal of Periodontology published a May 2018 article showing that study participants who flossed their teeth before brushing reduced plaque significantly. So, use dental floss or a water flosser before brushing your teeth.
- Understand how medical conditions impact oral health – Be aware of medical conditions that can affect your oral health. For example, uncontrolled diabetes can reduce saliva and promote tooth decay. Also, 22 percent of people with diabetes have gum disease.
- Know the side effects of prescription medication – Dry mouth is a common side effect of prescription medication. Decreased saliva flow leaves food debris in your mouth that can cause plaque buildup. Some cancer treatments affect your oral health. A dentist can help you protect your teeth.
- Receding gums – As we age, our gums recede and expose tooth roots and create sensitivity. Fluoride toothpaste or toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help. Or a dentist may recommend gum grafting or dental bonding to prevent cavities.
- Tobacco use – Smoking and other tobacco use decrease blood flow and increase inflammation. Tobacco habits increase your risk of gum disease and oral cancer. And if you need oral surgery, such as tooth extractions or dental implants, tobacco use slows the healing process.
Finding Affordable Dental Care for Seniors
If you need affordable dental care for seniors, below are some resources to consider:
- Dental hygiene schools
- University dental schools
- Non-profit organizations
- General dentists who offer affordable rates, payment plans, or low-interest financing
Dental care for seniors has its challenges. But you can still take care of your teeth and gums with good hygiene habits at home and understanding factors that can affect your oral health. Senior adults or their caregivers can research local organizations, dental schools, or dentists that offer affordable care.