People of all ages are prone to dental issues and oral conditions.
However, just like young children, older adults who are not capable of taking care of themselves due to aging needs special care when it comes to maintaining dental health.
Common dental problems faced by the elderly
As you age, certain oral conditions may develop that may affect not just your teeth but your overall health.
Yellowing of teeth or tooth discoloration tends to accompany aging. Tooth enamel weakens as you get older causing the teeth to appear yellow. Foods and drinks like coffee, wine and cola and even smoking can stain teeth later in life.
• Dry mouth
Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth is reduction in saliva production which is commonly caused by side effects of oral medications. The condition may be accompanied by difficulty in eating, swallowing, speaking and decrease in taste sensation.
• Dental Attrition
Resulting from improper diet and habits such as chewing, clenching and grinding, attrition is wear and tear of the tooth surface that occurs as a normal sign of aging.
Thrush, dental abscess, gingivitis, periodontitis (severe gum disease) and and more serious conditions including oral cancer may develop in older adults over time that were not present.
• Dental caries
Tooth decay and cavities occur due to progressive breakdown of teeth owed to accumulation and activities of bacteria on the tooth surface. Gum recession also puts seniors at an increased risk for dental caries.
Keeping problems at bay as you age
It's not unusual to develop tooth decay or incur cavities or any other dental problem which was not present when you were younger, in later years of your life.
But, with the availability of advanced oral care tools and treatments, a large number of older adults are able to keep their natural teeth for a significant period of time.
In addition, here are some tips and advice that may help a lot in keeping your teeth in good shape and maintain a healthy smile in old age.
• Use a high-fluoride toothpaste and include fluoride mouth rinses in your daily routine.
• Drink plenty of water and chew sugar free gums to keep your mouth hydrated if you're on medicines that tend to produce dry mouth.
• Use an antibacterial mouthwash or a chlorhexidine gluconate-containing gel to prevent the building up of bacteria and plaque.
• Say no to smoking, alcohol and tobacco as they increase the risk oral cancer and promote the development of dental problems.
• Last but not least, do not skip dental check-ups. Some seniors are scared of dentist or may avoid dental visits because of ongoing aging process or medical conditions. Help such seniors attend regular check-ups for better oral health.
Oral health does not just have to do with your teeth or mouth. Your dental health and oral conditions have an impact on general health.
So, if you have seniors at home to take care of or are a caregiver of senior citizens, be aware of common dental conditions the elderly are vulnerable to.
Also, ensure a dental hygiene routine in order to prepare for a healthy, voracious old age.