Oral health is important for people of all ages, but older patients experience many more pressing problems. The older you get, the more likely you’ll have to deal with losing teeth, denture care, stains, and periodontal disease. The US Census reports that there will soon be close to 100 million people over the age of 65, roughly 24% of the population. This is significant because older people are more likely to be disabled, unable to leave the house, or living in a nursing home, which all increase the risk of developing poor oral health. When you understand the hazards that are unique to seniors, you will have a better idea of how to address and prevent these problems from occurring.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
On average, our bodies produce more than a quart of saliva each day. It is saliva’s job to help break down food, wash away bacteria, prevent tooth decay, and protect against bad breath. If your mouth is too dry, you could experience health problems, from minor pain to complications with cavities.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is usually caused by all of the medications seniors tend to need. According to AARP, over 75 percent of people 65 and older take prescription medication on a regular basis, with over 80 percent take at least two prescription drugs and over 50 percent take four or more. This the main reason why dry mouth is common in this age group. Dry mouth can also be caused by infections, hormone changes, allergies, and blocked nasal passages.
Seniors often struggle with bad breath, which can make social situations unpleasant. Bad breath isn’t a symptom that stands on its own and there are underlying causes that need to be addressed including the fact that dry mouth and periodontal disease can both cause bad breath.
Poor dental hygiene is another leading cause. Seeing your dentist twice a year and brushing and flossing daily can help keep your mouth clean. If you wear dentures, you should make sure you’re as attentive to cleaning them as you would be with real teeth. Plaque builds up on both dentures and teeth and is often a major cause unpleasant breath.
Tooth loss is a normal problem among seniors. The National Institute of Health reports that on average, patients over the age of 65 have 18.90 teeth remaining and over 27 percent of elders have no remaining teeth. Tooth loss in this age group is also connected to smoking and poor dental hygiene. You should visit your dentist often to decrease your chances of losing teeth. If you do lose a tooth, visit your dentist as soon as you can to discuss options that will help save your ability to comfortably eat, talk, and smile.
Over time, it can become easier for cavities to develop in your teeth. This puts seniors at a higher risk. Consuming foods high in sugar will increase your chances of getting cavities. You can help prevent them by limiting sugary drinks and foods and brushing and flossing your teeth daily. Using an antiseptic mouth rinse will help protect your teeth from cavities as well.
Poor Denture Care
Some people think dentures aren’t as delicate as regular teeth. In fact, dentures need just as much care and attention as real teeth would. You should brush and clean them regularly to avoid damage and discoloration. Plaque can build up on dentures as it would on any other tooth, and this may irritate your gum tissue and lead to gum disease and other problems.
Remove your dentures after every meal and rinse them off to get rid of food particles. Brush your dentures each evening and place them in a cleaning solution to soak. Brush your gums gently with a soft-bristled brush to keep them clean and healthy as well.
Gum disease is a common problem in the aging population. And because gum disease can take years to develop, older citizens are more likely to experience problems with gum disease than younger people are. The best way to avoid gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene. Visit your dentist regularly so you can catch developing gum disease early, before gingivitis develops into periodontitis.
Only 26 per cent of seniors in Canada report seeing a dentist at least once every two years. As many as 16 per cent have not seen a dentist in more than five years. Don’t overlook the importance of professional dental care.
A slight darkening of the teeth is a natural effect of aging. While proper dental care can help prevent this, some discoloration may be inevitable. Avoid tobacco products, coffee, soda, and tea to help keep your teeth as white as possible. If you’re not happy with the appearance of your teeth, you may want to talk to your dentist about cosmetic services that can help. Tooth whitening services or permanent dental veneers can help you achieve the look you’re after.
As you age, it’s important to keep potential risks in mind. With the right dental care, you can still enjoy a healthy smile and get help from your dentist. If it has been more than a year since your last dental checkup, it’s time for you to schedule an appointment at Foothill Dental Care in Livermore. No matter your age, getting a teeth cleaning and oral check-up can help you prevent bacteria buildup in the mouth and help you maintain overall health. Call Foothill Dental Care in Livermore to schedule an appointment today.