Dental healthcare is vital as a person gets older. While many adults are deliberately making healthy decisions when it comes to nutrition, exercise, and rest, most disregard maintaining dental health. Negligence can lead to serious dental health issues, including tooth loss.
Dental problems associated with aging call for a more diligent implementation of preventive, periodontal, and restorative dental care. It is especially true of seniors aged 65 years or older, who are physically or mentally incapacitated or economically disadvantaged.
Oral Health Risks Associated with Aging
As you become older, you become more vulnerable to the following oral health issues:
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Saliva production decreases with age, and it can be aggravated by certain drugs. The decrease in saliva results in dry mouth (xerostomia).
Xerostomia may be accompanied by gum recession as gums become thinner. The combination of xerostomia and receding gums also leads to an increased risk of cavities. According to some experts, xerostomia can even make the esophagus lining more vulnerable to injury.
Tooth and Root Decay
Gum recession as a result of thinning gums may result in exposed tooth roots. Exposed root surfaces are soft. It makes the roots more susceptible to decay compared to other parts of the tooth.
Oral Health America points out that root decay can quickly reach the tooth’s nerve portion and result in an infection. In severe cases, the decay may cause the tooth to break off the root completely.
The Academy of General Dentistry says that 25 percent of adults aged between 65 and 74 years suffer from severe gum disease. If left unchecked, it can progress to gingivitis and the more grievous periodontitis. It’s worth noting that older people who have diabetes are more vulnerable to gum disease.
Tips for Maintaining Dental Health as You Age
1. Take care of your gums
Bacterial plaque is continuously accumulating on your teeth and needs to be removed. Otherwise, it may lead to gum soreness, swelling, and bleeding. In severe cases, it can result in infections that damage the jawbone.
The best way to maintain good gum health is to brush twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush. You should also floss at least once a day.
2. Maintain clean dentures
If you wear partial or full dentures, be sure to clean them daily. Take the dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day, especially during the night.
3. Be wary of cancer
The risk of developing cancer of the mouth, tongue, lips, or throat increases with age. To minimize your risk for these cancers, you should quit smoking and limit your consumption of alcohol. Protect your lips with lip balm whenever you are outdoors.
4. Stay hydrated
Your mouth gets drier as you get older, which increases your risk of tooth decay and other oral health issues. Drinking plenty of water can help you combat this problem. You can also use artificial saliva or chew sugarless.
Sucking on sugarless candy can also help. If you suspect the drugs you’re using could be the cause of dry mouth, consider talking to your dentist about changing them.
It is also important to schedule regular dental visits for a check-up and professional cleaning. Implementing these tips will ensure good dental health, even into old age.