Dental Care for Seniors
On top of having the crucial job of biting, cutting, and chewing, our teeth also provide structural support to our facial muscles. As such, whatever our age, we need to take proper care of our teeth and gums, and keep them healthy. However, even with daily brushing, as well as flossing and regular dental visits, you may end up facing issues with your oral health as you get older.
The factors responsible for dental health concerns during senior years include:
- Changes in dentin;
- Impact of common diseases of old age;
- Side effects of medication;
- Impact of poor-fitting dentures;
- Reduction in the protective enamel of teeth over time;
- Impact of a lifetime of habits like smoking;
- Poor diet;
- Poor dental care due to financial constraints or lack of dental insurance.
Fortunately, all of these factors can be managed by taking extra care, and visiting your dentist for guidance. Let’s take a look at some of the common dental problems faced by many seniors as well as some of the ways to manage them:
- Cavities and Tooth Decay: Older adults generally face tooth decay on the root surfaces of their teeth. These can be prevented by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice daily and flossing on a regular basis. In the instance of decay, see your dentist immediately to control damage.
- Sensitivity: Over the years, our gums recede naturally exposing those areas of the tooth that do not have enamel protection. These areas tend to be sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages, and sometimes to foods and drinks that are sweet or sour. Cold air can even pose a problem to sensitivity. The solution is to use anti-sensitivity toothpaste. If that doesn’t help, visit a dentist for a check-up to ensure it is not caused by tooth damage or cavities.
- Dry Mouth: Certain diseases like HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s, as well as medications used to treat stress, allergies, etc. can cause dry mouth, reducing the production and flow of saliva. This, in turn, can damage teeth when left untreated as saliva is essential to curb bacterial growth in the mouth, and clean the teeth and gums. Your dentist may try to control the problem either by managing the underlying problem through changes in medication or dosage. If that’s not possible, your dentist will suggest ways to increase saliva flow.
- Impact of Age-Related Diseases: Heart disease, diabetes, etc are common conditions in older people. These have an impact on your oral health, and reciprocally, your oral health has an impact on your overall health. It is important to let the dentist know of your health condition, and any specific ailments that you may be suffering from. The dentist can then suggest ways to manage your special needs and prevent damage to your teeth and gums.
- Denture care: Many seniors lose teeth due to diseases and ignoring their oral health routine. Dentures are a great solution for them, but those also need extra care. To begin, you must ensure that the dentures fit you well. Get adjustments done by a dentist if required. Next, it is important to keep your mouth clean. Otherwise, you may feel irritation in the gums and mouth, have problems in speaking and eating, or even get infections. It helps to avoid sticky foods, take small bites and chew slowly when using dentures.
- Gum Diseases: These may impact anyone who does not maintain good oral hygiene. However, people above the age of 40 are more likely to suffer from them. Factors like poor oral hygiene, bad diet, diseases like diabetes, cancer, as well as the side effects of some medications impact your gums. To prevent these, it is important to have good oral hygiene, and visit a dentist regularly as gum diseases are reversible in their early stages.
- Missing tooth: Many seniors lose a couple of teeth along the years but neglect getting an artificial replacement. This may not only cause problems in eating and digesting, but this will also shift the position of existing teeth, making them prone to decay. The dentist will suggest things like crowns, bridges or implants to replace missing teeth and save you from these troubles.
Healthy teeth are a must regardless of age, and with proper care, you can keep them healthy throughout your life!