When you get older, things about your health and maintenance routines change. Your senior dental care should be no different. Learn how it changes.
Approximately 93% of seniors citizens over the age of 65 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth at some point in their lives. And, 18% of seniors currently have untreated tooth decay.
As you age, you become more susceptible to tooth decay, cavities, and other dental issues.
Because of this, it’s crucial that you take extra steps to care for your teeth and keep them healthy.
Read on to learn more about some key things you need to know about senior dental care.
How Do Your Teeth Change as You Age?
Many people are unaware of the changes their teeth go through as they get older. The following are some of the most common changes seniors go through as they age:
Increased Wear and Tear
Your teeth may be susceptible to more wear and tear as you get older. This is especially true if you have a habit of grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.
Years of bad habits can catch up to you when you age, and you may require special equipment like a nightguard to correct the problem.
Increased Risk of Gum Disease
As you get older, your mouth tends to dry out. Saliva plays an important role in cleaning the teeth and flushing out bad bacteria from the mouth.
Because you produce less saliva as you age, you’re more likely to deal with cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Decreased Tooth Sensitivity
When you age, your teeth may become less sensitive. This might seem like a good thing, but it can actually be quite problematic.
When your teeth are less sensitive, it may take you longer to notice issues like cavities. This, in turn, can lead to more serious damage since you’re less likely to go to the dentist right when the problem arises.
Common Senior Dental Issues
There are lots of things that can go wrong with the teeth as you get older. The following are some of the most common senior dental issues that you might experience:
Cavities Caused by Certain Medications
Many medications that senior citizens rely on — including blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, and anti-depressants — can cause dry mouth. This, in turn, increases their risk of developing cavities and gum disease.
As you age, changes in the dentin — the tissue that lies below the tooth enamel — can cause the teeth to become darker. Darkened teeth are also often caused by long-time consumption of foods and drinks that cause stains to the teeth.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum recession. This, in turn, can lead to exposure of the roots of the teeth. If the roots of the teeth are exposed to acids on a regular basis (acids from food or acids produced by bacteria in the mouth), they may be prone to decay.
Tooth loss is common among senior citizens. In fact, many seniors have no remaining teeth at all. In most cases, tooth loss is the result of untreated gum disease.
When teeth are lost and not replaced with implants or dentures, this can cause the remaining teeth to shift in the mouth. This, in turn, can lead to the development of an uneven jawbone.
Thrush occurs when an overgrowth of Candida albicans — a fungus — occurs in the mouth. This can be brought on by diseases that affect the immune system or by certain medications.
Even if you wear dentures, you are still susceptible to dental disease. A common condition among denture-wearers is denture-induced stomatitis.
This condition involves inflammation of the tissue that lies beneath the dentures. It’s often brought on by improperly fitting dentures or poor oral hygiene.
Cancer of the mouth, tongue, and/or throat is common among senior citizens. A dentist is often the first person to catch signs of this issue.
If you’re not going to the dentist regularly — which many seniors don’t — it may take longer to catch the symptoms and get you the treatment that you need.
An Inability to Pay for Dental Care
Why do seniors go to the dentist less often than others? For many, it’s because they can’t afford to. Medicare does not cover regular visits to the dentist.
Unless they have supplemental insurance coverage, seniors may not be able to pay for trips to the dentist. Luckily, there are lots of discount dental plans available to senior citizens to help offset the cost of treatment.
Senior Dental Care Tips
Clearly, there are a lot of benefits that come with making senior dental care a priority.
How does your dental care change as you get older, though? What steps do you need to take to keep your teeth and mouth healthy as you age?
Here are some important senior dental care tips that will help you avoid the conditions listed above:
- Brush the teeth twice a day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride-containing toothpaste
- Use floss or a water pick to clean between the teeth once per day
- If you wear dentures, clean them every day and remove them at night
- Quit smoking — this further increases your risk of tooth decay, gum loss, and mouth cancer
- Visit the dentist at least twice per year for
- preventative care
- (check-ups, cleanings, etc.)
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar
- Limit alcohol consumption — alcohol increases your risk of oral cancer and can dry out your mouth, which increases your chances of developing tooth decay
By making some simple changes to your oral care routine, you can significantly decrease your risk of experiencing common senior dental challenges.
Work with a Senior Dental Expert Today
Now that you know more about how your teeth change as you age, it’s important for you to make senior dental care a priority.
Has it been a while since you’ve visited the dentist?
If you need to schedule a cleaning and checkup and live in the Wilmette, Illinois area, contact us at Mantis Dentistry and Implant Center today.
We offer a variety of dental services at our office, from cleaning and general dentistry to cosmetic solutions.