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Dental health concerns for seniors

Feb 13, 2012, 8 a.m.

Seniors and Dental Health -- A Focus on New Resources

Senior citizens endure the greatest proportionate burden of oral disease in America, yet the resources that provide for the dental health of seniors are limited and often costly. This problem needs immediate attention. As the elderly population continues to grow, issues involving seniors and dental health will continue to intensify. It is time for this nation to focus on dental education, preventive initiatives, and the application of new provisions for the dental health of seniors. Yet the process proceeds slowly.

How the Dental Health of Seniors Affects More Than Oral Health

Age brings about an increase in general physical health issues. This is followed by an increase in the intake of medications, which can hinder a your salivary flow. Your teeth and gums are then forced to endure greater exposure to oral bacteria. Current dental technology may enable you to retain your teeth longer, but the wear and tear factor forces greater oral problems.

Bacteria from gum infections sometimes enter your bloodstream. This can accelerate the development of fatty plaques. Possible resulting complications include:

  1. Heart attack
  2. Stroke
  3. Increased risk of pneumonia
  4. Greater consequences from diabetes
  5. AND other bacteria related illnesses

Major Obstacles Concerning Seniors and Dental Health

Although finances may be the primary obstacle hindering the dental health of seniors, time, transportation and freedom of movement also play a major role. Many seniors are homebound, in a nursing home, or in some other type of long-term care facility. This creates several obstacles to dental care including:

  1. Limited access to dentists
  2. An inability to care for matters of personal hygiene
  3. Untrained nursing staffs that do not or will not deal with a patient's oral health needs
  4. AND the insufficiency of Medicare concerning matters of routine dental services.

A Necessary Remedy to the Problems Confronting Seniors and Dental Health Issues

The problem is current and the solutions are yet to be solidified. However, the situation is not hopeless. Here are some of the current efforts being driven forward by Ira B. Lamster, dean of Columbia University Medical Center's School of Dental and Oral Surgery:

  1. Dental practitioners trained to address the needs of elderly patients
  2. A nationwide program to provide free dental care to low-income seniors
  3. On-site provisions for homebound seniors
  4. Cost-effective, preventive procedures that promote the advanced dental health of seniors
  5. AND simple training in matters of fluoride varnishes, rinses, and anti-infective swabs

In the meantime, be certain that you practice basic oral care. Investigate current and new public policies of intervention. Remember: Oral health issues affect the current and the long-term quality of your physical lifestyle.

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