- While your golden years are certainly a time for joy and relaxation, maintaining your health through this stage of life is still very important. Watch out for dental indicators of other larger health issues
Golden years are often associated with missing teeth and poor dental health – and dentures that were once considered a natural part of the old age. But those days are long gone! As healthcare facilities are improving, now you can embrace your golden years with strong and healthy teeth and a naturally beautiful smile.
Dental Health Becomes More Important as you Grow Old
As we grow old, the ability of our body to fight infections also starts to decline – making us more susceptible to infections. Older people are at a higher risk of developing infections such as gum disease, teeth cavities, and even tooth loss! But all these can be easily prevented – with good oral hygiene maintenance.
Common Oral Health Problems in the Elderly
- Gum Disease
Gum disease is a common old-age problem, caused by the toxins released from the bacteria inside the plaque and tartar adhering to the teeth. According to the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (2009-2012), about 68% of senior citizens aged 65 or above have gum disease, a condition that can cause gum recession, tooth mobility, and even tooth loss if left untreated.
- Dry Mouth
Scientifically known as xerostomia, dry mouth is characterized by reduced flow or production of the saliva inside the oral cavity. According to the American Dental Association, about 40% of adults older than 80 years suffer from dry mouth. Due to the decreased salivary flow, the oral cavity becomes more susceptible to developing teeth cavities, tongue fissures, and oral ulcerations.
- Dental Root Caries
Root caries is a condition where cavities form on the root surface. This condition is more prevalent among the elderly owing to gum recession and decreased salivary flow. About 50% of senior citizens aged more than 75 years have at least one tooth with root teeth cavities. Root cavities not only create a cosmetic concern for elderly patients but also causes tooth sensitivity and may even further aggravate gum inflammation.
- Tooth Loss
Tooth loss is a consequence of long-standing gum disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 1 in every 5 US seniors have lost all of their teeth. Missing teeth are not only an aesthetic problem, but they also create difficulties in eating and speaking.
- Oral Cancer
The American Cancer Society estimates that around 35000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year, where the most common age of diagnosis is 62 years. Since early detection is the key factor in treating oral cancer, dentists routinely perform an oral cancer screening as a part of a regular dental checkup in elderly patients.
- Jawbone Problems
As we age, our bones, including the jawbones, become weaker and fragile. Due to this, many elderly patients cannot get dental implants for getting their missing teeth replaced. Also, the contour of the bone that once supported our teeth is altered, making it difficult for the dentist to use dentures for tooth replacement.
Thanks to modern dentistry, your dentist can now reshape and replenish the deficient bone tissue with bone grafting and replace the missing teeth with the most durable and aesthetic tooth replacement option currently available – the dental implants.
Maintaining your Pearly Whites Through the Golden Years
Despite the increased risk of having dental problems in older age, you can still enjoy a healthy lifestyle and perfect dental health. Here’s how:
- Prevention is the Key! – prevention is one of the most effective methods for maintaining a healthy and youthful smile. Simply make sure to brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA approved, fluoride-containing toothpaste, and floss at least once every day. You may also consider using a powered toothbrush that offers superior cleaning efficiency and demands lesser manual dexterity.
- A Tooth Friendly Diet – excessive intake of starchy and sugary foods or drinks can be harmful to your teeth. To maintain optimal oral health, consider eating tooth-friendly foods such:
- Green vegetables like leafy beans
- Fruits such as apples and carrots that are full of fibres
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Poultry products, seafood, and cereals that are rich in fluorides.
- Visiting your Dentist Regularly – regular checkup visits to your dentist ensure that dental problems are diagnosed in their early stages – well before they cause permanent damage or require restorative treatment.
Even if the effects of ageing on your oral health have set in, there is no need to worry. Your dentist will use modern techniques to treat even the most complex dental problems – preserving your natural teeth and beautiful smile.
The saying “age is just a number” also holds true for your overall physical and dental health. Even if you have entered your golden years of life, you can still enjoy youthful looks and perfect dental health. A little care and prevention are all that is needed!