Oral Health for Seniors
December 12, 2012 by christine
People are living longer and how your teeth age depends on how well you have cared for them over the years. Today’s seniors are enjoying good oral health and keeping their natural teeth longer than previous generations due to preventative dentistry, scientific advancements and a recognized link between oral health and overall physical health.
The maintenance of good oral health is stressed throughout one’s life and remains important as we age. Older adults can continue to protect their teeth and gums against oral disease by following the same rules that have supported them throughout their life including:
brushing and flossing real or replacement teeth twice daily using toothpaste containing fluoride eating a healthy and balanced diet that incorporates fruits, vegetables and fiber rich foods limiting sugar intake avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol; together alcohol and tobacco are the primary risk factors for oral cancers regular dentist visits
With increased age, seniors can face problems related to their oral health including general changes to their body physiology, dealing with the effects of disease and drug therapy and due to an incapacity to be mobile may not always be able to receive proper and timely dental care.
Other influencing factors for seniors or caregivers to consider and discuss with their dentist include:
Cavities. Many older adults grew up without fluoride and had a higher tendency to develop decay at a younger age. These fillings are at risk to have recurrent decay around them. Additionally, decay of the tooth root is common in older adults because when the gums recede this exposes the softer root surface which decays easier than tooth enamel.
Gum Disease. This often progresses at a slow pace, over time, with no pain. As a result it is very common in older adults.
Oral Cancer. The incidence of oral cancer is higher in seniors.
Dry Mouth. Older patients are susceptible to dry mouth which can lead to increased dental decay.
Medications. Often medications contain sugar and/or can cause dry mouth, both factors that can influence oral disease.
Health Conditions and Diet. The relationship between oral and overall health is important to be considered. Those patients with a compromised immune system will be more susceptible to oral health issues.
Regular dental visits are a perfect time for seniors to speak with a dentist about concerns regarding oral health. It is also a time to update the dentist as to any medical issues or medications that they may be taking that could adversely affect their oral health.
Oral health impacts the quality of one’s life and overall health. You are never too old to have healthy teeth and gums and never old enough to stop seeing the dentist.