CDC: Seniors may have more new teeth decay than children

Seems like every day you need to remind kids they have to brush their teeth, but now it looks like grandma and grandpa need the words of advice even more.

The Center for Disease Control says seniors may actually have higher rates of new tooth decay or cavities than children. This is mostly in part due to the lack of care available to them. Studies show more than 25 percent of seniors haven't seen a dentist in five years.

"The problem is indeed grave. In fact, it's an epidemic," says Shelley Lyford, the president and CEO of West Health and the Gary and Mary West Foundation. "Millions of seniors across our country are suffering and many are suffering in silence from painful tooth decay, abscesses, infections in the mouth, that have gone untreated for not years, but perhaps decades. The consequences of the lack of access of dental care for our seniors is indeed a national epidemic and it's only growing as our senior population grows larger."

That's prompting a new trend, new community dental clinics aimed at providing care to low-income seniors.

Becerra says: "Well, it is very important to address it because when a person doesn't have the opportunity to see a dentist in more than 5 years or, in our cases as we have seen, more than 20 or even 40 years, a simple condition turns into something that is very painful, creates a lot of infection, impacts the quality of life and the dignity a person should have and it's important to understand that missing teeth, gum disease, periodontal disease not only have an impact on the quality of life and the mouth of a person, but also has a relationship with many chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic conditions like pulmonary disease and even stroke and some types of cancers," says Karen Becerra, DDS, the CEO and Dental Director of the Gary and Mary West Senior Dental Center.

Finally, an eye opening stat - more than 60 percent of seniors haven't seen a dentist in the past year. That's the problem.