Elderly individuals need to visit the dental health professional more often than their younger counterparts, because this population has a higher chance of experiencing a number of dental problems. However, while most people can just show up at the dentist and be ready to follow his or her lead during their cleaning, older people need to come prepared. These individuals should make a checklist of all of the things they need to do before they see the dentist, so they don't leave any important items or information behind.
Without proper preparation, elderly people may find themselves unable to receive the dental care they need.
Recently, HealthDay reported on some of the recommendations that the American Dental Association has for how older people should prepare for a dental visit. For example, people should make a list of all the medications they are taking, including vitamins and supplements. Some of the medications a dentist may need to use during a procedure or prescribe after one may negatively interact with certain pills, so a dentist needs to know everything an older person is taking. Similarly, elderly individuals need to tell their dentists all of the medical conditions or allergies they have, particularly if they are diabetic, since diabetes can make people more vulnerable to gum disease.
However, if older people don't tell their dentist about their diabetes, he or she will probably figure it out anyway.
"When I see a patient with symptoms like frequent gum abscesses, swelling, a lot of bone loss in a short amount of time and gum disease that doesn't respond to normal treatment, those can be signs that they have diabetes," Sally Cram, D.D.S., a periodontist in Washington, D.C., and spokeswoman for the ADA, told WebMD. "Over the years, I've had at least a dozen patients who I identified as diabetic and they didn't know it."
Along with being honest about medications and medical conditions, older people should present the dentist with a list of important phone numbers. This should include the numbers of previous dentists and any doctors they are seeing for reference, as well as individuals who are qualified to make medical decisions for them in case of an emergency. Of course, it's also important for older people to remember to bring their insurance card or the card proving they are a member of a discount dental plan.
Finally, elderly individuals who wear full or partial dentures should bring them to their dental appointment, even if they had not been planning to wear them to see the dentist.
When is it time?
Older people should see the dentist as often as their dental health professional recommends, which will likely be more often than the traditional twice a year. Aside from that, though, elderly individuals may be unsure of when they need to immediately seek professional help for dental issues. According to HealthinAging.org, while a little bleeding while brushing and flossing may not be a major deal, a significant amount of blood when a person brushes could be a sign of oral cancer. Also, any trauma to the mouth that results in teeth becoming cracked, broken or loose should warrant a trip to the dentist as soon as possible.
Older individuals have a greater risk of experiencing dry mouth due to the medications they take, which is why elderly people should visit the dentist often and remain hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water. Finally, elderly people also need to be particularly stringent about brushing, flossing and using mouthwash.
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