Dental Health and Aging: What You Need to Know
As with most aspects of health, dental health needs increased attention as we age. By practicing good oral hygiene and visiting the dentist twice a year, you can promote good dental health and protect your teeth for years to come.
The Importance of Dental Health While Aging
The more wear and tear on your teeth, the better care you need to take of them to make them last your entire life. Tooth loss with age is typically the result of poor oral health and can sometimes be avoided with good care.
Another reason dental health is important is that it can effect overall health. Bacteria in the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs and cause illnesses such as pneumonia, especially in bed-ridden patients. Tooth plaque has also been linked to heart disease and stroke, particularly in patients with gum disease. Just like the rest of your body, your teeth need to be taken care of for the entire duration of your life.
Common Dental Health Issues
One of the most common dental health issues older adults’ encounter is dry mouth. This condition affects 30% of adults over 65 and 40% of adults 80-years or older. Dry mouth is the result of increased bacteria in the mouth, which is the leading cause of bad breath and can enter the body and cause illness. Dry mouth can develop as a result of increased prescription drug use (something that typically coincides with age), but can also be tied to diseases commonly associated with old age, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Dry mouth can also help contribute to root caries, or lesions on the surface of the tooth root, which is another common issue for aging patients. As people age, their natural gum line begins to recede, leaving part of the tooth root exposed and more susceptible to forming these lesions.
Older patients may also be less aware of previously painful mouth and tooth conditions, such as cavities. As people age, the nerves in their teeth shrink, which makes teeth less sensitive. This loss of sensitivity could mean that tooth pain caused by cavities or other issues might go unnoticed, allowing more damage to be done to your teeth before the issue is detected and addressed.
Preventing Dental Health Issues While Aging
The best way to care for your teeth while aging is to continue regular visits to the dentist. If you notice any changes with your teeth, gums, mouth, or breath, alert you dentist so they can further investigate the issue.
Continue to brush and floss as your dentist recommends. Using an osculating, electronic toothbrush can help many patients of all age’s adequately clean plaque and bacteria from their teeth. All patients, put particularly older patients who have lost tooth enamel over the years, should use toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps protect teeth.
To help protect against dry mouth and the dangerous effects of bacteria build up, drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid overly sugary foods and drinks.
Visiting the Dentist
Leading up to your dentist appointment, call the office and discuss your medications with the staff. This will help them determine if any special measures, such as advising penicillin, need to be taken before your treatments or procedures. Some medications can also affect the way the body react to local anesthetics commonly used during dental procedures. It’s important to let your dentist know about any and all medications you take. When you visit the dentist, bring a list of your medications to further verify they won’t interact negatively with your dental treatment.
If you have difficulty remembering new instructions or routines, ask a friend or family member to accompany you to the dentist and to sit in on any discussions or calls to ensure you hear and understand all the information correctly. You can also ask your dentist’s office to write down any special instructions to take home with you.
Caring for an Older Parent
For some older patients, self-care becomes more difficult. If you’re helping care for an elderly parent or family member, schedule an appointment with their dentist’s office to ask about any recommendations and accommodations that may make oral care easier. Also follow the same procedure outlined above to ensure your family member’s dentist has a full understanding of the patient’s medication.
Place special notes or reminders around the house to help your family member remember to brush their teeth regularly, or discuss an oral care routine with their in-home care provider. Remember to check regularly to make sure they have toothpaste and to see if their toothbrush needs to be replaced.
By continuing good oral health practices, our teeth will last a lifetime. At Tru Family Dental we care for patients of all ages and look forward to being a source of knowledge for all patients, to help them maintain, correct and enhance their smiles at every stage of life.
Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips