As dentistry has advanced and oral health education became more widespread, people are keeping their original teeth for longer periods of time. However, this doesn’t mean we can be complacent about our oral hygiene. As we age, any dental issues we have become more pronounced and new ones can develop, leading to a range of other health problems. That’s why it is imperative to ensure proper dental care for seniors.
Aging and Dental Health Issues and Challenges:
This can be caused by changes in the body or medication. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 400 commonly used medications can contribute to dry mouth. As saliva kills bacteria, dry mouth increases the risk of oral disease, as well as being an unpleasant condition in its own right.
Gum disease and general wear and tear can cause your gums to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth. As these are not covered by protective enamel, they are much more susceptible to decay.
As well as stains on your tooth enamel from a lifetime of use, the tissue beneath the enamel naturally darkens with age. As the enamel thins, this can start to show through, leaving you with discolored teeth.
While gum disease can develop at any age if oral hygiene is neglected, seniors are more prone to it. This can be the result of badly fitting dentures, neglecting oral hygiene or other health issues common to older adults such as diabetes or anemia.
If missing teeth aren’t replaced, the remaining ones will try to move into the vacant spaces and become unstable.
If elderly dental care is neglected, it can lead to other medical complications such as:
There is a direct link between heart and periodontal disease, as harmful bacteria enter your system from your mouth and attack your heart and other organs.
Bacteria growing in the mouth as a result of neglected oral hygiene for the elderly can be inhaled into the lungs, resulting in pneumonia.
Gum disease makes it harder for your body to utilize insulin and increases the chances of diabetes.
As you can see, as you get older, proper dental hygiene and care become more, not less, important.
Here are some tips on dental care for the elderly:
Regular dental check-ups are an essential part of maintaining oral health and identifying and preventing issues from developing. Seniors should visit the dentist at least once every six months.
Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day, regardless of age. We recommend a soft-bristled electric brush for elderly teeth and gums.
If your medications are giving you dry mouth, check with your doctor to see if there are any alternatives available. If not, drink lots of water, chew sugar-free gum and avoid alcohol.
Use a fluoride toothpaste, and drink water from the tap as this also contains fluoride.
Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day will stop the build-up of plaque and harmful bacterias in your mouth.
Unfortunately, many seniors neglect to or are unable to perform their oral hygiene routines. Following the tips above, or making sure the senior in your life is following them, will help protect your overall health. And if you think there are any issues that need to be checked, or if you just want to make sure that none will arise, reach out to us at Doral Sedation and Family Dentistry and schedule an appointment, today.