Aging is different for everyone. But by age 60, most people have at least experienced some negative oral health consequences. Not everyone, for example, has a full set of healthy teeth, like the fellow in this video. And even those who have brushed and flossed regularly, eaten a healthy diet, refrained from smoking, can still have oral health challenges. And even those who have visited the dentist regularly for checkups and dental cleanings can be impacted at some point by a toothache, mouth pain or other discomfort.
By age 60, you may be more prone to bad breath or dry mouth, oral health impacts as a result of medications, gum (periodontal) disease, and sensitive teeth. You may be suffering the impacts of poor diet or food insecurity. Or you may be undergoing increasing physical and cognitive challenges. You may also have, or be in need of full or partial dentures to replace missing or extracted teeth.
Whether you have a full set of mostly healthy teeth, are missing or at risk of missing some or all of your teeth, you’re never too old to learn how to keep your mouth as healthy as it can be.
THE GOOD NEWS
There is good news according to the December 2021 Oral Health in America report by the U.S. Surgeon General and NIH. Many “baby boomers,” (those born from 1946 to 1964), will keep their teeth longer than any generation before. Further, among adults 65–74 years of age, just 13% have lost all their teeth, compared with 50% in the 1960s.
THE NOT SO GOOD NEWS
However, substantial oral health challenges remain. According to the same report:
97% of older adults have some form of tooth decay that requires treatment. And many disparities exist that result in decay for some to go untreated.
Four out of five older adults live with at least one chronic disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These diseases may have direct implications for the health of teeth and gums. Diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s make it difficult to maintain good oral hygiene or obtain regular dental care.
Nearly 1 in 5 adults report moderate to high dental fear or anxiety. This prevents some adults from seeking needed oral health care, or results in cancelled or missed appointments for treatment.
Nearly 1 in 10 older adults suffer from severe gum disease (periodontitis). Older men, Hispanic and African American individuals, and those who are poor or who have fewer years of education are at increased risk for severe periodontitis.
Disparities abound. Some older adults experience inequities in tooth loss, untreated decay, periodontal diseases, and other oral diseases more than others. In addition to economic barriers, older adults experience the similar social, racial, and ethnic disparities that affect other age groups—in addition to age discrimination. Further, receiving appropriate oral health care can be especially difficult for older adults who are frail, disabled, homebound, or who reside in long-term care facilities.
Oral health care should be a “must” not an option for older adults. Despite higher expectations than ever before that one should maintain one’s own natural teeth, society continues to accept declines in oral health related to aging that make oral health care an elective, rather than a mandatory, part of overall health care.
The December 2021 Oral Health in America report noted that 23 states in the country offer more than emergency or limited dental coverage for adults with Medicaid (HUSKY Health). The good news is Connecticut is one of them. It’s your turn to make sure you are brushing and flossing regularly, and getting routine dental assessments and cleanings.
*Source: 2021 Surgeon General’s report, Oral Health in America
To learn more about dentures or for more information on some problems you may be experiencing, visit the links in our KEY LINKS AND CONTACTS section on this page.