The alliance to the First District Dental Society, a local organization of nearly 100 dental spouses, is participating in the national "Senior Smiles" campaign. They know some seniors are diligent about seeing the doctor, but not so much the dentist. So they're bringing the dentist to them or at least the next best thing!
"Meals on Wheels" is helping out with the "Senior Smiles" program. Volunteers are passing out dental kits on their regular routes.
Many seniors experience tooth loss and mistakenly believe it's a natural part of aging. Years ago, getting dentures was a rite of passage for many.
Periodontist Dr. James Woodyard says, "If dentures fit well and if they work well, do you think there would be so much money in the market to sell things like denture adhesive?"
Dr. Woodyard says taking care of the teeth doesn't get easier with age. Certain medications can cause xerostomia or dry mouth.
"Saliva acts as a natural washing solution to help clean our teeth and cleanse our teeth. So if we don't have that saliva to cleanse our teeth, then it will lead to increased cavities," explains Dr. Woodyard.
Infrequent or improper brushing can cause gum disease. They actually pull away from the teeth and form pockets that can become infected, leading to periodontitis.
In a real human jaw, you can see how the bacteria eats away at the bone. But someone with arthritis may not be able to grip a toothbrush so well. That's why Dr. Woodyard recommends investing in an electric one.
He says, "Now, if these aren't financially feasible, then another thing you can do to adapt a normal brush is to actually place a bicycle grip on the brush or cut a small slit into a tennis ball and actually fit the brush down into it, so you can wrap your hand around it."
The kits give seniors those ideas and some supplies to get them started. With a little effort, they'll continue to eat well and with ease.
In some cases, brushing and flossing can only do so much and a dentist will have to intervene. The dental kits include information about low or no cost dental care available in Evansville.
Community Dental Clinic, located on 612 SE 4th Street in Evansville, provides care to those on a fixed incoming. It's open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They do not accept Medicare. You will need to provide proof of income, for fees are based on a sliding scale. Call 435-2450 to make an appointment, and they will tell you what paperwork to bring to your appointment.
Impact Christian Health Center, located on 720 SE 8th Street in Evansville, serves the uninsured and undeserved. They accept patients ages 18 years and up. They take Medicaid and Medicare. Call 426-6152 for an appointment, and they will tell you what paperwork to bring to your appointment. Services are limited.
The USI Dental Hygiene Clinic will provide free teeth cleanings during October to anyone over the age of 60. You must make your appointment early. Do that by calling 464-1706. Any additional treatments, such as x-rays, are not free of charge.