More than 40 million Americans are over age 65 and the number is expected to double by 2050. As the American population ages, health care issues become increasingly important, including oral and dental health. Maintaining good oral health habits can help older Americans lead healthy, active lives.
It is estimated that about 25 percent of Americans over the age of 60 have no natural teeth left. Most of this tooth loss can be attributed to gum disease and tooth decay. Missing teeth can negatively affect the diet and nutrition of older Americans because people with no teeth or who use dentures tend to prefer soft, easily chewable foods and may avoid fresh fruits and vegetables.
In addition, oral cancers are more prevalent in older Americans. Over 40,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year and about 8,000 people die annually from the disease. Survival rates are good with early detection, but most oral cancers are not discovered until they are in the later stages and the prognosis is poor.
By following good oral health habits, older Americans can live happier, healthier, more comfortable lives. Good oral health habits start with twice daily tooth brushing and regular flossing to control plaque, the primary cause of gum disease.
In addition, twice yearly dental cleanings and check-ups will help prevent gum disease and allow for the early detection and treatment of gum disease and oral cancers. Even seniors who no longer have any natural teeth should see their dentist regularly to help maintain overall oral health and be screened for oral cancers.
Finally, avoid tobacco use and drink alcohol in moderation. In addition to the other known hazards from tobacco use, it poses an increased risk for oral cancer and gum disease. Alcohol consumption and tobacco use together are one of the primary risk factors for oral cancers.
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