Recently, I had knee surgery. After the surgery my Dr. told everything went well but that during her exploration of my joint, she found some cartilage damage. She explained that I would probably require complete knee replacement at some time in the future. She recommended that I make some major changes in my activities and exercise to minimize impact and stress on my knee. The goal should be postponement of the knee replacement surgery for about 15 years. According to her, avoiding knee replacement is very important because a brand new knee today could only be expected to last about 25 years. She told me that optimally, I should do everything possible to get along as is, without a new all metal knee, until my late 60s. That way, the knee replacement would outlast me. I could avoid a second replacement surgery and painful recuperation because, according to my doctor’s math, by the time I needed a second edition metal knee, I would already be employed by that big dental clinic in the sky…. This discussion about pre-planning the timing of my own medical care reminded me of what my wife and I have unfortunately observed about some of our “mature” patients. For a variety of reasons, some patients procrastinate and choose to postpone their necessary dental work for as long as possible. Sadly, it’s an unfortunate fact that some dental treatment is not as easy to tolerate, and can be cost prohibitive, as we age and begin to rely on a fixed income.
Of course everyone knows it is never good to postpone dental treatment. At any age, putting off dental care only leads to bigger problems and bigger bills. However, dental procrastination becomes increasingly significant as we progress into our retirement years. For most, aging comes with a decline in overall health and a reduced income. Also, many seniors rely on others for transportation and find it difficult to get to their appointments. For these reasons, it becomes increasingly difficult for seniors to avail themselves to the kind of dental care that will help them enjoy the benefits of good oral health and function. The unfortunate result of mid life dental procrastination is that many in their retirement years have no alternative but to have teeth extracted and replaced with dentures. Sadly, many of these people could have avoided these decisions had they only taken care of things when they still were working for an income. For this reason Dr. Ichiriu and I encourage our patients to have their teeth and gums in good condition well before they retire, while they are healthy, and not yet living on their retirement income. Patients who prepare their dental health for their golden years are able to enjoy the many benefits of good dental function and appearance. These people are able to spend their retirement time, money, and energy on pursuits that are a reward for a life well spent. We recommend that all of our patients shore up any lingering dental issues by their late 50’s, or no later than 3 years before they plan to retire.
– Bruce Keller, DDS