Your Teeth or Your Electricity Bill?

by | Oct 25, 2013 | 0 comments

I’ve been doing geriatric care management for many years, since 1988, but who’s counting?  I visit quite a few doctors with clients, but seldom the dentist. Why? There are a number of reasons I can think of. But first let’s take a look at some dental facts.

Research from the Alliance for Aging shows that nearly 25% of older adults 65-74 have severe periodontal disease, which can be associated with diabetes mellitus, heart disease and stroke.

Mouth dryness is experienced by 30% of those seniors over 65.  Dry mouth contributes more rapidly to advancing tooth decay and the above mentioned gum disease. This condition is often caused by medications. According to the Alliance’s research, there are over 400 drugs with dryness as a side effect. Primary among these medications are blood pressure drugs, cholesterol lowering drugs, and medicines for Alzheimer’s disease.

General tooth decay is also quite prevalent. Nearly one-third of older adults have untreated tooth decay. Fifty percent of those over 75 years of age have root damage. Untreated decay can progress to the pulp of the tooth, causing pain and dental abscess, which may lead to more serious systemic infection.

Here in Westchester County, we are fortunate to have dentists who will make home visits.  They bring with them their instruments as well as a portable x-ray machine. I recall a client who had a new set of dentures made without leaving his home.

With or without traveling dentists, poor dental health is a manifestation of more than not going to the dentist or changing one’s toothbrush every six months. It’s the fact that there is no Medicare dental benefit and only half the states have any kind of dental benefit under Medicaid. Older adults on limited budgets are going to pay their electricity bill before they pay for a dental visit.

So doing without the dentist, whether it be here in Westchester County, or anyplace,  is not a good thing. But this geriatric care manager does not see this as solely the fault of seniors. Perhaps it’s our Government that needs a little root canal work to get to the true cause of this problem. A lot of additional medical costs could be lessened with a Medicare benefit for dental prevention and preservation.


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