Oral health is even more important the older we get.
Remember when your parent was the one asking you if you’d eaten today or if you were eating right? Remember when your parent was concerned about your late nights and the amount of stress you were under? It feels like a moment ago, but now the roles have flipped. Now you’re the one concerned because you haven’t seen your parent eat a thing that didn’t come from a box or a can in ages. You’re wondering, too, if they’re sleeping well enough at night, because they always seem to be tired.
For others, they have become the primary caregiver for their elderly parent. It’s a role-reversal that no one can ever be truly prepared for, no matter the circumstances. You’re the one who is making sure medication is getting picked up, sorted into a daily and weekly (or monthly) pill minder, and taken regularly. It’s now you’re job to make sure your loved one makes it to their checkups and has someone to advocate for them in this stage of life.
Consider this the string around your finger to remind you to include regular visits to the dentist on your list of things to keep your loved one healthy.
Oral health is undoubtedly important at every stage of life, but for individuals 65 years of age and older, healthy teeth and gums play an even more significant role in their overall health.
It’s easy for oral health to be put on the back burner, especially when your parent feels that their teeth and gums are doing just fine or if there are ongoing medical issues. However, even if nothing seems to be wrong, regular trips to the dentist for preventive care are still a vital part of looking out for their overall health. Visiting a periodontist is especially recommended for seniors as the risks of gum disease and other periodontal disease increase with age.
Let’s take a look at 5 reasons why you should schedule or encourage your parents to schedule regular periodontist appointments.
1. Periodontal disease is the #1 cause of tooth loss and gum disease.
According to the CDC, roughly 68% of adults aged over 65 have gum disease.
Periodontal disease (or gum disease) is an inflammatory condition affecting the gums and underlying tissues around the teeth. Gum disease generally begins as gingivitis and turns into periodontitis when left untreated. Severe periodontitis can cause irreversible damage to the gums, teeth, and even the jaw bone.
It’s possible to have mild to moderate gum disease without even knowing it. Due to the seriousness of gum disease, especially with our immune system lowering as we get older, it’s important to have regular visits with a periodontist like Dr. Wilson.
Dr. Wilson is one of the first periodontists in Hutchinson, KS, to offer LANAP laser treatment for the treatment of gum disease. LANAP treatment offers reduced healing time and better treatment outcomes. There’s also less risk of infection and a high rate of tissue regeneration compared to surgical treatment options. This is mostly due to the fact that LANAP targets only the diseased tissue, leaving the healthy tissue behind. This kind of precision isn’t available with a classic surgical method.
2. Oral cancer is most commonly diagnosed in patients around the age of 62 years old.
Another statistic brought forth by the CDC is that oral cancer is diagnosed most often in seniors, with the median age for diagnosis being 62 years. Age 62 sits in the middle of the number of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer at any age. Based on the overall age demographics in the United States, that means there are more 62-and-older adults with an oral cancer diagnosis than there are in any other age group.
It goes without saying that every form of cancer is serious, but oral cancer is particularly dangerous as one in four cases turns fatal. The main reason for this is that catching oral cancer before it progresses is close to impossible without regular oral cancer screenings. This means that your parents’ general doctor is very unlikely to be checking them for this form of cancer during preventive exams.
Dr. Wilson, as a periodontist, can put you and parents’ minds as rest by performing annual oral cancer screenings. With regular screenings, oral cancer can be caught very early on and treatment can start immediately. In fact, there’s a 90% success rate after treatment with an early diagnosis of oral cancer.
3. Your parents may not be brushing or flossing properly or using the right products.
Asking your parents about their brushing and flossing regimen and what products they use can feel uncomfortable for adult kids who might be worried about overstepping boundaries. If you feel like you’re in this situation, it’s not a bad idea to privately ask your parents’ dentist to go over these things during their exam. Even though Dr. Wilson is a periodontist, he can still give advice on proper brushing, flossing, and product selection.
Some common contributors to gum-related issues, such as receding gum lines, is toothpaste abrasiveness, flossing technique, and toothbrush type. It’s recommended to use a toothpaste with an abrasion level under 70 (check out this chart to learn more). As for flossing technique, Dr. Wilson or one of his hygienists can teach your parents the best way to floss without damaging their gums.
Dr. Wilson may also remind your parents to only use soft-bristle brushes and recommend they switch to an electric toothbrush, especially if arthritis and other mobility issues make proper brushing with a manual toothbrush difficult.
4. Poor oral health affects the whole body and can increase the risk of heart disease.
More and more research shows a strong correlation between oral health and heart health in particular. While the exact cause and effect aren’t known, many dentists and doctors agree that there is a strong link between the two. The link is even stronger when considering periodontal (gum) health.
The theory is that inflammation within the gums can spread to the rest of the body when bacteria enters the bloodstream. The same type of bacteria found in periodontal disease is actually one of the same types of bacteria that can cause a stroke. Doctors have found that when this bacteria is absent, there is less of this stroke-causing bacteria in the heart.
By having your parents maintain regular appointments with a periodontist like Dr. Wilson, you can help decrease their chances of developing heart disease. And if gum disease is already present, you can inform their general doctors so you can take a proactive approach to catch heart disease before it becomes a problem. Either way, periodontal care appointments are a win-win situation.
5. Badly-fitting dentures can cause discomfort.
Improperly fitting dentures can cause a number of problems, including nutritional deficiencies from not being able to chew to potentially increasing the risk of developing oral cancer. Regular dental appointments are the only way to know if your parents’ dentures are properly fitted. Many elderly patients may not even be aware of their dentures not fitting correctly or sores on their gums under the dentures.
Dr. Wilson offers implant-supported dentures, a much more sturdy and comfortable alternative to traditional dentures. With implant-supported dentures, your parents won’t need to worry about loose dentures, mouth sores, or discomfort while chewing or speaking. Since the implants are placed directly into the jaw bone, overall facial bone health is also protected, and the sunken facial appearance related to those with poorly fitted, traditional dentures isn’t as much of a concern.
To see if your parents are candidates for implant-supported dentures, schedule a consultation with a periodontist like Dr. Wilson to learn more about this option.
Dr. Wilson can help keep your parents’ oral health on track.
Dr. Wilson is a periodontist who’s ready to work with you and your parents to ensure their oral health is on the right track.
Compared to other periodontists in Hutchinson, KS, Dr. Wilson is uniquely qualified in that he offers a range of different services to his patients. With his extensive experience in dental implants, bone grafting, and bone regeneration, your parents will not only have their periodontal health addressed but also be able to receive preventive and restorative care as well.
With Dr. Wilson’s expertise and the help of his skilled team, your parents will be in caring hands during exams and treatment. Our team is very compassionate and skilled in helping patients with dental anxieties and phobias, making us a great choice for elderly patients who may feel nervous about seeing a dentist.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment for your parents, you can give us a call. You can also find our location and office hours on our Contact Us page.