Seniors and Dental Health: Take a Bite Out of Aging
Contrary to popular belief, tooth loss is not a natural part of getting older. It is generally caused by tooth decay and poor oral health. Taking care of your teeth and practicing good dental habits can help you keep your smile well into your golden years.
As we age, our health needs change, and this includes our dental health. Some medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, are complicated by poor oral health. Here are some common problems older adults should watch out for:
- Gum (periodontal) disease: Gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and with proper treatment is reversible. If you notice puffy, swollen gums and bleeding during brushing, see your dentist immediately. Early detection and intervention can prevent the condition from becoming worse.
- Periodontitis: Periodontitis is a bacterial infection that causes your gums to recede and the bone supporting your teeth to break down. It is the more severe form of gum disease and affects more than half of adults aged 65-74. If left untreated, the bone supporting the teeth can be destroyed, leading to total tooth loss.
- Cavities (tooth decay): Young children aren’t the only ones who get cavities. Older adults are especially prone, often due to dry mouth being a side effect of many common medications. Because saliva serves to protect the teeth by neutralizing acids and washing away bacteria and debris from the teeth, it’s important to manage this condition. Oral rinses, gels and toothpastes are available to help.
- Difficulty brushing and flossing: Arthritis is a common problem for many seniors, and it can make holding a tooth brush or floss much more difficult. Talk to your dentist about products that may be available to help.
Make Your Smile Last a Lifetime
Brushing and flossing twice daily will help you maintain and improve your dental health. Make sure you make regular visits to your dentist for check-ups and cleanings. If you have difficulty getting to the dentist, reach out to family, friends or community services for assistance. Good oral health is a big part of helping you maintain your overall health.