The Importance of Senior Dental Care
Seniors must do more than adopt a nutritious diet and maintain an active lifestyle as they grow older. As people are more susceptible to dental problems as they enter their golden years, it is crucial older adults take good care of their teeth and gums to avoid various oral and general health issues. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of senior dental care.
Tooth decay can strike at any age, from babies to older adults. However, the older you are, the higher your risk of developing the issue. Tooth decay is more common among seniors due to changes in saliva production.
For example, dry mouth is often a medication side effect or caused by high blood pressure. Also, poor mobility may prevent seniors from maintaining good dental hygiene, as they might struggle to hold a toothbrush or find it difficult to walk or climb stairs to visit a bathroom. Seniors can reduce their risk of tooth decay by visiting a dentist twice yearly, or they may need to attend appointments more frequently depending on their oral health needs.
According to the CDC, two out of three seniors have gum disease. Many older adults don’t realize they have this oral health issue, as it doesn’t have obvious symptoms during its early stages. It’s only as it advances into periodontitis that they might notice the problem, as it can cause:
- Bright or dark red/purple gums
- Bleeding when flossing or brushing
- Chewing issues
- Loose teeth
- Tooth loss
- Receding gums
- Bad breath (halitosis)
It isn’t possible to reverse periodontitis, but treatments are available to manage the condition. For example, older adults can care for their teeth and gums with regular dental cleanings from a dentist.
If periodontitis hasn’t reached advanced stages, a dentist could treat it with scaling and planing, root planing, or topical or oral antibiotics. If left untreated, gum disease could cause one or more serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, dementia, hypertension, stroke, and various types of cancer.
The CDC reports one in five adults aged 65 and over have lost all their teeth, and it is likely due to a lifetime of wear and tear, tooth decay, gum disease, or badly fitted dentures. Unfortunately, tooth loss cannot only damage an older adult’s appearance and self-esteem, but it could impair their quality of life and increase their risk of additional oral health problems. For example, tooth loss could cause oral discomfort, eating difficulties, and impaired speech. Also, tooth loss will further increase a senior’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and infection.
It might be a surprise to discover that older adults with poor oral health are more likely to develop bacterial pneumonia, especially if they smoke. It occurs when breathing bacterial droplets into the lungs each day.
Seniors can prevent bacterial pneumonia by following good oral hygiene practices and quitting smoking. In addition to attending twice yearly appointments (or more depending on a dentist’s recommendation), older adults should floss daily and brush their teeth twice per day with an electric toothbrush.
Oral cancer is more common for older adults aged 50 to 74 years old. Also, seniors will have a greater risk if they have poor nutrition, HPV, or smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes or chew tobacco. Rather than disregarding American dental appointments, it is vital they routinely attend them to detect oral cancer in its early stages.
Root decay is a common issue for older adults, which can lead to infection, abscesses, and potentially tooth loss. It is often caused by poor oral hygiene, medication side effects, a health condition, or the use of dentures.
Seniors shouldn’t delay in seeking treatment for periodontal disease, as it can result in gum recession that will expose their teeth roots and increase their risk of root caries. In some cases, a tooth could be saved with grafting surgery to support tissue regeneration or a root canal. However, a dentist may have no choice but to remove the tooth if the decay is too advanced.
As a person grows older, the bone-like tissues underneath the tooth enamel, known as dentin, will change due to the food and drinks consumed. Consequently, the outer enamel layer will thin, and staining will build up, resulting in yellow dentin becoming more obvious and creating darker-looking teeth.
If a senior develops darkened teeth, they can organize an appointment with a dentist for an effective treatment, such as professional teeth whitening or dental bonding. Also, it is essential to follow good hygiene practices and avoid food and beverages that can stain your teeth, such as coffee, tea, red wine, fruit juices, curries, soda, and tomato-based sauces.
Oral Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Seniors who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at greater risk of various oral health issues. Arthritis in the hands and fingers is a well-known symptom, but you might not realize you could experience dental issues, such as:
- Gum disease
- Dry mouth
- Jaw problems
The above problems could be caused by medication side effects or poor mobility that makes it difficult to brush and floss teeth. The above issues aren’t a problem for everyone living with RA, but it is important to be aware of the possible issues that may arise. Prevent the above problems by regularly organizing dental checkups and discussing your condition with a dentist for a thorough assessment and to develop the best treatment plan for you.
Book an Appointment at Our Friendly Dental Office
Good oral health is an investment in your quality of life during your golden years. The more you care for your teeth and gums throughout the years, the fewer issues you are likely to develop and the healthier you will be – and your smile will prove it.At BAFDentistry, we understand the oral health risks associated with growing older, and our friendly, knowledgeable team can combat them. We realize visiting a dental office at any age can feel daunting, which is why we focus on providing our patients with a relaxed, comfortable, and supportive environment during every appointment. Contact us today to arrange an appointment.