As you age, you might be asking yourself quite a few questions about your health. For example, why are you all of a sudden developing cavities when you haven’t had an issue with them in years? As we age, older adults enter a second round of cavity prone years. One common cause is dry mouth, although that is not a normal part of aging. Dry mouth is, however, a common side-effect of many medications (over 500 of them), including ones designed to help with asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases. This is why it is crucial that you tell your dentist about any medications you may be taking. Your dentist will be able to make recommendations to solve dry mouth symptoms and prevent cavities from forming. Here are some common recommendations:
- Find an over-the-counter oral moisturizer, like a spray or a mouthwash.
- Talk to your doctor about your medication and the dosage to see if there are any alternatives.
- Drink more water. You can always carry a water bottle with you, and drink from it even when you aren’t thirsty. Your mouth should be constantly lubricated.
- Feel free to use throat lozenges or sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
- Use a humidifier in your home to keep moisture in the air.
- Skip the foods and drinks that will irritate a dry mouth, including coffee, alcohol, soft drinks with carbonation, and acidic fruit juices.
- Ask your dentist about a fluoride gel to protect your teeth from cavities.
As we age, it’s common for people to develop gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. This is caused by the bacteria in plaque which irritates our gums. This causes swelling, redness, and can lead to bleeding. Gum disease is so widespread because it is pretty painless until it is in the advanced stages. If untreated, your gums may pull away from your teeth and form deep spaces where food and plaque may collect. Advanced gum disease will destroy the gums, the ligaments, and the bone all supporting your teeth, which leads to tooth loss. However, with regular visits to the dentist, gum disease can be treated or prevented.
There are roughly 35,000 cases of mouth, throat, and tongue cancer diagnosed every year, according to the American Cancer Society. To top off that statistic, the average age of people with this diagnosis is 62. During your regular visits to the dentist, your dentist will check for any signs of oral cancer. This is one reason why regular dentist visits are so important! The early stages do not usually cause pain, but early detection could be the difference between life and death. Some symptoms include open sores, white or reddish patching, and changes in the lips, tongue, and lining of the mouth that lasts longer than two weeks or so.
Paying for Dental Care after Retiring
What you might not know is that Medicare does not pay for routine dental care. This means that you will need to plan ahead for all dental expenses before you retire! The good news is, organizations like the AARP offer supplemental dental insurance plans for members. You may also be able to look into a discount dental plan that will leave you with a lower monthly fee than your standard dental insurance package. This works by choosing a dentist who works within the plan network and has chosen to charge 10 to 60 percent less for their services than the typical fee. You then pay for the services with no claim paperwork to fill out. However many dentists will also offer a no interest or low-interest financing plans that may be a good choice for you. If you are worried about your dental care while you are living on a limited income, talk to your dentist! You would be surprised at some of the solutions they may offer.
At Kruckman Family Dentistry, we want to do our best to care for you and your family. Contact us today to learn more about our services! We can help guide you as you navigate dental care in your 60s and beyond. Call now to schedule your appointment. We look forward to speaking with you soon!