Most of us tend to overlook the changes that happen in our mouth as we age. However, the risk of dental problems such as gum diseases, teeth discoloration, cavities, teeth loss and even oral cancer can increase manifolds with age. Let’s understand the types of dental issues which become more prevalent as the body ages:
• Dry Mouth – Some medications are inevitable with old age. Many of these medicines have dry mouth listed as their side effect. Dry mouth means lack of saliva which makes simple actions such as swallowing and eating difficult. It even causes bad breath and leads to irritation or infection in the oral tissues. Besides, new cavities start forming within a span as short as three months after the dryness in the mouth begins.
• Worn out Teeth – Your teeth have surprising amount of strength. The molar teeth can bear over 200 pounds of pressure. However, they are not indestructible. Several years of chewing, gnawing and grinding wears down the outer most protective layer of your teeth – the enamel. Harmful bacteria which proliferate because of poor oral hygiene and acidic foods like citrus foods and carbonated beverages also weaken and dissolve the protective enamel. Such worn down teeth are easily prone to serious dental problems.
• Cavities – One of the dental issues very commonly found in older people is cavities. It may not necessarily be caused due to poor oral care as certain medications for chronic conditions have also been linked to cavities. Also, a majority of older adults have receding gums due to which cavities may develop at the root of the teeth.
• Gum Problems – Gum diseases are also a common occurrence in older adults. The reason being that the early symptoms are hardly noticeable and become apparent in the later stage. Generally, immune system weakens with age. This and other reasons such as diabetes, smoking, dry mouth etc. also increase the risk of gum diseases especially in older people. Gum recession is another oral health problem commonly seen in old people. If it is severe, it may lead to loose teeth and eventually teeth loss.
• Teeth Loss – Teeth become less sensitive in old age. The nerves become smaller and the person becomes less aware of pain related to teeth and gum problems. This often leads to delayed treatment up to the point where it mostly becomes impossible to save the teeth.
• Teeth Discoloration – A commonly occurring change with age in teeth is discoloration. The cause of this is worn out enamel which exposes the dentin. Since dentin is naturally yellow in color, the teeth appear discolored.
• Oral Cancer – The risk of oral cavity cancer increases with age. Smoking and consumption of tobacco in other forms is among the common causes. Drinking alcohol in excess, clubbed with tobacco use increases the risk of oral cancer by manifolds. The initial signs of cancer are almost unnoticeable and hence can be easily missed.
Now, let’s take a look at some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of above listed dental problems associated with aging:
• Make conscious efforts to avoid a dry mouth. Drink more water. You can also hold it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. Avoid consumption of tobacco, caffeinated beverages and alcohol as these dry out the mouth. Chew on sugarless candies or gums.
• Avoid smoking and foods which stain teeth. Eat a healthy diet to reduce the risk of cavities, gum diseases or other dental problems.
• Strictly follow an oral hygiene routine. Brush and floss regularly. Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Ask your dentist about any extra measures you can take to reduce the risk of dental problems associated with old age.
• Do not miss out on your regular dental visits. Your dentist can help identify the early signs of several oral health problems including oral cavity cancer.
Here are some useful tips for caregivers who look after older adults:
• Remind them daily if needed to keep their mouth clean with brushing, flossing and rinsing.
• See that they regularly visit their dentist for checkup.
• Ensure that they use an electric toothbrush if they have problem such as arthritis which makes the motion of brushing difficult.
• Pay close attention to their eating habits especially if they are wearing dentures. If they have difficulty in eating or are eating less, dental problems might be the cause.
If you too are looking for a dentist in Goodyear AZ with years of experience and exceptional oral care, visit us at Joshua Hong DDS. Whether you are seeking dental services for yourself or an older relative, our team is well equipped to address all queries related to oral care in older adults. So, schedule an appointment today.