The hidden risks: aging parents and dental care

October 13, 2015

With financial issues, physical and mental problems, and worrying about the next generation, regular trips to the dentist aren't always high on your aging parents' priority list. But this dental neglect is becoming a serious issue, as there are many hidden health issues linked to poor dental care.

Here are some ways to get your aging parents to go to the dentist, and some problems that can result if they don't.

The hidden risks: aging parents and dental care

Health risks of poor dental care

In the past, poor dental care meant cavities and losing teeth — maybe even dentures if they were bad enough.

Today however, experts are linking several diseases to poor oral health.

Gum disease and diabetes

The most significant of these is the connection between gum disease and diabetes.

Inflammation that periodontal disease can cause results from the body's immune system attacking the gum infection. This inflammation can affect how the body uses and controls sugar and insulin.

Of course, if your parent is already has diabetes, their ability to fight infections is reduced, making this a vicious cycle.

Heart disease

People with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease as well.

Experts aren't sure exactly why the connection between dental health and heart disease exists. However, many believe it has to do with oral bacteria finding its way into other parts of the body.

Other problems

Other health concerns linked to poor dental care include:

  • Infertility
  • Premature birth
  • Dementia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • COPD
  • Asthma

With so many health issues facing your parents already, staying on top of their dental care is an easy way to help reduce their risk levels for these and other problems.

How to get them to go

Knowing the potential problems is only part of the battle; the other part is getting your parents to go to the dentist.

Your first step should be to figure out why they aren't going. Here are a few common reasons why your parents aren't going to the dentist and what you can do about them.

Forgetting, or not being able

If it's a simple matter of forgetting or not being able to get there on their own, you may be able to remedy the situation if you make an appointment for them and drive them there and back.


Fear can be a powerful reason for anyone not to go to the dentist, but even more so as one gets older. The fear of pain, of losing teeth, or of facing serious dental procedures can keep your parents from making that appointment. Sometimes, not knowing can seem better than hearing bad news.

But you can help them overcome these fears if you go with them to appointments.

Though, if the fear is serious enough, you may need to get a mental health professional involved.


Another common deterrent to regular dental visits is money.

If your parents are struggling financially, the added expense of a dental visit may not be in the budget. Look into ways to finance your parents' dental care if you can't pay for it for them.

Improving your parents' quality of life

Considering the importance of regular dental visits and preventive care, your parents can't afford to skip their visits with the dentist. And, while it's not always easy, helping them get there is well worth the effort since it can help to improve their quality of life in the long run.

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