Poor Senior Oral Health: Why It Happens
Advancements in dental techniques have improved the oral health of patients in recent years. However, aging can make oral hygiene more difficult. About 25 percent of adults over the age of 60 have lost all of their teeth, usually as a result of gum disease. However, seniors can avoid tooth loss by focusing on proper dental hygiene throughout their life. No matter your age, you can take steps to protect your oral health by brushing your teeth, flossing, eating a healthy diet and attending regular dental checkups.
∙ Arthritis. Conditions that affect fine motor control can make oral hygiene difficult, specifically brushing and flossing. Many dentists recommend that seniors use an electric toothbrush and a Waterpik as helpful tools to maintain your daily routine.
∙ Care of dentures. If you’ve been fitted for dentures after your natural teeth are gone, your dental care doesn’t end. Bone resorption and gum disease can continue even without your teeth. Continue to see your dentist regularly to check on your oral health and the functionality of your dentists.
∙ Smoking. Chronic dry mouth is one problem that is caused by a lifetime of smoking. Gum disease is another major issue. Smoking makes you four times more likely to develop gum disease. Using smokeless tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol can also increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
∙ Heart disease. Research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke may be linked to oral bacteria, possibly due to chronic inflammation from periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease. If you’re taking medication that interferes with blood clotting, you will be at increased risk of oral surgery. Your dentist will need to take extra precautions when performing dental procedures.
∙ Medications. Some medications used to treat health conditions can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth contributes to the development of dental diseases, such as cavities and periodontitis. Periodontitis leads to an exposed tooth root. Patients are encouraged to use fluoride toothpaste to reduce sensitivity caused by receding gums.
∙ Yeast infection. Thrush is a fungus that affects individuals with a suppressed immune system. This is likely to occur in seniors who take specific medications or suffer from diabetes. The fungus presents creamy white patches on your tongue or the insides of your cheeks. Thrush also causes soreness, discomfort and may cause difficulty swallowing.
∙ Dietary concerns. Many seniors have difficulty eating a balanced diet due to loss of natural teeth or difficulty with crowns, bridges and dentures. Vitamins and minerals are a crucial aspect of maintaining your oral health. If you’re struggling to consume the necessary diet, you should speak with your doctor about how to supplement your needs.
∙ Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. If you have inadequate blood sugar control, you may develop more frequent and severe gum and bone infections. Gum and bone infections are one of the reasons that seniors are losing teeth.
Guest blogger Jennifer Vishnevsky is a writer for Top Dentists, an Everyday Health website, as well as other lifestyle media sites.