The Different Dental Needs of Seniors: Why Dental Care Is Important
Dental care for the elderly is essential for many reasons. As we get older, our mouths, especially the teeth and gums, can become more sensitive, making it important to take extra care of them. Seniors are also more likely to have chronic conditions that can impact their oral health.
Reasons Why Dental Care Is Important for Seniors
There are reasons why dental care is especially beneficial for aging adults. These include:
1. Gum disease is common in adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 70.1% aged 65 and over have periodontal disease. This is an oral condition where the gums become inflamed and can lead to tooth loss. Also, seniors are more susceptible to gum disease due to changes in hormones, medications, and overall health. Additionally, older adults may not produce as much saliva, which can increase plaque buildup.
2. Many seniors take medications that can cause dry mouth.
Certain medications can increase cavities and gum disease by reducing the amount of saliva in the mouth. These include hypertension drugs, pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and diuretics. In addition, a dry mouth can also make it difficult to eat and speak. As a result, it’s important to tell your dentist if you’re taking any medications that might cause this side effect.
3. Oral health problems signify other underlying health conditions.
According to studies, oral symptoms can indicate diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even certain types of cancer. Therefore, seeing a dentist if you’re experiencing any changes in your mouth is important so they can properly diagnose any underlying health issues. This prevents bigger concerns that may require emergency (see Adina Family Dental Care urgent dental care).
4. Your teeth and gums can become more sensitive as you age.
As mentioned, seniors are more likely to experience tooth sensitivity due to the loss of tooth enamel and receding gums. Also, older adults may have a decreased ability to produce saliva, resulting in increased tooth sensitivity.
5. Poor oral hygiene is linked to an increased risk of pneumonia, stroke, and heart disease.
Our mouth is full of bacteria. When it isn’t removed, it can enter the bloodstream and cause these serious health problems.
6. Oral health problems can cause pain and difficulty eating.
Eating can be painful if you have tooth decay or gum disease, potentially leading to weight loss and malnutrition. Also, seniors may have trouble chewing due to dentures that don’t fit well or teeth that are sensitive.
How to Reduce Risks of Dental Problems in Seniors
While you may not avoid dental issues related to aging, you can take steps to reduce your risks. These include:
1. Brushing and flossing regularly.
This means cleaning your teeth at least twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and flossing once daily. This helps get rid of plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums. If you have difficulty reaching all of your teeth, ask your dentist about an electric toothbrush or water flosser.
2. Eating a healthy diet.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps keep your teeth and gums healthy. Avoid or limit your consumption of sugary and acidic foods, as they can contribute to tooth decay. Some foods you can consume are leafy greens, dairy products, nuts, and seeds.
3. Visit your dentist regularly.
Maintain a twice-a-year visit to your dentist for professional cleanings and checkups. This allows them to remove any tartar buildup and identify any potential problems. But you may need to visit more frequently if you have any existing dental conditions.
There may be some other dental care procedures they can recommend to address your dental issues, like diagnostic tests better. See this link for more information.
4. Consider quitting smoking.
Using tobacco products is among the worst things you can do for oral health because it increases your risks of gum disease, tooth decay, and even oral cancer. If you currently smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your teeth and gums or talk to your doctor about ways to reduce the risks. If possible, consult with a dentist for geriatric patients.
5. Wear a mouthguard. If you wear dentures, make sure they fit well.
If they don’t, it can lead to gum irritation and sores. Also, if you clench or grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist about getting a mouthguard. This will help protect your teeth from wear and tear.
6. Use fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making your teeth more resistant to acid attacks from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth. It also reverses early signs of tooth decay. Talk to your dentist about using fluoride toothpaste and whether you should use a fluoride rinse.
7. Consider getting dental insurance.
Many seniors don’t have dental insurance through Medicare. However, many private dental insurance plans cover seniors. This can help reduce the costs of preventive care, dental treatments, and procedures.
Dental problems are common in seniors, but there are ways to reduce your risks. Consider following the tips above to help keep your teeth and gums healthy as you age. Ultimately, remember to choose a reputable dentist specializing in geriatric dentistry to ensure you get the best possible care.