Addressing Dental Health During the Pandemic
Many seniors were raised before community water fluoridation, a national program now considered one of our greatest health success stories. These individuals, part of the “Greatest Generation” (1901-1927) and the “Silent Generation” (1928-1945), could be experiencing numerous problems with their teeth due to a lack of modern cavity-prevention techniques and poor hygiene during the early part of the 20th century. For seniors who are home-bound due to COVID-19, other health limitations and/or normal aging challenges, taking care of teeth might now seem the bottom of the priority list. But it shouldn’t be. Here’s why:
Gum Disease and Overall Health
Gum disease, known as gingivitis in its earliest form, is usually reversible. However, if not treated, it can develop into periodontitis which is treatable, but not usually reversible. In recent years, more and more studies link periodontitis with a much greater risk of other “systemic” diseases of the body, like heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. The belief is that oral bacteria from gum disease travels throughout the bloodstream throughout the body, causing inflammation and damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually estimate that one out of every two individuals over age 30 have mild – severe periodontitis.
Studies, such as a recent one reported in Dentistry Today, indicate even more severe consequences of gum disease and the pandemic. Researchers determined that “hospitalized COVID-19 patients with periodontitis IL-6 (a harmful protein) levels above 80 pg/ml are 22 times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory problems and placed on a ventilator compared to patients with IL-6 levels below 80 pg/ml.” The study, according to the publication, “suggests that COVID-19 patients with bad gums face a much higher risk of generating harmful IL-6 proteins that spread to their lungs and trigger a life-threatening respiratory crisis.”
Dental Visits During COVID
Most of today’s dental offices should be adept at infection control and patient safety. Additionally, many have now enhanced their infection control measures. When in doubt, call your dental provider to see what has been done to assure your loved one’s safety and how you can address various health challenges, such as those adults with memory impairment who may need to be treated under some form of sedation. Delaying important maintenance checkups and gum treatments could prove problematic, especially to seniors who are already facing other health issues.
Help Getting There and More
There’s no doubt that taking care of our teeth at all ages is extremely important. But when family members have jobs or live in other states, finding transportation to these healthcare visits can be difficult. The pandemic has made these challenges even harder to address. According to a recent Caregiving in the U.S. 2020 report put out jointly by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, nearly one in five (19%) of individuals provide unpaid care to an adult with health or functional needs. Unfortunately, 23% of those surveyed indicated that this caregiving has made their own health worse.
Organizations like Reliance Home Health Care, Inc. can take the strain off of family caregivers by providing transportation to important dental and other medical appointments as well as other critical home services such as:
• Alzheimer’s and dementia care
• Meal preparation and shopping
• Personal care (bathing, grooming, etc.)
• Reminders and scheduling
• Household chores
Reliance Home Health Care, Inc. is an approved Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services provider. We make life easier for individuals and their families in the greater Philadelphia area. For more information, call 610-896-6030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.