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Think You’re Too Old for Cavities? Think Again

Feb 10, 2015

By Dean George

The good news about middle age is that the glass is still half full. The bad news is that pretty soon there’s a chance your teeth will be floating in it.

Or have you heard this one? You know you’re getting old when you and your teeth no longer sleep together.


There’s no shortage of jokes about seniors and teeth, but recently the joke was on a Niles, Illinois dentist treating an 87-year-old woman. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,” said surprised dentist Alice Boghosian when finding a cavity in her octogenarian patient. Adding to Boghosian’s surprise?

The patient was her own mother.

As previously reported in Agent Straight-Talk, seniors have more miles on their toothy smiles than 50 years ago when half of people over age 65 had lost all their teeth and needed dentures. The reason more seniors are keeping their “original equipment” longer is due largely to increased oral care knowledge and technological advances.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that 15% of people ages 65-74 and 22% of those over age 75 are toothless.

For those seniors that have entered their golden years with their pearlies still relatively intact, that doesn't mean that they are immune from the same cavities and tooth problems as their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  “It’s as much a problem in seniors as it is in kids,” said Judith Jones, a professor of general dentistry, health policy and health services research at Boston University.

Many tooth problems for seniors and youth alike originate from the same reasons: sticky foods, acidic drinks, the consumption of too much sugar and postponing dental visits until it may be too late. 

But seniors get a double whammy on maintaining healthy teeth that don’t affect many youth, including:

  • Dry mouth from side effects from certain medications and certain diseases
  • Periodontal (gum) disease due to untreated plaque, poor diets, and ill-fitting dentures and bridges
  • Tooth root decay due to long term exposure to soft drinks, fruit juices and acidic foods
  • Forgetting to brush due to dementia, strokes and lost dexterity due to arthritis or other ailments
  • No coverage because they are retired and Medicare does not cover routine dental care

Unfortunately cavities don’t care if you are aged 7 or 77. If you don’t brush twice daily for two minutes each time, floss regularly and visit the dentist on a regular basis, odds are good that cavities will find you before you find the dentist, and at that point it may be too late to save the affected tooth.

Fortunately Dental Insurance Store offers seniors standard dental plans that include the same level of benefits available to non-seniors, regardless of age. Some plans even include three cleanings per year and no waiting period.  To see plans available in your area, click here.

Source: USA Today, bu.edu
Photo source: alldentalcenter.com


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