Growing old doesn’t have to mean losing your teeth, as long as you take good care of your oral health. Even if you have dentures, keeping your mouth clean and free from plaque is important for preventing dental diseases that can also impact on your general health.
Oral health conditions are responsible for around 8,000 preventable hospital visits every year in Australia for people aged 65 and over. With help from your dentist and a good daily routine, you can lower your risk of common dental problems such as:
The most recent National Survey of Adult Oral Health (NSAOH) found that 1 in 5 people over 65 had no natural teeth remaining. The average number of missing teeth for seniors was 10.8 teeth, with women having a slightly average than men.
Missing teeth can affect health and quality of life if they make it more difficult to eat or speak, or affect your diet. If you’re missing any teeth, your dentist may recommend full or partial dentures or a dental bridge if you only need to replace one or a few teeth.
Tooth decay (dental caries) is the most common dental disease. It’s caused by dental plaque, a layer of bacteria that forms on the teeth. These bacteria convert sugar and other compounds in food and drink into acids which can erode the teeth over time, causing cavities.
Tooth decay affects people of all ages. Dentists can often treat a decayed tooth with a filling, but a badly decayed tooth may need a root canal or extraction. Seniors tend to have more teeth missing due to decay than filled teeth remaining.
Even if you have dentures, it’s still important to look after your gums. Gum disease (periodontal disease) is the inflammation of the gums by bacteria. Over half (53.4%) of Australians aged 65 and over experienced gum disease in 2013-14.
Gum disease starts out as a mild irritation of the gums known as gingivitis. This may make the gums swell, feel sore or bleed. If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can develop into periodontitis. This can damage the gums and the supporting structures of your teeth and even lead to tooth loss.
There is also strong evidence that gum disease may be linked to a number of systemic diseases in other parts of the body, including pneumonia, heart disease, stroke and diabetes complications. Older people are at higher risk of gum disease, especially those who smoke or have health conditions that increase their risk factor.
How can I prevent oral health problems?
The best way to lower your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and other dental diseases is to follow a good oral hygiene routine.
As well as avoiding unhealthy food and drink with too much sugar, starch or acidity that can damage your teeth, dentists recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily and keep up with your regular dental visits. You should also try to quit smoking, as this increases the risk of gum disease as well as oral cancer, not to mention staining your teeth.
Regular check-ups give your dentist the chance to check for any signs of problems that may be treated before they become more serious. They can also professionally clean your teeth and remove any plaque that may have built up since your last visit.
Save 10% on dental treatments in Erskineville
If you’re a senior card holder, Sydney Park Dental is currently offering 10% off all dental treatments at our Erskineville clinic.
Call our friendly team today on (02) 8084 7170 to find out more about this offer and how our dentists can help you. You can also contact us online.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW): Chrisopoulos S, Harford JE & Ellershaw A 2016. Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2015. Cat. no. DEN 229. Canberra: AIHW.
- AIHW: Harford JE & Islam S 2013. Adult oral health and dental visiting in Australia: results from the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey 2010. Dental Statistics and Research Series no. 65. Cat. no. DEN 227. Canberra: AIHW.
- Australian Dental Association. Lifestyle Risks (65+) [Online] 2017 [Accessed July 2018] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/Your-Dental-Health/Older-Adults-65/Lifestyle-Risks-(1)