The Biggest Dental Concerns Facing The Aging Population



The baby boomer generation is now finally starting to hit their mid- to late-sixties. The rapidly increasing number of seniors means that the field of dentistry will be hit with an onslaught of challenges in the near future.


In the past, dentures were the typical path for people during the later season of their lives. Now, elderly individuals are keeping their original teeth longer due to advancements in technology, equipment, research, and education.


While this sounds promising, it is actually causing predicaments in geriatric dentistry. Because elderly patients are keeping their original teeth longer, they are beginning to suffer from more serious cases of periodontitis and tooth decay, which, as it turns out, has a direct influence on their overall quality of life.


Within the aging population, 80 percent of seniors develop at least one chronic condition during their lifetime. Cardiovascular disease – one of the leading causes of death in elderly Americans – is influenced by a common dental issue in seniors: periodontal disease, or gum inflammation. Diabetes can also be traced back to this same condition, which, when detected at any stage, can be actively treated.


But poor oral hygiene doesn’t just contribute to ailing physical health, it can lead to many social implications as well. Broken or missing teeth have a direct impact on physical appearance, which, societally, is an undesirable look. To the same effect, any changes in tooth or bone can make speaking more difficult, which makes talking to others more challenging – and embarrassing.


Many people point the finger at individuals for not pursuing a proper dental routine. What they don’t realize is that over 10,000 Americans are retiring every day, which means that many lose their dental insurance benefits and can no longer afford to pay for even routine cleanings at a dentist’s office, let alone a more expensive procedure.


Over 70 percent of seniors lack any sort of dental insurance, which is a serious concern. Seniors who have dental insurance are more likely to see a dentist, but even those that don’t can often find a way to cover the costs. But studies have shown that double the amount of low-income Americans have gum disease than compared to more wealthy individuals, simply because they can’t afford better care.


But there is another issue that plagues an elderly adult’s access to care and that is the general detachment of nursing homes and oral hygiene. Athena Papas, Professor of Dental Research at the School of Dental Medicine, addresses this by stating, “In nursing homes, frequently the staff is not good about maintaining oral health, not like they are about preventing bed sores or preventing falls.” Nursing homes are required to provide all-around care to its residents, but dental health becomes a nurse’s last priority or gets ignored completely.


This lack of concern for the state of our senior’s oral hygiene is appalling, especially because researchers are aware that it diminishes a person’s quality of life. Onsite Dentists Of Texas is doing our part to serve seniors by bringing dental care to those in the Greater Dallas Area, working with nursing homes to handle the necessary paperwork and working with Medicaid to ensure they don’t pay anything out of pocket – but this needs to happen on a national scale.


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