Dental care is especially important for seniors since it affects more than just their mouths. After all, tooth and gum issues can cause significant discomfort and even disability. The way you look, the food you eat, your vocabulary, and many other aspects of your life can all be influenced by these factors.
To that end, maintaining proper oral hygiene is crucial to overall health. Unfortunately, the fact about dental treatment is that it does not come at no cost to those over the age of 65. Medicare often does not reimburse these costs.
That’s why so many individuals put off getting medical help. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly a quarter of Medicare recipients delay or forego dental treatment due to cost. However, you need not be that person.
Age-Related Dental Problems
Growing older increases your risk for several dental problems. Most often seen dental issues in the elderly are:
1. Decay of Teeth
According to data compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, one in five American seniors has untreated dental decay. This is partly because many seniors lack the manual dexterity to effectively clean and floss their teeth.
Tartar and plaque buildup can contribute to tooth disease resulting from poor oral care. Drinking water after meals and reducing sugar intake will help you maintain healthy teeth.
By removing plaque and tartar more easily, an electric toothbrush can help you achieve a healthier smile. Another option is asking a dentist or hygienist for advice on keeping elders with limited dexterity teeth healthy.
2. Gum Receding
For some older adults, gums begin to recede from the teeth as they age. According to teamemergencydental.com, Root exposure makes teeth sensitive to temperature changes and to touch. Because the roots of teeth lack the enamel that protects the crowns, decay is far more likely to occur when roots are exposed.
Gum recession can develop for various reasons, including heredity, rough tooth cleaning, and teeth grinding. Gum disease raises the likelihood of losing teeth if it is not treated. Although a thorough cleaning may remedy the situation, a gum transplant may be necessary for more severe situations.
3. Dry Mouth
It’s common for saliva production to decrease as people become older. This increases the risk of cavities in the mouth, especially among the elderly. It can also cause your lips to split and your tongue to swell, making it hard to eat and talk.
Asthma, depression, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, nausea, urine incontinence, and Parkinson’s disease treatments are just a few of the many pharmaceuticals that can cause dry mouth. Medical problems such as anemia, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease might contribute to this symptom.
If you suffer from dry mouth, try drinking more water than usual, using a humidifier to get moisture into the air, and cutting less on caffeinated beverages, sodas, and alcohol. Chewing sugar-free gum can also be beneficial since it encourages saliva production.
4. Stained Teeth
The grayish-yellow bone tissue called dentin lies under the enamel of our teeth, and as we age, it becomes increasingly visible. This makes the teeth look more somber. Long-term exposure to tobacco products and certain beverages can also discolor teeth over time.
Several factors might exacerbate the issue, including chemotherapy and blood pressure medicine. If you’re self-conscious about your teeth, talk to your dentist about options including bonding, veneers, and whitening.
5. Gum Disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis, is brought on by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. The initial symptoms are redness, swelling, and easy bleeding of the gums.
Plaque that has formed below the gum line can cause infection if left untreated, forming pockets between the gums and the teeth. Teeth can fall out if the bone and connective tissues in place are damaged or destroyed. Adults lose teeth due to gum disease more often than any other reason.
Seventy percent of American seniors suffer from periodontitis, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco use, an improper diet, and ill-fitting dentures are all factors that might exacerbate gum disease. The presence of certain medical diseases might exacerbate the problem.
Scaling and root planing may be used in treatment, along with antibiotics. Bone or tissue transplants may be necessary for more severe situations. Gum disease may be avoided by maintaining a balanced diet, brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, and scheduling biannual dental cleanings.
6. Mouth Cancer
Teeth, gums, lips, cheeks, and tongue are just a few where oral cancer can manifest. Common symptoms include white or red lumps or patches, sores that bleed readily and don’t heal in a week or two, discomfort, hoarseness, and trouble moving the tongue or jaw. The American Cancer Society reports that the median age of mouth cancer patients is 62.
The illness strikes men more than two times that of women. Cancer risk factors include tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and a family history of the disease. Surgery, radiation treatment, or chemotherapy might be necessary if you are diagnosed with this illness. Suppose you want to lower your risk of developing oral cancer.
In that case, it’s important to have regular dental checkups and to have your dentist look into any suspicious sores or discolored areas in and around your mouth. Always check how your dentures feel in your mouth to ensure they are a good fit and aren’t irritating your gums or other oral tissues. You should also limit or abstain from using smoke and alcohol.
Causes of Tooth Loss and Its Consequences
Losing even one tooth can produce a domino effect of health issues, making dental care especially important for the elderly. When teeth are missing, the surrounding teeth tend to shift to fill the gap. This can cause a crooked bite.
Without uniform pressure when chewing, the remaining teeth are more likely to crack and wear out prematurely. There’s also the risk of headaches and jaw pain due to the pressure placed on your temporomandibular joint. Loss of jawbone structure is also possible. That’s because maintaining its health and ability to regenerate requires ongoing stress.
The jawbone and bone mass are both kept in good condition thanks to the roots of teeth, which provide nourishment and stimulation to the bone below the gum line. However, when teeth lack roots, the jawbone begins to resorb and thin.