Taking care of your teeth is important for your entire life, but it becomes particularly vital as you get older. Teeth deteriorate as we age. Chronic conditions and other environmental and social factors can cause problems with oral health over time.
Common Risks to Look Out For:
Being conscious of the potential hazards to oral health for those older than 65 can help either prevent them or treat them before they get worse. These risks included:
- Ignoring decay or cavities – According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a staggering 96 percent of Americans ages 65 years or older have had a cavity and 1 in 5 of those seniors have untreated tooth decay.
- Losing teeth – The older a person gets, the more likely they are to have lost all their teeth–26 percent of people older than 75 and 13 percent of adults between 65 and 74. Someone living without teeth or dentures has trouble eating, and likely cannot get all the nutrients they need to maintain health. Also as we age, many people start to see their gums recede, which exposes the root part of the teeth and can leave them vulnerable to decay and eventually falling out. Dental implants can often be a good, long-term solution to missing teeth.
- Severe gum disease – If an older adult is not taking proper care of their teeth, their gums will inevitably be affected as well. Sixty eight percent of seniors over the age of 65 have gum disease, and since it is often painless, it may not even be noticed until it’s gotten advanced. Serious gum disease can eventually destroy the gums, bone and ligaments supporting the teeth and eventually cause tooth loss.
- Dry mouth – Many medications for chronic diseases cause dry mouth, which creates an environment where tooth decay and gum disease can thrive. Medications that can cause dry mouth include antihistamines, diuretics (often used for high blood pressure treatment), antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and cancer treatments.
- High risk of oral cancer – The average age of a person diagnosed with oral cancer is 62 years old. Smoking and tobacco use also increases the risk of oral cancer. Dentists can perform oral cancer checks when you go for a checkup or cleaning.
How to keep teeth healthy
- If dry mouth from a certain medication is causing problems, ask us for a different medication that may not have a dry mouth side effect. If this isn’t possible, chewing sugarless gum can help generate saliva, as does drinking plenty of water.
- Keep going to the dentist regularly. Even if you are missing a lot of teeth or have dentures, dentists can do oral cancer screenings, check for gum disease and help figure out how to maintain a healthy mouth.
- Brush your teeth regularly and take good care of your dentures. This will help keep tooth decay at bay. An electric toothbrush can help for those who have difficulty with brushing their own teeth.
- Find a dentist who specializes in dental care for seniors. Here at Perdido Bay Dental, Dr. Djuric has been practicing cosmetic and implant dentistry for over 25 years. And many of our patients are seniors. Read what they have to say here: patient reviews.