According Harvard Medical School, the need for dentures in later life used to be a foregone conclusion. But today, three-quarters of the over-65 population retain at least some of their teeth. Although older people still suffer higher rates of gum disease, dental decay and tooth loss, they can still do a lot to keep their mouth looking and feeling younger than its years.
Q: What are some areas of concern regarding seniors’ dental care?
The main concerns for seniors as they age are maintaining their remaining teeth and minimizing further damage and loss. Receding gums can also be a big concern.
In addition, insurance coverage may be minimal or nonexistent once a senior retires.
Q: What are my options for a missing tooth?
There are generally three options available when a person loses one or more teeth.
1. Recommended is an implant — a standalone option that doesn’t require the presence of any of the other teeth for support. Though keep in mind:
– implanting requires a surgical phase
– multiple implants may need to support a bridge or denture
– they can’t be used in every case
– implants are generally more expensive
2. A fixed/cemented bridge, which is basically two crowns(minimum) that act as anchors to support the missing tooth.
Generally, teeth are needed on both sides of the space created by the missing teeth. In rare cases, the problem can be resolved with a fixed bridge with one anchor — but only if there is just one tooth missing, and the supporting teeth(anchors) must be in good health with adequate bone support, otherwise, the bridge could fail in the future, which could necessitate the need for dentures.
3. Dentures, of which there are generally two types: A partial denture will replace some missing teeth, supported by remaining teeth. A complete or full denture is used when the teeth on one arch or both arches are missing.
Both the partial and full dentures are removable prostheses or both can be implant-supported.
They are the least costly of all the options unless they involve implants.
What can seniors do to retain healthy teeth?
Visit your dentist regularly — every six months as a minimum.
Some insurance companies will allow for more than two teeth cleanings a year if you have diabetes (you would need to check with your respective insurance company on this).
If you are having trouble holding the floss or toothbrush because of arthritis or diminished manual dexterity, use dental floss holders or floss picks. I recommend Cocofloss, which is especially good for those who have spaces between their teeth that constantly trap food.
In addition, seniors can use an electric toothbrush with a large handle, which makes it easier to grip.
A water flosser, such as a Waterpik, is also a great device that seniors can use if the task becomes too difficult.
Mouth washes can be helpful as long as there is no alcohol in them, but they shouldn’t be used as an alternative to flossing and brushing.
Remember, seniors’, teeth and gums need extra care and attention if they want them to stay healthy in their later years.
LANCE TERAMOTO, DDS, INC.
4747 Kilauea Ave., Ste. 101, Honolulu HI 96816
808-725-2135 | www.smilesofaloha.com/