Not All Dental Practices Are the Best Fit for Seniors
Your teeth will change as you age, which means that how you care for them will need to be updated. But change doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the help of the right dental practice, you can ensure that your teeth stay healthy and happy long into your golden years.
This article covers exactly why specialized dental care is the key to maintaining oral health in seniors, how to identify a senior-friendly dental practice, and provides a list of oral health resources in Asheville.
As a senior resident of the Asheville community, you might face unique dental challenges like thinning enamel, worn-down teeth, or receding gums. But with the help of a senior-friendly dental practice, you won’t have to face those challenges alone.
Why is Specialized Dental Care Important for Senior Oral Health?
Oral health is crucial for seniors’ overall well-being. Besides the simple fact of daily comfort – an untreated oral condition can often lead to pain and discomfort – studies suggest a connection between adult tooth loss and other health conditions.
Though the link between tooth loss and risk factors for heart disease is still being studied, preliminary findings have found a correlation between a decrease in the number of teeth and an increase in a harmful enzyme in the body. The enzyme promotes inflammation and hardening of the arteries. The researchers also noted that other heart disease risk markers, such as higher blood sugar and blood pressure, also increased with the loss of teeth.
In terms of mouth health, older adults are at risk of developing throat and oral cancers, which is why regular dentist visits are crucial to spotting and addressing problems as they appear.
Visiting a dentist in Asheville who knows the ins and outs of senior oral care will help you get the most benefit out of your dentist visit, because of their familiarity with the common age-related issues seniors face.
These issues can include:
- Thin enamel
- Shortened nerves in your teeth
- Lack of sensitivity to cavity formation
- Worn down teeth
- Receded gums
- Darkened teeth
You may also run into other challenges as a secondary effect of aging in other parts of your body. For instance, arthritis and other physical changes can make flossing and brushing difficult, or a new medication could lead to a dry mouth or a change in your taste buds.
If these physical changes affect how you take care of your oral health, then it’s something you should make your dentist aware of so that they can help. Regular visits to your dentist give them the chance to spot changes you may not be aware of to prevent problems down the line. They can recommend the type of electric toothbrush that is easy to grip, or explain how to use a water flosser if flossing becomes too difficult.
When you’re looking for a dentist in Asheville, you want to ensure that the dentist can meet your needs as you age. Senior oral care is different from oral care at other stages of life, and having a dentist who is experienced in the challenges you’ll be facing can mean the difference between continuing oral health and allowing a problem to develop.
Characteristics of a Senior-Friendly Dental Practice
When you’re looking for a new dentist, it can be difficult to know what sets dentists apart from one another. However, knowing the traits of a senior-friendly dental practice can help you spot the dentist that’s best for you and your needs. Here are our top three characteristics to watch out for:
Compassion and Empathy
Feeling uninformed or confused is never a pleasant experience, especially at the dentist’s. One of the best ways to maintain dental health is through regular appointments, and having an empathetic and compassionate dental team makes it easy to make and keep appointments.
A senior-friendly dental team will understand and address senior patient’s concerns. This includes senior-related health conditions, like receding gums or worn-down enamel, but it also includes things like dentist-related anxiety.
For example, at Zoe Dental, we know that plenty of people dislike going to the dentist, whether it’s due to an uncomfortable or unfriendly past experience, or unfamiliarity with the process. To help alleviate that discomfort, we make a point to spend time with each of our patients and get to know them in order to provide personalized attention and treatment plans. We want all of our patients to feel confident in their dentist visits, and we have a comfort menu with warm blankets, aromatherapy, and music options to help put nervous patients at ease.
Experience with Senior Patients
As a senior patient, you know that experience is the best teacher. That applies to a lot of things in life, and dentists are no exception. Choosing a dentist with a track record in senior dental care is a way to guarantee that any challenges you face as you age will be familiar to your dentist, and allow them to provide treatment based in experience as well as theory.
For example, a dentist with senior patient experience can guide you through all of the options when it comes to addressing missing teeth. If you lose teeth, you might assume that you’ll have to get dentures, but that’s not always the case. In certain instances, such as a singular missing tooth, another option might work better. A dentist with senior dental care experience can advise you on selecting between a full set of dentures, a partial set of dentures, an implant, or a bridge.
Past experience is essential, but so is ongoing learning. Don’t be afraid to ask possible dentists about their experience, past education, and continuing education efforts. The medical field is always growing and improving, and having a dental team that’s staying updated on the latest in dental technology and treatment is a great way to ensure you’re getting the best care possible.
Accessibility and Accommodations
A senior-friendly dental practice will be accessible and accommodating to senior patient’s needs. This includes handling a majority of your dental needs in-house, as well as clear communication and aid in understanding your procedures and care. An accessible dentist will make sure that you have the opportunity to be informed about your oral health, so that you can best practice dental hygiene in your day-to-day life.
The dental services that your future dentist offers should include things like crowns, restorations, implants, dentures, oral surgery, root canals, and teeth whitening. They should also have resources and devices available to help with sleep apnea or teeth grinding. Having all of these services in one dental practice allows your personalized care solution to be comprehensive and collaborative, rather than compiled from several different treatment centers.
Clear communication and accommodation can be measured through your dentist’s dedication to education. For example, Zoe Dental provides clear instructions for home care after you undergo surgery, in order to help you take the best care of your teeth after your procedure. In addition to verbal instructions, we have standing instructions on our website, which you can always check for advice in the days following a dental procedure.
Even if you come to a dentist’s appointment for an ordinary check-up, we like to take that opportunity to educate you about your oral health. Knowing how your teeth connect to your overall health and quality of life helps you put oral care into context, so that you understand why we ask you to brush your teeth in a certain way. Sharing best practices, pointing out potential dental warning signs, and providing strategies for preventing long-term problems is our way of giving you dental care even when you’re out of our office.
Finding Dentists and Other Resources in Asheville to Assist with Oral Health
Looking for further resources and support in maintaining your oral health? Here are a few organizations to check out:
- NC Oral Health Collaborative: This organization was founded in response to the oral health crisis in North Carolina to provide better public awareness and access to oral healthcare. You can use this site to stay up-to-date on oral health news, and learn how to protect your health.
- MyHealthfinder: This resource, run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has plenty of advice on how to maintain and improve your health, including oral health, as you age.
- The Zoe Dental Blog: We post on a variety of all things dental, from cavity myths to toothbrushing strategies to why checkups are important. Check out our blog to learn more about your teeth and how to care for them!
Another useful way to assess a dental practice is by reading up on patient testimonials. They’re a great way to get to know a dental practice from the patients themselves, and can show you what your own experience might look like.
Wondering what a positive review from a senior patient looks like? Here are some of our own patient testimonials, which you can also find at zoedental.com:
“For me it just feels like a team. Whoever you talk to is here to be of service, at whatever of the stations, be it the hygienist or the people at the front desk or when you call in on the phone. And I appreciate that thoroughness that’s still warm.” – John F.
“I’m a big chicken, and believe me, I have never been in pain when in these chairs. You know, the dentist can be a very scary thing and I have never had any difficulty with my treatment here.” – Mary F.
“I had a great experience from the moment I walked through the door. The staff at this practice are top-notch. The hygienist was a genuinely nice person and made me feel so comfortable. The dentist was friendly and thorough. I’m so glad I chose to come here after many years of going without dental care. They let me know that I’m valued, and I’ve gone from feeling anxious about dental work to excited about partnering with these professionals to achieve optimal dental health.” – Kathryn R.
Asheville’s Unique Needs
Your health is affected by your genetics and your habits, but it can also be affected by your environment. Physical factors like pollution, access to resources, and community design can affect your oral health.
If you’re one of the North Carolinians who lives in a “food desert,” where affordable and nutritious food access is limited, you may be at higher risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Consuming high amounts of sugary and high-carb foods has negative impacts on oral health, which makes proper oral care even more important. High-pollution areas can also lead to the buildup of toxic compounds in tooth tissue, which can have significant negative effects on oral health.
Getting to know a dental care provider who can understand your unique situation can help you address these challenges and maintain your optimal oral health.
The Best Dentist in Asheville for You is…
When it comes to picking the right dentist for you, there are a lot of factors to consider. You want to pick the dentist with the right expertise, an approachable team, and the facilities for your specific needs. But the most important factor is how you feel. Your oral care will be most effective if you feel comfortable attending your checkups and discussing your treatment with the dental team.
Here at Zoe Dental, we’d love to help you get started on your dentist search by providing an eBook with the top five signs of dental trouble. If you know what dental troubles you might face in the future, you can always ask potential dentists how they would treat your condition to find out if they’re the right fit for you.