Dental LifeLine Network: Oregon Senior Gets New Teeth

 

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Updated 8/10/15 9:24am | Alert1 recognizes that many seniors and older adults live on limited incomes. Sadly, many do not have the option to receive affordable senior health care. An Oregonian dentist, who is working as part of the Dental Lifeline Network, gave a new set of teeth to Margaret, a 65 year old local resident. Margaret had not seen a dentist for five years because she could not afford dental care. On top of that, she has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. The Dental Lifeline Network helped Margaret connect with a volunteer dentist to replace her missing teeth.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 22% of seniors are covered by dental insurance. Seniors in poverty levels are twice as likely to lose their teeth in comparison to their financially stable counterparts.

Dental health care is not covered by Medicare. Medicaid offers only limited dental coverage. The state of Georgia, for example, only covers extraction and no preventive care.

Oral Health Complications for Seniors

Many seniors that suffer from arthritis have difficulties brushing or flossing. From there a host of oral health complications can take charge. Some of the more common problems include:

  • Darkened teeth from enamel layers thinning, and exposing darker and yellower dentin
  • Dry mouth which is a symptom of reduced saliva flow. Sometimes associated with medications or cancer treatments to the neck or head
  • Root decay caused by the gums receding in the mouth. The roots don’t have enamel and are more prone to decay when compared to the crown part of the tooth
  • Gum disease that traces back to plaque and food left in teeth. Often a problem for seniors with poor diets and diseases like cancer, anemia and diabetes
  • Tooth loss is closely associated with gum disease. Poor substitutes such as bridges or dentures can foster gum disease or diminished sense of taste
  • Denture-induced stomatitis is the inflammation of the tissue supporting the dentures. Poor dental hygiene, and a buildup of fungus can trigger this painful reaction

Combating Poor Oral Health

For seniors that don’t have access to regular dental exams, there are some precautions you can take to prevent and oral health diseases. It’s important that seniors brush at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. Also flossing is something seniors should do once a day. If you have arthritis, you may consider using a dental waterpick to clear the food from your gums. Antibacterial mouth rinse can reduce the amount of harmful bacteria which cause plaque and gum disease. Also be sure to change your toothbrush after 3-4 months of use. Frayed toothbrush bristles won't adequately clean teeth. You should also throw out toothbrushes used if you were recently sick or ill.

Helpful Resources for Seniors that need Dental Care

The Dental Welfare Network is not the only provider of free dental care to senior citizens. Mercy Care, located in Georgia, also provides dental services for seniors who are unable to afford it. Though such pro bono services exist, there are not nearly enough services such as Dental Lifeline Network or Mercy Care to truly provide for American seniors’ dental care needs.

If you are a senior who is interested in free coverage, check your local listings for free dental clinics. In addition, dental schools allow low-cost services provided by dental students under the careful guidance of a licensed dental practitioner. Beyond dental coverage, seniors may desire emergency assistance for all their health needs; Alert1 provides medical alert systems for seniors of various income levels. Leave a comment below to join the discussion.

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