7 Common Dental Issues in Seniors
As we age, our bodies and health needs change. This is true when it comes to dental health as well. At Prescott Dentistry, we want you to help you with the prevention, maintenance, and treatment of the conditions that come along with these dental changes related to aging. Whether you yourself are aging, or you have loved ones who are, here are 7 elderly dental problems to be aware of:
1. Darkened teeth
Decades of consuming teeth-staining foods and beverages leads to a natural darkening of the teeth. Additionally, as we age, our tooth enamel thins, which allows the yellow dentin underneath the enamel to become exposed. Sometimes a darkened tooth or teeth can be indicative of a more serious underlying issue and should be evaluated by your dentist.
2. Gum disease
The risk for gum disease increases as we age. Gum disease is commonly caused by plaque and food left in our teeth, which builds up over time. Other causes include:
- Tobacco use
- Unhealthy diet
- Poor-fitting bridges and dentures
- Diseases like anemia, cancer and diabetes
3. Root decay
Root decay is very common in seniors. It is typically the result of acids from food and beverages. As the tooth roots become exposed, gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, making the teeth even more susceptible to decay.
4. Denture-induced stomatitis
Denture-induced stomatitis is a painful inflammation of the gum tissue beneath dentures, caused by:
- Poor-fitting dentures
- Poor denture hygiene
- Buildup of the fungus candida albicans
5. Dry mouth
The first defense against tooth decay is saliva. When your saliva runs low you are at a higher risk for getting cavities and decay. Dry mouth is prevalent in seniors—it is a common side effect of many medications. Cancer treatments that use radiation to the head and neck area can also cause dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water helps—not only does it keep the mouth moist, it also stimulates the salivary glands to produce more saliva, which contributes to an environment of teeth-friendly moisture throughout the day.
6. Oral cancer
The majority of oral cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol. These mostly occur in older patients. Some of these symptoms may be confused with gum disease or cold sores, so it’s important to ask your dentist or general practitioner for an accurate diagnosis. The good news is that ensuring early detection is as easy as attending your routine dental exams with us every six months.
7. Poor oral hygiene
As we get older, our capacity for thorough oral hygiene may decline because of factors such as limited manual dexterity and strength, diminished cognition, and worsening vision. Electric toothbrushes, manual toothbrushes with wide handle grips, and floss holders can assist in the case of arthritis of the hands. You may also need to schedule more frequent dental visits to ensure your dental health stays in optimal condition.
Give us a Call
For specific elderly dental problems in women, refer to our blog post from 2018. Paying attention to dental health as you age is just as important as paying attention to heart or joint health, but it is one of the most neglected aspects of senior health. Make sure you are keeping up with daily oral hygiene and visiting us here at Prescott Dentistry at least twice a year for exams and cleanings. As always, prevention is the best medicine to ensure that your smile stays healthy and beautiful as you age.