As seniors, we may worry that our hearts aren’t as strong as they used to be. We may worry that our brains can’t hold onto details like they used to. Or we may worry about our eyes, our ears, or how we move and walk.
We don’t usually worry about our teeth.
But consider this:
- Nearly 100% of seniors 65 and older have had a cavity.
- Nearly one in five have lost all their teeth.
- One in five have untreated tooth decay.
- 68% have gum disease.
That’s bad enough, but “Oral health is part of our overall health,” says Suzet Montes de Oca, DDS, a general dentist at Orlando Family Physicians in Altamonte Springs, Florida, part of the InnovaCare Health family of providers. “For example, many patients are not aware that gum disease is related to heart disease. It’s really important.” (Watch full video here)
Seniors who see a dentist regularly and take good care of their teeth can help stop:
Heart disease. Blame it on the germs: Researchers say that the bacteria that causes gum disease can travel through the body and into the heart, swelling the heart’s vessels and even infecting heart valves.
Type 2 diabetes. Taking a closer look at those same germs,studies have also found for people with and without diabetes, gum disease can spike blood sugar levels and boost risk of developing diabetes.
Pneumonia. Cue the ick factor: As you breathe, bacteria in your mouth can float to the lungs, increasing risk of bacterial pneumonia, especially in older adults who smoke.
Stomach problems. That pain in your belly could also be caused by gum disease. For example, studies have found large amounts of oral bacteria in the stomachs of people with digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.
Oral cancer. If you’re a senior around 62 years old and a man, you could be at risk for mouth cancer, especially if you chew tobacco or smoke. Changing your lifestyle now and having a dentist who regularly checks for changes in your mouth is the best way to help prevent or catch early oral cancer.
So, if you’re a senior and don’t see a dentist regularly, make that appointment today. While Medicare does not cover routine dental care, seniors with Medicare Advantage may be covered. For example, Florida’s Orlando Family Physicians and Trinity Medical Group provide $0 copay inhouse dental services to their Medicare Advantage members.
“Patients have no restrictions to get the type of dental treatment that they need,” says Paula Grisales-Cano, a general dentist at Trinity Medical Group in Winter Haven, Florida, part of InnovaCare Health. “That is extremely important, and you cannot see that anywhere else.”
“Any senior out there who needs dental treatment and has been hesitating for a while either because of finances or because they’re just afraid of the dentist, this is a great opportunity,” adds Montes de Oca. “As part of InnovaCare, we’re just very excited to be able to provide that for all of our Medicare Advantage members now.”