The story below is from our September/October 2015 issue. For the DIGITALLY ENHANCED VERSION, download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
There is more to a healthy retirement than meets the eye...or the mouth.
Fun fact: September 20 is Love Your Teeth Day in China. And the first Friday in October is World Smile Day.
What does this have to do with retirement? A lot, actually.
Whether you are planning to retire or are already happily retired, your dental health should be one of your top health priorities.
“Dental health contributes to a person’s total health,” says Dr. Sandra Andrew of Roanoke. “I’m a believer in long-term dental health.”
Regular dentist visits are often put off after retirement. Without employee benefits to help cover the cost of cleanings and other procedures, many people cannot afford the expense.
“I recommend my patients establish a dental care plan three to five years prior to retirement,” says Andrew.
So in addition to preventative cleanings and exams, patients getting ready to retire can take advantage of employer-provided insurance to offset the cost of any other procedures, such as fillings and implants, they need.
Of course, financial planning is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to dental health for older adults.
“There are three factors that contribute to dental health,” says Andrew. “What you do [brushing, flossing, regular cleanings], genetics and your environment.”
Dry mouth is a common problem among seniors, often the result of medications for conditions such as arthritis and high blood pressure. As we age, we naturally produce less saliva. Without this natural cleanser, we produce thicker, stickier plaque. Plaque produces acid. The higher acidity, the higher the risk of tooth decay.
Dr. Andrew recommends patients establish a relationship with their dentist and hygienist early in order to plan for and, hopefully, prevent many dental issues upon retirement.
“It’s especially important for seniors to maintain previous dental work,” she says. “They should always discuss any changes with their doctor, such as medications and the health status of their spouse.”
“I want patients to die with their natural teeth,” says Andrew. “If you value your teeth, you will take the necessary steps to take care of them.”
Another fun fact: 50 percent of people say the first thing they notice about another person is the smile.