Dental Care for Seniors
As we age, not only do we have to care for our bodies differently, but there are changes in dental concerns as well. Seniors are at risk for dental and oral health issues such as:
- Darkened teeth: The result of a lifetime of consuming teeth-staining beverages combined partly with a change in dentin, the bone-like tissue that lies under the tooth enamel. Darkened teeth are also the result of a thinning enamel, which allows the darker yellow dentin to show through.
- Dry mouth: Saliva production decreases as we age, causing dry mouth. It can also be a side effect of some medications. Insufficient saliva production can leave the mouth more prone to infection, decay, and disease.
- Root decay: When gum tissue recedes, the tooth roots become exposed. Without any protection – from either the gums or enamel – the roots are at risk for decay.
- Gum disease: Caused by plaque and made worse by poor hygiene (lack of brushing/flossing), gum disease is a common condition among older patients. Left unattended, it can develop into advanced periodontitis and lead to severe infections, abscesses, and even tooth loss.
Preventative Oral Health Care
The good news is that there are precautions seniors can take to prevent these problems.
- Brush at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day.
- Visit the dentist on a regular schedule for a cleaning and oral exam.
Plaque can build up quickly on the teeth, so seniors should be especially diligent about keeping them clean. Additionally, even though the recommended number of dental visits for the average patient is twice a year (once every six months), older patients may need more frequent visits in order monitor their dental health more closely.