With about 10,000 Baby Boomers in the U.S retiring every single day. often the loss of dental benefits goes hand in hand with the retirement process. Dentists caution that maintaining good oral health during retirement is as critical as taking care of any other part of the body.
“Dental coverage, even basic care, is not and never will be provided under Medicare or the Affordable care act, and supplemental private policies are very expensive,” said Dr. Steve Mascarin. “The result is, over 70% of retiring baby boomers have no dental insurance. This is significant because that mass of boomers is highly unlikely to return for the vital regular six-month cleaning visit.”
People are living much longer today than in just the most recent generation—in some cases three decades or more—It’s important to ask your dental provider to educate you on best practices to take care of your teeth as you age. Ignoring oral health can lead to poor overall health too. “The inability to chew leads to malnutrition, warped speech, pain, social isolation due to embarrassment, and is a contributing factor to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease,” he said. “The most important cost effective habits that boomers must continue into retirement are regular home care, 3-6 month professional cleanings and annual check-ups from a dentist.”
Maintaining good oral health needs to begin as soon as retirement does, if you aren’t already, because that is when teeth are in the best condition. “Most baby boomers have received regular dental care for most of their lives and thus go into retirement with most or all their own teeth. But many lose their dental benefits when they retire and unfortunately stop their regular cleaning and maintenance appointments. This is a huge mistake. Three to six-month cleanings are necessary not only to prevent major problems but to identify and treat potential problems in the early stages to avoid the need for implants, root canal or oral surgery. Who wouldn’t rather have an easy small filling than one of the big league treatments?”
The importance of regular checkups and cleanings can also have a huge impact on overall health . Periodontal disease and gum infection worsens when you miss a cleaning. “This occurs in 80% of the population. Bacteria, which is always present in every human’s mouth, are given the chance to fester and grow below the gum line where home brushing and flossing don’t reach. Incidentally, this is what your dental hygienist cleans at your cleaning appointment where you can’t reach. The infection slowly grows, eating away supporting bone, causing severe bad breath and most notably, significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. And now we are finding links with Alzheimer’s disease. Thousands of studies are proving that gum infections are a contributing factor to heart disease, stroke, adult onset diabetes and erectile dysfunction.”
In an article for Medical News Today, Honor Whiteman described a study by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the UK who found that people with poor oral hygiene or gum disease could be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared with those who have healthy teeth.
Researchers had discovered the presence of bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivitis in the brains of patients who had dementia when they were alive. This bug, they wrote in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, where the study was published, is usually associated with chronic periodontal disease.
The university’s study adds to previous findings by New York University in 2010 that linked poor oral health to Alzheimer’s disease. Those researchers asserted that gum disease could increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction.
Prof. StJohn Crean, executive dean of the College of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Medical Dentistry at UCLan, was quoted by Whiteman on this most recent research: “Whereas previous studies have indicated a link between dementia and other bacteria and viruses such as the Herpes simplex virus type 1, this new research indicates a possible association between gum disease and individuals who may be susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s disease, if exposed to the appropriate trigger. Research currently underway at UCLan is playing an active role in exploring this link, but it remains to be proven whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people, which obviously could have significant implications for the population as a whole. It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse.”
The Alzheimer’s Society concurs that there are two main types of dental disease—gum (periodontal) disease and tooth decay (commonly known as cavities)—when these diseases worsen, the confusion associated with dementia grows.
Technological advances in Dentistry have come a long way since wooden dentures. Dentures in the 21st century are usually made from various types of acrylic resin or porcelain with implants or posts surgically placed to the upper or lower jaw to anchor a replacement tooth, several teeth or a full set of dentures, are made of titanium and other materials that are easily accepted by the human body.
With materials closer to natural teeth than ever before, dentures have become more translucent, as opposed to ceramic or cheaper acrylic and is becoming increasingly less expensive. When looking for a for a dentist who caters to aging teeth, consider asking questions specific to the needs of baby boomers. Washington Park Dentists are versed in all matters that are most important during retirement.