5 Common Concerns for Elderly Dental Patients

1) The Link Between Medications and Cavities

Cavities are most often associated with the teen and young adult years.  Many older adults are surprised to develop cavities later in life, especially if they’ve had good oral hygiene habits and visited the dentist regularly.  One of the leading causes of cavities is dry mouth, which is a common side effect of many medications that are prescribed later in life to treat a variety of conditions.  Always let your dentist know about all medications you take (both prescription and over-the-counter) so they can make treatment recommendations if necessary.

2) Gum Disease

Gum disease (aka periodontal disease) is common in older adults.  It’s caused by the bacteria in plaque and is characterized by swollen, red gums that bleed easily.  Because periodontal disease is painless in it’s early stages, it’s often not diagnosed until damage has already been done. In advanced stages, the gums pull away from teeth and eventually the bone and ligaments supporting the teeth deteriorate as well. Regular dental visits ensure that gum disease is caught and treated early.

3) Mouth Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, there are 35,000 cases of mouth, throat, and tongue cancer each year. The average age of people diagnosed with these cancers is 62. Regular dental check ups are the first line of defense in catching oral cancers in their early stages.

4) Paying for Dental Care after Retirement

Sadly, Medicare does not cover regular dental care. It’s important to plan for dental expenses before retirement so your oral health doesn’t suffer once you’re on a fixed income.  There are many options and research resources available. The AARP is a good place to start.

5) Do I Need to Take an Antibiotic before a Dental Procedure?

Do you have a heart condition or artificial joint?  Be sure to tell your dentist. It might not seem relevant, but there are conditions with a high risk of infection which may require an antibiotic prior to a dental procedure.

Source: The American Dental Association