How Many Retirees Lack Dental Insurance?January 9, 2017
Asking The Right Questions At The DentistMarch 6, 2017
The Link Between Medications and Cavities
You may wonder why you’re suddenly getting cavities when you haven’t had them in years. As we get older, we enter a second round of cavity prone years. One common cause of cavities in older adults is dry mouth. Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. However, it is a side-effect in more than 500 medications, including those for allergies or asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety or depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.This is just one reason why it’s so important to tell your dentist about any medications that you’re taking. Your dentist can make recommendations to help relieve your dry mouth symptoms and prevent cavities. Here are some common recommendations:
- Use over-the-counter oral moisturizers, such as a spray or mouthwash.
- Consult with your physician on whether to change the medication or dosage.
- Drink more water. Carry a water bottle with you, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Your mouth needs constant lubrication.
- Use sugar-free gum or lozenges to stimulate saliva production.
- Get a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
- Avoid foods and beverages that irritate dry mouths, like coffee, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks, and acidic fruit juices.
- Your dentist may apply a fluoride gel or varnish to protect your teeth from cavities.
Many older adults have gum, or periodontal disease, caused by the bacteria in plaque, which irritate the gums, making them swollen, red and more likely to bleed. One reason gum disease is so widespread among adults is that it’s often a painless condition until the advanced stage. If left untreated, gums can begin to pull away from the teeth and form deepened spaces called pockets where food particles and more plaque may collect. Advanced gum disease can eventually destroy the gums, bone and ligaments supporting the teeth leading to tooth loss. The good news is that with regular dental visits gum disease can be treated or prevented entirely.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 35,000 cases of mouth, throat and tongue cancer diagnosed each year. The average age of most people diagnosed with these cancers is 62. During dental visits, your dentist will check for any signs of oral cancer. Regular dental visits are important because in the early stages oral cancer typically does not cause pain and early detection saves lives. Some symptoms you may see include open sores, white or reddish patches, and changes in the lips, tongue and lining of the mouth that lasts for more than two weeks.
Paying for Dental Care after Retirement
Many retirees don’t realize that Medicare does not cover routine dental care. Begin to plan for your dental expenses in advance of retirement so you don’t have to let your dental health suffer once you’re on a fixed income. Organizations like AARP offer supplemental dental insurance plans for their members.
We also offer an alternative for those who do not have dental coverage. The Periodontal plan is available through our in-house Membership Club. Pay a low monthly fee for needed treatments, regular care, needed x-rays and much more. Learn more about the Perio plan here.
Do I Need to Take an Antibiotic before a Dental Procedure?
If you have a heart condition or artificial joint, be sure to tell your dentist. You may think it’s not relevant. After all, what do your heart and joints have to do with your teeth? But, there are conditions with a high risk of infection and an antibiotic is recommended prior to some dental procedures.
Dentists follow recommendations that have been developed by the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in cooperation with the American Dental Association. Talk to your dentist about how these recommendations might apply to you.
Caregiving for a Disabled or Elderly Loved One
You may have a parent, spouse or friend who has difficulty maintaining a healthy mouth on their own. How can you help? Two things are critical:
- Help them keep their mouth clean with reminders to brush and floss daily.
- Make sure they get to a dentist regularly.
These steps can prevent many problems, but tasks that once seemed so simple can become very challenging. If your loved one is having difficulty with brushing and flossing, talk to a dentist or hygienist who can provide helpful tips or a different approach. For those who wear dentures, pay close attention to their eating habits. If they’re having difficulty eating or are not eating as much as usual, denture problems could be the cause.
When you’re caring for someone who is confined to bed, they may have so many health problems that it’s easy to forget about oral health. However, it’s still very important because bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs and cause pneumonia.