Special Concerns: Senior Dental Care
Advancing age can increase the risk of developing oral health problems. These issues needn’t always be age-related, but can be due to medical conditions that make it less easy to brush and floss teeth properly, while medicines prescribed to treat other ailments can negatively affect oral health, making changes to dental care necessary.
Oral health problems that can develop with age include:
- Dry mouth which is caused by a reduced flow of saliva. This can develop as a result of medications, as a side effect of cancer treatments for the head and neck, or due to certain diseases including Sjögren’s syndrome.
- Changes to taste can result due to medications or disease, and wearing dentures can also cover up taste buds in the upper palate.
- Gum disease can often be a problem for seniors and can be made worse through smoking or through having certain diseases such as diabetes, anemia or cancer.
- Decaying tooth roots are more likely due to gum recession.
- Teeth become darker with age, and a lifetime of consuming highly colored foods and drinks can take its toll.
- Stomatitis can be caused by ill-fitting dentures or poor oral hygiene allowing the fungus Candida albicans to build up in the mouth.
- Thrush is also more likely to develop due to drugs for diseases that impair the immune system and which may allow an overgrowth of Candida albicans.
- Changes to the way the teeth met together. This can be caused by tooth loss allowing remaining teeth to move and shift position, or it may be due to problems with your jaw joints (temporomandibular joints). Problems with this joint can mean it is painful to move your jaw, and the joints may click or pop when moved.
Good professional dental care at Midtown Dentistry can help mitigate and treat some of these effects, and we can suggest ways to help improve oral health at home. Simple changes such as switching from a manual toothbrush to an electric toothbrush can be helpful for anyone with limited dexterity. If you find it difficult to floss due to dexterity problems then there are alternatives such as water flossers or interdental brushes that can be attached to longer handles.
Antibacterial mouthwash can help reduce bacteria in the mouth. If your oral health problems are being caused by prescription medications then it might be that your doctor can prescribe something slightly different. Alternatively your dentist can prescribe artificial saliva to help reduce the effects of dry mouth, and will check that any dentures or other appliances are fitting properly when you visit for a checkup. Part of your checkup will be to assess if any removable appliances are irritating the gums or other areas in your mouth, and to see if they are worn or broken and need repairing or replacing.
Regular professional dental care will help keep your teeth and gums healthy for longer, and will help to eliminate or reduce the effects of aging on oral health.