ORAL HEALTH AND AGING
Oral healthcare needs vary from person to person. We believe that individualized care is the best approach to keeping our patients healthy. While certain dental concerns remain consistent through various stages of life, there are a few unique issues that tend to affect the older population.
As we age several things happen to our bodies, we get a little slower and we start taking medicines to combat the affects of aging. Teeth are no different as they are connected to our body. Let’s take a closer look at affects on oral health as we age:
Tooth Decay –
As we age, we become more vulnerable to tooth decay, possibly due to a preference for sweeter foods or less care with oral hygiene. Tooth decay is largely preventable by reducing the quantity and frequency that sugar is consumed. Food grazing and sipping on sugary drinks throughout the day is especially bad, as it means that there is sugar and acid against the teeth all day long. Sip on water, brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and see us regularly for check ups.
Dry Mouth –
Even though dry mouth can affect anyone, it does tend to be more common among senior citizens. One cause of dry mouth is prescription medication; even some over-the-counter options often list dry mouth as a side effect. When these medications are taken regularly, saliva production slows down, the mouth becomes dry, which increases the risk for tooth decay and gum disease due to a lack of the cleansing effect from saliva, which is a natural cavity fighter. If cavities are left untreated, they could lead to the need for a root canal, sensitivity pain, or even tooth loss.
Tooth Aches –
Nerves in teeth may die off causing the nerve tissue to become infected leading to a tooth ache. The ideal treatment would be root canal therapy to save the tooth, but sometimes an extraction is necessary. If that is the case, depending on which tooth/teeth are removed, they may be replaced with a dental implant or another oral prosthetic such as a bridge or removable partial denture.
Gum Problems/Disease –
Gingivitis (bleeding gums) is present in almost all mouths and most times is not especially significant. It occurs when bacteria isn’t removed from the mouth and settles under the gum line. Usually categorized by red, bleeding, inflamed gums, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and even affect the rest of the body. Gum disease has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and according to recent studies, Alzheimer’s disease. A dental check up is the opportunity to assess the level of gum disease. Gum disease can be prevented by practicing effective oral hygiene, which should include cleaning between the teeth with dental floss.
Soft Tissue Issues –
Ulcers are common but if they haven’t healed within 2 weeks and there is no obvious cause, you should see us so that we can do a thorough exam.
Tooth Loss –
Many people believe that age equates to the loss of teeth; at least one or two of them. But this isn’t always true. It’s absolutely possible for people to keep their natural teeth for their entire lives, especially if they take proper care of them. This means brushing and flossing every day and seeing us every six months. However, several things can increase the likelihood of tooth loss in seniors including a history of smoking, dry mouth, untreated decay, and gum disease.
Bottom line is to keep up with those regularly scheduled hygiene appointments because problems are easier to fix when caught early. Oral health and aging doesn’t have to be problem filled. Regular dental check-ups, liberal use of fluoride toothpaste, use of a fluoride rinse and effective oral hygiene twice a day is encouraged. If you are overdue for your dental check up, we welcome you to give us a call or reserve your appointment today!