Three Most Common Oral Health Issues in Seniors

29 August, 2018 General Dentistry

Aging is a natural part of life, and one aspect that is significantly affected by old age is healthcare. Seniors are more prone to various diseases and conditions, which is why most seniors require rigorous medical checkups and assistance in performing their daily activities. That is why most seniors have to live in nursing homes or hire professional caregivers from companies like A Better Way in Home Care.

Another significant aspect of senior healthcare that often gets overlooked is oral health. Due to a common misconception that losing teeth and other dental issues come with age, many seniors and their caregivers tend to neglect oral health completely.

Furthermore, various conditions that often affect seniors such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other physical and neurological problems can impact oral health due to difficulties brushing or flossing our teeth.

Finally, due to the fact that nerves inside our teeth shrink as we age, seniors may not feel an issue such as a cavity soon enough to react, which could lead to losing teeth.

Therefore, it’s no surprise to hear that seniors suffer from a number of oral health issues. In this article, we’ll list the three most common ones and more importantly, how to prevent them.

Cavities

Tooth decay is a serious issue that most commonly affects two age groups in particular: children and seniors. In fact, 92% of all people aged over 65 suffered from tooth decay according to a study published by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

The reason why many seniors deal with this issue is mainly due to the neglect of their oral health. Seniors tend to brush their teeth less frequently or neglect to visit their dentist on a regular basis. This leads to cavities slipping by unnoticed and untreated.

The safest way to keep cavities at bay is to schedule regular dental appointments for your senior loved ones, so these issues can be treated on time. If you cannot manage to take your senior loved one to these regular appointments, consider asking a friend or a relative or hiring an accredited home care agency to assist your senior loved one with transportation.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth or xerostomia affects a lot of seniors, roughly 20 percent to be more specific. The reason why so many seniors deal with this issue is likely due to side effects from various medications seniors take to control a number of other chronic health issues.

Drugs like antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, antidepressants, diuretics and blood pressure medications can all produce this side effect.

Since saliva is crucial in keeping our teeth healthy and preventing tooth decay, decreased the flow of saliva caused by xerostomia can also affect seniors’ teeth.

One way to prevent dry mouth from affecting seniors’ teeth is making sure senior loved ones stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and staying away from alcohol and caffeine.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is a type of infection affecting gums and the surrounding tissue that keeps our teeth in our head. Gum disease does not only affect seniors but tends to get worse as we age. At first, gum disease is painless and if without regular dental checkups, most seniors never know they have it.

However, at an advanced stage gum disease can cause serious pain when chewing as well as sore gums. Gum disease can be a mild inflammation or a serious health condition.

The reason why most seniors contract gum disease is due to improper or infrequent brushing and flossing. Not taking care of our teeth paves the way for dental plaque buildup. If this plaque is not removed can get harder and cannot be removed by flossing or brushing. Instead, the hardened plaque has to be removed using the special tools at the dentist’s office.

The most common types of gum disease are periodontitis and gingivitis. Periodontitis involves the gums pulling apart from the teeth, leaving empty spaces that tend to get infected. Gingivitis is recognized by the fact that our gums turn red and swollen. They are also more likely to bleed when we wash or floss our teeth.

Help Seniors Maintain their Oral Health

All of the issues mentioned above can seriously affect seniors’ lives. Missing teeth, cavities, and gum disease can all cause difficulties eating which can impact the seniors’ diet and quality of life.

Frequent and proper brushing and flossing, as well as frequent visits to your local dentist, can help prevent all these issues and keep your senior loved ones’ smiles radiating longer.