The good news? More Canadian adults than ever still have their own teeth at age 65 and beyond.
The not-as-good news? That can present some challenges.
For one thing, certain medications and natural changes due to aging cut down on production of saliva, which helps neutralize bacteria-produced acids that gnaw away at tooth enamel.
As well, half of Canadians aged 65 to 79 have periodontal disease — a chronic, low-grade infection of the gum tissue that increases the odds of aggressive decay and tooth loss. (It’s also linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and pneumonia.)
And unfortunately, since 50 per cent of Canadians over age 60 have no private dental insurance, many avoid going to the dentist due to the cost.
However, regular visits for preventive care can help keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Your dentist can also suggest strategies for dealing with problems such as dry mouth, check for signs of fungal infections and oral cancer, and help ensure your oral health is in good shape before a hospital stay or starting cancer treatment.
(If cost is a barrier, your dental office may be able to set up a payment plan. Dental schools often have clinics that offer services at a reduced fee; some also have community outreach programs.)
My heartfelt thanks to the interviewees who so generously shared their time and expertise:
- Arlynn Brodie, an assistant clinical professor in the dental hygiene program within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
- Maria Febbraio, a professor and researcher in the department of dentistry within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
- Dr. Liran Levin, a professor of periodontology in the school of dentistry, within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
- Dr. Debora Matthews, associate dean of academic affairs in the Faculty of Dentistry at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS, and director of the Network for Canadian Oral Health and Research.
- Dr. Iqbal Petker, who is now a senior instructor of preventive dental sciences in the Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
- Dr. Tom Raddall, a general dentist in Liverpool, NS.
- Dr. Shawn Steele, director of the dentistry surgical care unit at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, and city-wide chief of dentistry at London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont.
- Dr. Euan Swan, manager of dental programs at the Canadian Dental Association in Ottawa.
- Dr. Chris Wyatt, a professor of dentistry, chair of the division of prosthodontics and dental geriatrics, and head of the department of oral health sciences at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.