Despite the widespread availability of dental care across the United States, there are still a great number of Americans who fail to properly care for their teeth. Senior citizens are among those who often do not receive the regular professional dental care that they need to maintain healthy teeth and gums. In fact, the American Dental Association reported in December, 2015 that roughly one out of every five seniors age seventy-five or older has not visited the dentist for at least five years. As you might expect, that lack of regular care can be devastating for senior oral health, and put them at risk for a wide variety of medical complications.
Why Seniors Often Fail to Get Dental Care
There are a number of factors that can cause seniors to not receive the dental care they need. The aging process itself is responsible for much of this failure, but there are additional factors that can prevent seniors from taking care of their teeth:
- With advanced age, seniors often suffer a loss of mobility that can make it difficult to get around the home. In addition, other health complications such as a stroke or arthritis can make it all but impossible for many older Americans to even perform daily care tasks like brushing and flossing.
- In some instances, mental acuity is the culprit. Cognitive abilities can deteriorate over time, impeding some seniors’ ability to even grasp the importance of regular care. Medical conditions such as dementia and depression can also prevent many seniors from seeking the dental help they need.
- Financial concerns can also be a problem. For retired individuals relying on Medicare, Medicaid, or meager pensions, dental care can be cost-prohibitive. While Medicare covers most dental procedures, it does not typically provide for the regular ongoing maintenance care that is so essential for good oral health.
- Even nursing homes can fail in this regard. Though these centers are legally required to assist all of their senior residents with their oral health needs, experts note that compliance with those requirements is spotty at best.
Why This Matters
While some might brush this off as a minor problem in the grand scheme of things, it can be a matter of life or death for seniors. Oral hygiene is extremely important for overall health, and this is especially true for seniors. In fact, poor oral care habits can lead to infection and impede seniors’ ability to eat. Worse, unattended bacteria can raise the risk of aneurysms, and even lead to pneumonia – the single largest health threat facing seniors who live in long-term care hospital settings.
As the best dentist in Midtown Manhattan, we are pleased to see that this issue is starting to receive increased media attention and heightened awareness among decision makers at the political level – but there is still much work to be done. At Ebenezer Dental, we look forward to the day when oral health failures are resolved once and for all, and both young and old alike finally receive the regular dental care they need.