The key to oral health is not just brushing and flossing, but about having regular dental exams and cleaning. Unfortunately for the Canadian public – especially the elderly – not many citizens have the disposable income to care for their teeth properly. Unlike basic healthcare in Canada, oral health is not covered by the government and leaves many families and seniors on their own to incur the cost. For retirees, regular dental checkups are not the standard but instead are a luxury that not everyone can afford. Statistics show that not enough elderly people are getting regular oral exams or the cleanings they need to keep their pearly whites healthy and strong.
The sad reality is that when most people require the most dental care is when their income drops the most: retirement age. When most Canadian citizens are part of the workforce, they have some coverage through their employer. But when they retire, most lose their dental benefits, which means they drop their regular trip to the dental office in Winnipeg. For many, dental health seems to be completely unrelated to overall health; however, studies are just beginning to show that your oral health is more integral to your overall health than science estimated in the past.
Your mouth is the place that almost all that you intake passes through. It’s not just about what you eat; things that you breathe also find their point of entry via through the mouth. But not many healthcare professionals understand or estimate the way that your oral health affects your overall longevity and quality of life. That is why so many elderly Canadians, and those who don’t have the means to seek dental care, are suffering by undervaluing the importance of their teeth as a priority to overall health.
The oral crisis that exists in Canada cannot be understated. The average person does not have access to dental care, whether it is because they are in rural areas where access is a concern, or just not having the revenue to make sure that they have the checkups necessary to keep their smiles healthy. It isn’t just the average Canadian who is suffering; worse off is the aging population, who is having a hard enough time getting their other health conditions addressed without worrying about the state of their teeth.
The reason that so many elderly people are suffering from untreated and unaddressed oral conditions is not just about the limitations of healthcare services; it is also that they don’t always value taking care of their teeth. For many who are dealing with dementia, the last thing at the forefront of their mind is making sure that they have brushed and flossed. Even for those who are in assisted-living situations or institutions, the primary concern isn’t whether they get their teeth brushed twice a day; it is whether they take their life-saving medications – or even remember their name, in some instances.
So how important is someone’s oral health?
A person’s oral health has been linked to cardiac diseases and cancers of the month and other places. Even though the ground stages are probably laid well before they are elderly, that does not mean that a healthy and active senior shouldn’t be concerned about the health of their teeth. While most believe that it is just about aesthetics, oral health has been indicated in such major diseases as Alzheimer’s and other potentially life-altering illnesses.
What is the answer?
If you have an elderly person in your life, it is important to stress good oral care and the necessity of visiting the dentist – not just to ensure that they don’t have cavities or for dental cleaning (although those are both very important) – but for their overall longevity and well-being. Although dental health doesn’t always get the attention that it should, the state of your oral health says a lot about your overall health and should not be ignored because it is an additional expense. Regular exams should not be underestimated. Since almost everything that gets into the body has to go through the mouth, make sure that your mouth is prepared to take what comes its way, whether you are old, young, or somewhere in-between.