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December 19, 2016

Dental Care of Senior Citizens by Smile Symphony, Lithia Springs Dentist

By 2030, it's projected that one in 5 adults will be aged 65 or older. With the aging patients comes the unique challenges our senior citizens face.

We find that more patients in their 60s, 70s and beyond still have their own teeth, for several reasons:

  1. Preventive care is getting better.
  2. Dental insurance provided by work has helped them to maintain good oral care.
  3. More senior citizens are choosing treatments to save the teeth.
  4. The attitude of tooth loss in old age being inevitable has been shifted.
  5. Advances in dental care enabling people to keep teeth throughout their life time.

Dentists at Smile Symphony have seen a trend that seniors are not only thinking about saving their teeth but also want brighter and whiter teeth. Today it is very common to see a 65 year-old not wearing any dentures.

Dental Challenges Of Aging Patients/ Senior Citizens

Medical Complexities

As patients age, they become medically more complex. The dentists in our Lithia Springs Dental office have both the knowledge and expertise to help these patients.

Our dentists understand that older patients have issues with comorbidity and polypharmacy. The most common diseases we see in the older adult population are high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and arthritis. The medications taken for these conditions can affect their oral health as well.

Lack of dental insurance

As senior citizens retire, they may lose their dental insurance and hence don't see the dentist regularly. But senior adults are the ones who need to visit the dentist the most, due to the medical complexities listed above.

Medicare doesn't cover dental care, unfortunately, and most senior citizens aren't aware of it.

In Georgia, Medicaid pays for a limited number of dental services for older adults. Our well-trained staff in Lithia Springs dental office can provide a membership plan for older patients who really need help.

Reduced Mobility

Most older adults have heavily restored teeth that require good oral hygiene, but they are hampered by the arthritic changes in their hands.

Patients with arthritis have trouble holding their toothbrush properly or flossing effectively. This necessitates more frequent cleanings and dental exams.

Furthermore, lack of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles for getting dental care to patients live in nursing homes.

The dentists at Smile Symphony consider all these things when determining dental care for our senior patients.

Cognitive Function

At Smile Symphony we try to communicate at the level of understanding of our older patient; if necessary, we can involve their children, spouses or legal guardian with treatment plan discussions and treatment consent.

Common Oral Conditions Associated With Older Adults

The dentists at Smile Symphony are aware of various oral health conditions that are associated with taking multiple medications. Here are some common oral conditions:

Dry Mouth: Also called Xerostomia. Statistics show that about 30 percent of patients aged 65 years or older, and 40 percent of patients age 80, have dry mouth. This is the most common oral health issue in senior citizens. Dry mouth can cause mucositis, inflammation of the mouth, dental decay/tooth decay, cracked lips, and fissures on the tongue.

Root Decay: Half of all elderly patients aged 75 or older have at least one tooth affected by root decay.

Why do elderly patients get root decay?

Older adults have receded gums that expose the softer root of their teeth, which becomes susceptible to decay and medication-induced dry mouth.

Gum Disease/Periodontal Disease: Periodontal disease affects older adults more than young adults. Other factors affecting gum health are smoking, lower income, and less education. It is shown that African-American and Hispanic seniors are more likely to have periodontal disease.

Oral Infections/Candidiasis: A significant percentage of older adults have oral infections, including candidiasis (oral thrush). Our dentists at Smile Symphony do a comprehensive oral examination to rule out any infections, and also do oral cancer screening.

Communication with older adults

Our Lithia Springs dentists strive for clear communication with older adults by:

  1. Talking to the patient directly.
  2. Keeping steady eye contact with the patient.
  3. Not wearing eye wear or masks while talking.
  4. Cutting out external noises like TV, radio and suction units.
  5. Explaining treatments with visual models and videos.
  6. Speaking clearly-- not loudly.
  7. Repeating sentences again as needed.
  8. Written treatment plans typed in a bigger font for clarity.
  9. Using every day words and avoiding dental jargon.
  10. Last but not the least, treating older adults with respect and dignity.
We welcome new patients. Call today to learn more.
about the author

Dr. Kenneth Bunn, DMD.

I value my relationship with each and every one of my patients and hope we develop lifelong bonds.
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