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Dental Health Care for Seniors

 

Senior dental health care is very different than health care for kids or adults. Seniors are more susceptible to a number of different oral problems due many different factors including aging, lack of adequate dental insurance, and the inability to provide dental hygiene for themselves.

These factors, along side other problems seniors face, such as medical problems like arthritis or other disabilities such as blindness can cause further problems for seniors. For example, an older person who has arthritis may not be able to brush their teeth for two minutes, or they may not be strong enough to apply the correct amount of pressure on the toothbrush. Dental experts say seniors are at risk for ignoring tooth decay and tooth infection until it’s too late and extraction of the tooth is the only solution. Unfortunately, insurance companies and state-aid programs like Medicaid and Medicare do not cover the costs of anything except extractions. Therefore, restorative solutions such as dental implants or veneers are not covered. Occasionally, dentures are not covered either depending on the insurance provider.

Dentists may pay particular attention to details such as tooth loss, enamel wear, receding gums and tooth stains on seniors more closely than they do on kids and adults. Dentists can also provide different tips to help seniors who have problems with mobility. Let’s talk about some of those tips now.

Dental Health Care Tips for Seniors

Dentists are trained to pay particular attention to their elderly patients, and for good reason. Unfortunately as we age, so do the rest of our bones, muscles, joints and tissues including the ones in our oral and maxillofacial (mouth, jaw and neck) region. Seniors should keep a few things in mind as they grow older to help prevent further problems with their teeth, gums and surrounding tissues, including:

  • If you wear dentures, you should continue to practice proper brushing and flossing methods twice a day.
  • Keep your dentist in the loop with your medical conditions, medications, appointments, etc. so they may be more aware of potential problems.
  • Visit the dentist at least twice a year, possibly more if you are susceptible to oral conditions or diseases.
  • Brush your tongue everyday to help fight bacteria that leads to bad breath and other bacterial infections
  • Continue to eat properly. Apples are a great alternative to a unhealthy snack, as they fill up your stomach and act as a natural tooth cleaner.
  • Eat crunchy foods such as apples, instead of hard foods hard candies.
  • Make sure you’re receiving the proper amount of nutrients everyday. If you’re unable to get your nutrients through food, try taking vitamins.
  • Continue exercising as you age. If your body’s overall health is good, it should result in good oral health.
  • Flossing should not be neglected, especially if you do not have false teeth.
  • Consider using an electric toothbrush that can get to those hard-to-reach places.
  • Know the warning signs that there is a problem, such as when your gums bleed after brushing, mouth sores appear or your jaw begins popping or making a clicking sound.

If you are experiencing difficulties when trying to give proper oral care to yourself, you may want to speak with your dentist about it. He or she can help you come up with a solution that will benefit you in the long run. Dentists usually have special-made toothbrushes, toothpastes, floss and other dental hygiene products that aren’t found over-the-counter. These items may be able to prevent future dental problems.

Dental Health Care Coverage for Seniors

Many times seniors run into problems with insurance companies and state-aid programs. Unfortunately, many private-owned dental insurance companies do not cover pre-existing problems or conditions. And seniors usually have pre-existing conditions. Medicaid and Medicare is available, as well as AARP (American Association for Retired People).

Unlike dental insurance, dental plans are discounted programs so members can receive dental care services at discounted rates. Discount senior dental plans are usually less expensive than dental insurance plans, and don’t have things such as annual limits attached to them. Plus, dental plans for seniors can be used in collaboration with dental insurance to reduce costs even more.

Next, read:

Dental Health Care for Adults

Dental Health Care for Kids

Page updated September 2012

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