How essential is having a healthy mouth to your physical health? According to many medical experts, you really can’t be in peak physical condition if your oral health isn't what it should be.

Dentists who are aware of this correlation tell their patients to think about their mouths as the “gateway to wellness.”

No matter how many trips you’ve made around the sun, good oral health is important to your overall quality of life.

From being able to chew food properly and without pain to tasting what you're chewing, good oral health reduces the likelihood of developing other health issues. For seniors, maintaining oral health becomes even more important. This is because as people age, they become more susceptible to diseases.

Recent studies have shown that the correlation between oral health and overall body health is closer than what was previously believed. According to a recent study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that gum disease increases with age, and 70% of adults 65 years and older are affected. Some risk factors for gum disease are:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Stress
  • Defective fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures
  • Taking medications that cause dry mouth
  • Diabetes
  • Heredity
  • Smoking

Research also links gum disease to other conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and pneumonia. Preliminary reports suggest that gum disease may be linked to Alzheimer’s.

Decay and oral cancers can also become more prevalent with age. One out of every four persons aged 65 and older has dental decay. The National Institute of Health reports oral cancer rates for adults aged 60-69 is 33.9% and those aged 70+ is 40.2%.

How Can Dentists Help Their Patient Age Well?

There will be 74 million older adults — those who are 65 years of age and older — in the United States by 2030, according to Oral Health America’s A State of Decay, Vol. III report (2016). With larger parts of the U.S. population getting older, dentists will need to consider if they are prepared to properly serve their aging patients.

With the aging of a dentist’s patient base come a number of unique challenges an older individual may face — challenges that dental professionals must be ready to address as well. These include increased medical complexities, lack of dental insurance, reduced mobility and cognitive function, just to name a few.

Participation from the entire dental team is necessary to ensure that patients are well-educated and equipped for optimal oral health, even into old age.