Taking care of your teeth and gums is important throughout your life, but changes that come with aging can put seniors more at risk for a variety of dental issues. Proper measures to ensure oral health for seniors is important, and there are a variety of reasons that can hinder proper care. In this article we’ll talk about some of the common oral health issues seniors face and what can make it more challenging for seniors to care for their teeth and gums.
Aging Factors That Hinder Proper Oral Hygiene
Below are some of the common changes that occur with age that can make it difficult for seniors to practice healthy oral hygiene:
- Conditions like arthritis might make it difficult to practice good dental hygiene on a daily basis.
- Memory loss may cause some seniors to forget to brush and floss their teeth altogether.
- Changes in the mouth can lead to other health problems for some of the elderly population.
However, with the proper care and regular visits to the dentist, it’s possible for your teeth and gums to stay in great condition as you age.
Oral Hygiene Issues In Seniors
Some of the common issues seniors face when it comes to oral hygiene include:
- Cavities and root decay – Older adults often face more cavities and decay on the root surfaces of the teeth. Root decay is common as the roots become exposed when the gum tissue recedes from the tooth.
- Darkened teeth – Usually caused by changes in the bone-like tissues under the tooth enamel, as well as years of consuming foods and drinks that can stain the teeth. Also, sometimes the enamel can thin, causing the darker yellow dentin to be revealed.
- Increased sensitivity – As your gums recede over time, areas of the teeth not protected by enamel become exposed and can be sensitive to hot, cold sweet or sour foods. Sometimes, sensitivity is a sign of a more serious condition like a cracked tooth or a cavity.
- Dry mouth – One of the most common oral health issues in seniors is dry mouth, and it usually occurs due to medication side effects that reduce saliva flow.
- Dentures – While dentures are helpful for many seniors, they require special care that can sometimes be difficult to maintain on a daily basis.
- Poorly fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a buildup of the fungus Candida albicans causes inflammation of the tissue under the
- Uneven jaw bone – This is caused by tooth and then not replacing missing teeth. This allows the rest of the teeth to drift and shift into open spaces
- Decreased sense of taste – Another common medication side effect that seniors face is a diminished sense of taste. Certain oral diseases or dentures can also affect our sense of taste.
- Tooth loss – Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss.
- Gum disease – Gum disease tends to affect people over the age of 40 more so than younger individuals. It’s caused by poor oral hygiene or a bad diet, as well as diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Smoking or drinking alcohol regularly put people more at risk for gum disease.
- Thrush – Diseases or drugs that affect the immune system can trigger the overgrowth of the fungus in the mouth.
Proper Oral Hygiene For Seniors
Visit your dentist regularly, at least twice every year. Let the doctor know if you have noticed any changes in your teeth or gums, any increased sensitivity or loose teeth, pain, discomfort, bleeding or sores.
Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice each day, especially after meals and before bedtime. Use a toothpaste with fluoride, as fluoride provides extra protection against dental decay no matter your age. At bedtime, make sure to floss your teeth and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to help reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease.
Orchard at Brookhaven has a dentist that comes to the community for exams. If you are interested in learning more about the dental program at Orchard, please contact us today!