Dental Health for Seniors
Dental health is important for everyone at every age but dental health for seniors is crucial because it is linked to overall well being and whole-body health. As we age, issues that affect our mouth can increase or worsen, and oral conditions that were not present in younger years might develop. This makes it especially important to be aware of conditions associated with aging that can impact oral health.
Research by the American Dental Association found:
- Poor dental health impacts overall health and increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
- Nearly 23 percent of adults ages 65-74 have severe gum disease.
- There were over 830,000 visits to emergency departments across the country for preventable dental conditions in 2009 – up 16 percent since 2006.
- About 75 percent of people ages 60+ have only some of their natural teeth.
- Dry mouth is often caused by prescriptions and over-the-counter medications and it is a problem for 30 percent of older adults. It contributes to significant tooth decay and gum disease.
If you know how to identify these dental dilemmas, they are easy to resolve and even prevent while maintaining optimum dental health for seniors.
Aging does not automatically make dry mouth more likely. However, certain features of aging, such as more regular medications or a chronic condition, can increase your risk for dry mouth, cavities, and tooth decay. Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture in your mouth, as well as appropriate treatments or medications to help prevent the problems associated.
Wear & Tear
Many years of chewing and grinding can take its toll on an aging set of teeth. As enamel wears down, the risk for cavities increases.
This includes oral cancer and less serious illnesses, such as thrush, which is an abnormal growth of fungus in the mouth.
One of the major causes of problems for dental health in seniors is periodontal disease also called gum disease. This is caused by plaque forming on teeth. Thankfully, it is easy to prevent periodontal disease in elderly adults from developing in the first place, by practicing proper oral hygiene.
Often accompanied by gum disease, the roots of your teeth may become exposed as your gums recede, leading to an increased rate of decay as you age.
Sensitivity can be an increasing problem as you age. Your gums naturally recede over time, exposing areas of the tooth that are not protected by enamel. If you experience sensitivity, try an anti-sensitivity toothpaste. If the problem persists, see your dentist, as the sensitivity may be an indication of a more serious condition, such as a cavity or a cracked or fractured tooth.
To maintain good oral health, regardless of age, it is important for all individuals to:
- Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste
- Floss at least once a day
- Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day
- Visit your dentist on a regular schedule for cleaning and an oral exam
As you get older, certain oral conditions not present when you were younger might develop, that is why dental care for older adults is so important. Just because people are more prone to oral health problems as they age, it does not mean you have to experience them. Taking precautionary measures, being able to identify signs, and maintaining good dental health for seniors are essential.