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Do Seniors Need More Than 1 Oral Exam Per Year?

by Dr. Joshua Davidson, Senior Dental Care Expert
July 11, 2019

Question: Do seniors need more than 1 oral exam per year?

Answer: As I have said in previous columns, the key oral health issue for older adults is PREVENTIVE care.  I just saw a 93 year old woman, then a day later a 92 year old man. What did they have in common? Poor brushing habits. They both had lots of teeth remaining, but the teeth were not very well brushed.  When there is plaque build-up, there is bacterial build-up and the gums get inflamed – gingivitis. The mouth is not disconnected from your stomach and lungs. Bacteria can travel to far reaching locations. Some seniors are terrific at their home care, but more often than not there is a diminishing attention to oral health at home. There is a slight decline in motor skills for some. Seniors aren’t necessarily going on “dates” so their desire to be “presentable” declines. “I don’t need to brush, my teeth are fine and I’m not kissing anyone anytime soon!”I don’t want to sound judgemental, but the reality is some seniors can be neglectful. Family can be an excellent resource for information and reminders. Call your loved ones and remind them, “Dad, remember to brush your teeth before going to bed!” Family and caregivers should take a quick second to scan the senior’s teeth up close. Teeth should be clean. If the teeth are “wearing a sweater” and looking somewhat fuzzy, time to help your loved one get in there and brush. 
Summing up, prevention is so much easier than treatment. Even if your loved one is doing a spectacular job with their oral health maintenance, I do recommend twice yearly cleaning for seniors at a dental office. Squeaky clean teeth! 

Joshua Davidson is a 2011 graduate of the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health. He simultaneously received his Masters Degree in Public Health. He currently works at the Chippewa Falls Dental Center in Chippewa Falls, WI focusing on issues of geriatric dental care.

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