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Elderly Americans have all kinds of serious issues that occupy their thoughts. Elderly individuals have to deal with all kinds of health concerns, memory problems and financial trouble. In fact, the Metlife Mature Market Institute recently reported the total loss suffered by victims of elder financial abuse each year is $2.6 billion.
Combine those concerns with chronic healthcare problems and it’s easy to see why comparatively minor issues such as untreated cavities could go ignored. However, new research shows that ignoring these geriatric dental problems would be a major mistake.
At least one in five Americans has one or more untreated cavities. Though some cavities can just cause minor, insignificant dental problems, some, especially when it comes to the elderly, can spiral into major dental and health concerns.
According to The Tomahawk, older Americans who neglect oral care are putting their entire health and wellbeing at risk.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 96% of Americans over the age of 65 has had a cavity, and 20% currently have some form of untreated tooth decay. Another 65% of this aging population suffers from gum disease, which can directly lead to heart diseases, strokes, and diabetes.
“Anyone who thinks they can ease up on dental care as they age is making a big mistake,” said Dr. Harold Katz, a dentist, bacteriologist and developer of TheraBreath Healthy Gums Oral Rinse. “Not only do poor dental habits affect what’s going on in your mouth, they also affect your overall health.”
Here are some of the serious dental problems that can occur when even a single cavity is ignored in both the early and the later stages of life:
- Increased sensitivity — As cavities progress, the infected tooth will be far more sensitive to both hot and cold temperatures. Coffee will no longer be a feasible option and a cold glass of water can’t even be enjoyed.
- Mouth and tooth pain — Over time, since the cavity will continue to progress without proper dental care, the infected tooth and entire mouth will become much more painful to use. Anyone, especially elderly individuals, require food for energy. If the dental pain becomes too severe, you won’t even be able to chew and digest food, which is a clear sign that a professional dentist needs to be consulted.
- Swelling — If bacteria reaches the pulp inside the tooth, it can easily become abscessed, resulting in severe swelling that requires surgery. Any kind of swelling is the body’s way of telling someone that it’s time to address the inflammation inside the mouth.
- Oral cancer — Oral and pharyngeal cancers are primarily diagnosed in older adults, and the median age at diagnosis is 62 years. Visiting the dentist can help easily identify any oral cancers or other concerns.
“As you age, proper oral care is just as important as ever,” Dr. Katz added. “It’s not something you want to ignore because your overall health is at stake.”