There are many reasons to why the seniors are skipping their dental appointment. The most common reasons are fear and the years of neglect. Other reasons include the difficulty of getting to a dental office due to immobility or inaccessibility, and their impaired cognitive skills which hinders their understanding of the need to go for dental checkups.
There is a higher chance of older patients having a history of strokes or arthritis, which means that they are more prone to tooth decay and pain because they are unable to take care of their own teeth. Hence, it becomes complicated to treat older patients.
For older patients who are eager for dental care, they may not have sufficient funds to foot the dental bill. Medicare, which covers medical care for Americans 65 years old and older, does not include routine dental checkups, and when the seniors retire, many of them lose coverage through other insurance plans. The states are not required to provide the insurance program for low-income Americans, Medicaid, to adults. Furthermore, as of 2015, only 15 states offer Medicaid recipients a comprehensive dental benefit.
Risks of Other Diseases
Poor oral hygiene and oral care can lead to the inability to eat, a loss of dignity and the potential to develop into oral diseases such as gum disease. The bacteria that cause gum disease can increase the risk of other non-oral diseases such as aneurysms and coronary heart disease. For that reason, a regular dental appointment is a must.
The oral health system currently is not equipped to handle a huge wave of individuals who are in need of dental care. For the older patients, it becomes a luxury to afford even basic dental care, which increases the difficulty to maintain good oral health. Experts say that there is a need to provide training to more dentists to equip them with the knowledge to treat elderly patients.
Dental schools are making an effort to train their students who are interested in geriatric care, and Mulligan offers am online master’s degree program for dentists who are interested in geriatric care.
The University of the Pacific’s dental students had to spend time at On Lok Lifeways, which is an organization that serves seniors. The university professor was assigned to supervise students as they treated the patients. The patients who visited the dental clinic had dementia, missing teeth, and other non-oral health problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes. One 82-year-old patient had signs of an infections and bone loss but refused to do cleaning and X-ray scans. Another 95-year-old patient had to close his mouth in several different ways so the students could take X-rays.
Dr. Alex Rubinov is a professional dentist based in New York who offers various dental services. Contact us at (718) 253-0800 for an appointment.