A recent visit to the dentist left me thinking about the issue of oral health care for the elderly. A report on the oral health of older Americans noted that dental care is a luxury many of the seniors in our society can’t afford; a whopping 20 percent of Americans age 75 and older lack any form of dental insurance. Additionally, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 23 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have severe periodontal disease.
Poor oral health in the elderly can lead to inadequate diet, malnutrition, inadequate oral hygiene due to poor dexterity or limited mobility, compromised chewing and functioning abilities, lowered self-esteem, and social isolation. What can we do to help prevent this from happening? Many prominent oral health professionals advocate the establishment of formal health care programs in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. Caregivers should also be trained to help patients with daily tooth-brushing, fluoride rinses and flossing.
When choosing a professional caregiver or researching nursing home or assisted living options, be sure to ask if any specific programs are in place to ensure your elderly loved one’s oral health.