May 30, 2007
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
Seniors Can Smile Into Retirement with Proper Care
“Teeth are meant to last a lifetime,” says the American Dental Association. “It is a myth that adults can expect to lose many of them later in life.”
According to Dr. Bruce Terry, a Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) member and endodontist from Wayne, a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the number of seniors age 65 and older missing all of their teeth has decreased by 20 percent in the past 15 years.
Oral hygiene is important at all stages of life, from childhood into the golden years.
“Dental care is a lifelong endeavor,” said Dr. Terry. “Older adults are at risk for dental problems equal to or greater than children.”
If you are part of the older population, PDA offers the following tips to enhance good oral hygiene:
- Brush and floss twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Bring a list of current medications to your dental visit, including over-the-counter drugs. When mixed together, certain drugs can have harmful interactions.
- Establish good nutritional habits. Avoid foods that contain sugars or cooked starches.
- Alleviate dry mouth by increasing fluid intake, chewing sugarless gum, sucking on sugarless candy or using artificial saliva or other oral rinses designed to increase saliva flow. If you suffer from dry mouth, check with your dentist on which remedy is right for you. If left untreated, dry mouth can increase your chances of developing dental decay or other oral infections.
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol use. Among other things, tobacco and alcohol use increases the risk for gum disease and oral cancer.
- If you wear dentures, they should be cleaned after meals and before going to bed at night. Dentures should be removed from the mouth for at least four hours a day or as otherwise directed by your dentist. If you notice changes in your gums such as red or white sores or raised bumps, report them to your dentist immediately. See your dentist for needed maintenance or replacement.
"Healthy teeth directly translate to a longer, healthier life,” said Dr. Terry. If you exercise and watch what you eat then you definitely want to take care of your teeth. It's the easiest of the things you can do to live longer.”
Today, approximately 50 percent of dental associations sponsor programs that are targeted towards the older population, among them, the Senior Dental Care Program (SDCP) sponsored by PDA. The SDCP offers reduced cost dental care to eligible seniors by dentists who are members of PDA. More than 1,000 PDA member dentists participate in this program.
In order to be eligible, a patient must be 65 years or older, not be receiving federal, state or other dental health assistance and have a total annual household income of less than $14,500 for a single person or less than $17,700 for a married couple.
“Good dental care involves regular visits to their dentist to detect and repair problems early. Many people think that if nothing hurts then they are OK. However, many forms of early tooth and gum disease are painless and invisible to the patient,” warns Dr. Terry.View more information about geriatric dental care.
Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.