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Major Health Problems Caused by Poor Oral Health

Most dental insurance policies are designed to cover preventive care with a $1,000 annual maximum.According to a survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center, the average cost of a root canal is $1,200 without insurance or a discount program. So, all it takes is one jaw-dropping procedure and either the individual takes the hit out-of-pocket or delays it, which could lead to serious oral health and overall health problems while adding hundreds or thousands of dollars to future dental and medical bills. 

There are many common problems associated with or caused by poor oral health, and added risk to seniors, according to absolutedental.com. They include: cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, cancer, kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Cardiovascular disease: The same bacteria that causes periodontal disease can get into the bloodstream and cause plaque buildup and hardening of the arteries. Blood flow problems and heart blockages caused by these conditions increase the likelihood of having a heart attack, and the damaging impact on the arteries and blood vessels can lead to hypertension and increase the risk for strokes.

Dementia: Substances that are released from gums inflamed by infection can also kill brain cells and lead to memory loss possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.

Respiratory Infections: Bacteria in the mouth from infected teeth and swollen gums can also be breathed into the lungs or travel there through the bloodstream. These bacteria can lead to respiratory infections, pneumonia, acute bronchitis and even COPD.

Diabetes: Diabetics are already more susceptible to infection, but periodontal disease can in turn make diabetes more difficult to control. And because gum disease can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, a person with poor oral health is at an increased risk of developing diabetes.

Erectile Dysfunction: Chronic periodontal disease (CPD) is an infection that occurs when gums pull away from teeth and creates pockets that hold bacteria and allow it to spread to the bone surrounding teeth. If the bacteria gets into the bloodstream, it can cause blood vessels to become inflamed blocking the flow of blood to the genitals and making erections more difficult or even impossible to achieve. 

Cancer: It’s no secret that poor oral health can lead to oral and throat cancers, but kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancers are also more common in people with poor oral health. Oral and pharyngeal cancers, which are primarily diagnosed in older Americans, result in about 7,400 deaths each year.

Kidney Disease: Chronic kidney disease affects the kidneys, heart, bones and blood pressure. Because people with gum disease generally have weaker immune systems and are more likely to acquire infections, periodontal disease can lead to kidney disease, which can be fatal if it leads to kidney failure or cardiovascular disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, people with gum disease were four times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation is the commonality that these diseases share. Bacteria from gingivitis can increase inflammation throughout the body increasing the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and debilitating inflammatory disease.A 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau states by 2025, the population of people aged 65 and older will reach approximately 236 million. In the 25 years after that, the older population is projected to almost double to 1.6 billion globally, whereas the total population will grow by just 34 percent over the same period.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 25 percent of adults 60 years old and older no longer have any natural teeth, and having missing teeth can affect nutrition. The CDC also reports that older adults may have new tooth decay at higher rates than children, and the severity of periodontal (gum) disease increases with age.With so many health risks and quality of life issues associated with poor oral health, health care professionals want seniors to know just how important their oral health is and what they can do to improve it. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) contends that this demographic will be an increasingly large part of dental practices in the coming years. The ADA reports conditions associated with aging include dry mouth (xerostomia), root and coronal caries and periodontitis.Many older Americans do not have dental insurance, often because benefits are lost at retirement. And although Medicaid funds dental care for low income and disabled elderly in some states, reimbursements are low, and Medicare was not designed to provide routine dental care.