Seniors are more vulnerable to dental problems as age tends to degrade their teeth and gums. Medical issues can also affect the oral health of the elderly. If proper oral hygiene is not maintained, there may be several oral health issues such as gum inflammation, tooth pain, and bleeding gums. In this article, we will talk about dental care for seniors.
6 Common Dental Issues in Elderly People
- Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is usually caused due to the build-up of plaque and tartar. Sugary foods, decreased saliva production, and snacking between meals contribute to the build-up of sugar and acid in the mouth. This results in tooth decay.
Medical conditions like dementia or arthritis can also cause tooth decay. Seniors with dementia may forget to brush while it may be painful for those who have arthritis.
- Gum Disease
Like tooth decay, gum diseases, or periodontal diseases are caused by bacteria in plaque and tartar. Some symptoms include red, irritated, or bleeding gums.
Gingivitis is a condition where the gums get inflamed due to the build-up of bacteria where teeth meet the gum tissue. This leads to a serious gum infection that can damage the bone supporting the teeth and the gum tissue.
- Receding Gums
Gums can gradually shrink or recede from the teeth. It is often caused by poor dental hygiene, gum diseases or family history. Smoking and grinding of teeth can also contribute to gum recession. If left untreated, it can even lead to tooth loss.
- Dry Mouth
The production of saliva goes down as you age. This causes dry mouth. It could also be a side effect of taking many medications.
When the saliva production decreases, the acids and sugar build up more readily in the mouth. Thus, the chances of cavities and tooth decay shoot up.
- Teeth Discoloration
Teeth discoloration can happen at any age, but it is quite common in seniors. There are mainly three types of teeth stains:
- Extrinsic Stains: They are caused by surface stains to the enamel. Drinks like coffee, dark soda, or red wine are common culprits.
- Intrinsic Stains: The discoloration occurs beneath the enamel in the dentin. It can occur due to the use of some antibiotics, or excessive exposure to fluoride.
- Age-Related Stains: This is a combination of the above two. Moreover, thinning of enamel is common as you age. This promotes and accelerates teeth discoloration and yellow teeth.
- Oral Cancer
As you age, the chance of oral cancer increases. You would be at a higher risk if you smoke or drink frequently.
If you notice any ulcers or sores in the mouth, go for a dental examination immediately to rule out oral cancer. Seek dental assistance for seniors if you have any of the above-mentioned dental problems.
5 Oral Hygiene Tips for Seniors
- Use an electric toothbrush: You can either use a rechargeable model or a battery-powered electric toothbrush. They are designed to remove tartar and plaque easily.
- Limit tobacco and alcohol: Reduce the consumption of tobacco and alcohol as they increase the risk of oral cancer.
- Use dental floss: Toothbrush cannot reach the plaque that is between the teeth. Therefore, you must floss your teeth to remove that excess plaque.
- Use a mouthwash: After brushing and flossing, rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash. This kills bacteria and freshens the breath.
- Prevent dry mouth: Drink plenty of water to combat dry mouth. Ask your doctors to switch medications that may cause dry mouth. Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production. Lastly, avoid alcohol as it dehydrates the body.
Visit the dentist regularly to get your teeth checked. Professional dental cleaning keeps your teeth healthy. Regular dental visits also help in detecting oral problems at an early stage. Make an appointment immediately with your dentist if you notice any oral health issues.