Dental researchers at the St. Louis University Health Sciences Center have created a simple quiz for older adults to measure whether they are past due for a dental exam.
In a recent study conducted among a group of 165 older adults, the following self-screening device identified more than 80% of those with potentially serious dental conditions.
To determine whether a dental appointment should be scheduled soon, answer the following questions by placing checks beside conditions that apply, then adding the number of points.
_____ Dry mouth (two points)
_____ Eating difficulty (one point)
_____ No recent dental care (within two years) (one point)
_____ Tooth or mouth pain (two points)
_____ Alteration or change in food selection (one point)
_____ Lesions, sores or lumps in the mouth (two points)
Persons who score more than two points may have a dental problem that could affect overall health and well-being. Dental care should be pursued immediately.
"Only 43 percent of Americans age 65 and older visit their dentists at least once a year for a routine dental examination and teeth cleaning," notes Trucia Drummond, D.D.S., a general dentist who practices in Chicago's Loop. "The rest do not go unless they have a toothache that becomes unbearably painful. At that point, the problem usually has progressed to the point at which it may require invasive and more costly dental care."
Equally disturbing, says Dr. Drummond, is that many older adults have dental conditions they aren't aware of that can compromise their overall health as well as their ability to eat a healthy diet.
"For example, studies show that older Americans do not believe they have a problem that warrants a trip to the dentist, although many have ill-fitting dentures, periodontal disease, root caries or dry mouth," says Dr. Drummond. "Many older adults believe poor-fitting dentures are just a fact of life that they must live with. Of course, this isn't true."
In some cases, oral problems can interfere with eating habits and can affect dental health nutrition. "If you can't bite into food or if chewing is painful, you should go see a dentist," says Dr. Drummond. "These problems can be fixed."
Also, she says, it's important for older adults to visit the dentist for oral cancer screenings. "Regular dental visits are important to prevent problems further down the road."
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.