Dental problems in seniors are nothing new. As seniors advance in age, so do their teeth, causing oral health problems.
With age comes wisdom. Unfortunately, so does declining oral health. Here’s a look at some of the most common dental problems in seniors.
According to the American Dental Association, dry mouth in seniors is a leading cause of advanced age cavities. Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging, but it is a side-effect of over 500 medications. As we age, the number of medications we take increases. Thus, many seniors experience dry mouth.
This is one reason your dentist asks about any medications you are taking. Your oral health care provider can help suggest remedies and treatments for dry mouth to help reduce the risk of cavities. Dentists often recommend the following treatments:
- Drink more water
- Use mouthwash
- Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production
- Use a humidifier
- Avoid alcohol, coffee, and soda
- Get a fluoride treatment
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is another common dental problem for those over the age of 60. It’s caused by a bacteria found in plaque that irritates the gums and makes them swollen, red, and prone to bleeding. Gum disease is unique in that it’s relatively painless in the early stages. This causes it to be easily overlooked and left untreated.
Untreated gum disease can wreak havoc on oral health. In the advanced stages, it causes the gums to pull away from the teeth and roots. This leaves open pockets that can easily trap food and allows more plaque to develop. Over time, the gums, bones, and supporting ligaments are destroyed. Eventually, teeth start falling out. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in seniors.
Gum disease is best treated when it’s caught early, so it’s just as important to see the dentist regularly in old age as it is when you’re younger.
Mouth cancer is far more common than most people know. In fact, the American Cancer Society reports that over 35,000 cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed each year. A vast majority of these cases are found in adults over the age of 60.
Dental visits often include screenings for oral cancer. Like gum disease, oral cancer is typically painless in the early stages so it can be easy to miss. However, early detection can save your life so it’s important to see your oral healthcare provider often in every stage of life.
Other Dental Problems
Other common dental problems in seniors include:
- Darkened teeth
- Decreased sense of taste
- Root decay
- Uneven jaw bone
- Tooth loss
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