As people age, they are at greater risk of losing teeth and experiencing dental issues. A 2007-2009 survey in Canada showed 24.6% of Canadians ages 65 to 74 were edentulous, which means that they did not have any of their own teeth remaining. The fact that 1 in 4 Canadians have no remaining teeth in their early years of retirement shows how important it is for Canadians to think about their long-term dental health to prevent tooth loss and other dental health issues.
Why dental health is important
Poor dental health practices can lead to a number of other health problems. Bad breath may not be the only consequence of not brushing regularly or properly. Over time, failure to properly care for your teeth can trigger a domino effect, with oral health issues contributing to health problems that can affect your entire body.
Harmful bacteria can spread from the mouth throughout the body. Some individuals may develop endocarditis as a result. This means bacteria actually causes heart damage, weakening the walls of the heart, and can be life-threatening. Poor dental health may also contribute to other cardiovascular issues, such as heart disease. In some cases people may have a stroke caused by poor dental health. Research has also shown that there is a link between dental health problems and complications in pregnancy, such as low birth weight. Women with dental problems are also more likely to give birth prematurely.
Dental health challenges seniors face
As people live longer, they are at greater risk of experiencing a wide range of health issues. Individuals over the age of 65 are more likely to be on long-term medications, which can have oral side effects such as dry mouth. Seniors may face complications from conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis. More than 10% of Americans 50 years of age or older have osteoporosis, and this condition won’t simply cause older adults to lose teeth. They can suffer from other serious complications such as gum disease and problems with their jaw bone. As bone density decreases, individuals are more likely to need dentures, and this is exacerbated by other medical issues that accompany old age.
Elderly people must also contend with decreased mobility. As individuals age, they can experience complications that affect their ability to perform basic functions, such as brushing their teeth. Loss of bone density and muscle mass can cause seniors to tire quickly. Fatigue and joint pain are just two more reasons why an older person’s dental care may suffer as they get older.
Affording dental care
Although Canada has universal health care, not all services are covered. As of 2014, it was reported that 6 million Canadians did not receive dental treatment because they couldn’t afford it. Canada’s population in 2014 was 35.5 million, which means that 16.9% of Canadians did not receive dental care, including elderly Canadians.
What dental care is provided province to province varies, and only some dental care is paid for by the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (ACHIP). ACHIP typically doesn’t cover dental services such as teeth cleanings and dentures; however, there is dental coverage available to seniors with lower incomes; This coverage is limited to $5000 in total for every 5 years of coverage received. While impoverished seniors can qualify for things like root canal treatment and dentures through this low-income medical coverage program, things like braces, implants, and crowns are not covered under this funding.
Dental experts, such as those at Calgary denture clinic Hillhurst Denture, offer free consultations so that individuals can learn what services they would need and the associated costs. They also help seniors connect with the Alberta Seniors Assistance Program and get authorization for procedures before they’re performed so that insurance companies and assistance programs are billed directly.
In addition to healthcare funding options, some seniors in Alberta may also qualify for the Alberta Seniors Benefit. Accessing all benefits that you qualify for can help increase your ability to afford and receive appropriate dental care for years to come.