As we age, it’s natural for our bodies to exhibit signs of change – and our oral health is no exception. Whilst looking after our dental health is important at every stage of life, there are some issues which arise later in life. In taking the time to practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist every 6 months for a check-up, you can continue to enjoy a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime. In this blog post, we will be sharing some common senior dental health issues, along with some prevention advice and treatment options.
Common Senior Dental Health Issues
1. Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is one of the more common senior dental health issues, affecting around 60% of older adults. This can be caused by the use of various medications, dehydration or genetics. When the level of saliva in the mouth is insufficient for proper lubrication, you are at a greater risk of experiencing cavities and gum disease due to the presence of harmful oral bacteria within the mouth. Most notably, plaque produces corrosive compounds which would normally be neutralized by the saliva. Additionally, saliva helps to eliminate food particles within the mouth.
If you regularly experience dry mouth, you should raise this with your dentist. It is important to let us know about any medications you may be taking, as it is possible that they are contributing to dry mouth. To reduce the risk of dry mouth, it is good practice to drink at least 2L of water per day. If symptoms still persist, your dentist can provide saliva substitutes.
2. Tooth Loss
It is not uncommon for seniors to experience tooth loss, which can affect their ability to eat along with their confidence and overall wellbeing. Over 65% of adults over the age of 65 have gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss. Whilst some people believe that tooth loss is a normal part of ageing, this is not true. Gum disease can be managed effectively by making a few simple lifestyle changes and visiting a periodontist regularly.
Dentures or dental implants are two potential options for seniors who have lost a tooth.
3. Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can affect people at every stage of life, but the risk increases with age. Regular dental check-ups can help in early detection and treatment. If you notice any white or red lesions, swelling, change in your voice, difficulty chewing or swallowing or other abnormalities, you should raise your concerns during your next dental appointment.
4. Enamel Loss
Enamel is a protective layer on the tooths surface, and like other parts of the body it is also prone to wear and tear. Chewing, grinding and consumption of acidic food/beverages causes wear to the enamel, making it thinner. This can heighten the risk of experiencing pain or infection around the core of the tooth. Providing this is caught early, treatment may be relatively straightforward. However, if the infection goes untreated, tooth extraction or root canal may be the only treatment options available.
Prevention Tips for Seniors and Caregivers
It’s important to remember that dental care is an integral part of a person’s overall health and quality of life. Neglecting dental health can lead to pain, discomfort, and even more serious health problems. Caregivers and seniors can ensure their oral health is well taken care of by doing the following.
- Establish a daily oral hygiene routine which includes twice daily brushing using a soft bristle toothbrush and gentle strokes. Flossing should be done once daily.
- Attend regular dental check-ups, ideally every 6 months. This will allow any issues to be identified in the early stages, when they are easily treated.
- If you have dentures, ensure that you remove them at night and soak them in a denture cleaner to keep them in good condition.
- Stay hydrated to keep the mouth lubricated.
- Be aware of the side effects of any medications you may be taking.
- Minimise or eliminate consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
- Regularly check for any abnormal lumps or sores in the mouth.
Schedule a Dental Appointment with Sydney Park Dental Today
If you have any concerns about your dental health, or if you require further advice on dental care for seniors, please don’t hesitate to contact Sydney Park Dental today. We’re committed to helping patients maintain a healthy smile for life, and we look forward to seeing you soon.