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Many older adults go without dental care

Written by Diane Archer

US News reports on a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which finds that many older adults are going without dental care. The consequences to their health can be severe.

Medicare does not cover dental care. So, most older adults must pay for dental care out of pocket. Not surprisingly, close to one in twelve older adults went without dental care in 2017. An even higher proportion of Black and Hispanic older adults, particularly those with low incomes, went without dental care.

Dental care is particularly important for older adults. According to the CDC report, “Chronic diseases that may impact oral health and the need for care, such as diabetes and osteoporosis, are common among the older population, and poor oral health may contribute to the risk of certain conditions.”

Today, more than two in three older adults (68 percent) have gum disease, an inflammation of the gum and the gum tissues or bone support around the teeth. With gum disease, your gums may become red and swollen, and they may bleed easily.

Gum disease is often responsible for tooth loss. It is caused by bacteria that form a plaque on the teeth. If brushing and flossing do not remove the plaque, it hardens to tartar. Only a dentist can then remove it.

The CDC reports that almost 20 percent of older adults have lost all of their teeth. The consequences can be severe. Loss of teeth affects nutrition; it is harder to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and to maintain a healthy diet.

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