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Advancing Age and Your Mouth: Oral Health for Seniors

elderly couple smiling

As we get older, it becomes increasingly more important to be mindful of our overall health. Oral Health is no exception; with advancing age, people become more susceptible to a number of dental health concerns. In fact, in the not-so-distant past, tooth loss was viewed as an inevitable part of aging. Fortunately, with proper home care and regular dental check-ups, you can have healthy teeth that last a lifetime.

Age and oral health

There are a number of oral health concerns that become more common with age. Some of the most common concerns include:

Dry mouth. Dry mouth is the result of decreased saliva flow in the mouth. Although age in and of itself is not a risk factor for dry mouth, seniors typically take a lot more medications than younger adults. Many medications– including antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and diuretics– can cause dry mouth. Certain treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation in the head and neck areas, can also result in dry mouth.

Gum disease. Certain age-related health conditions– such as arthritis– can make it difficult to properly brush and floss the teeth. This can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Poor oral hygiene in general is also a common cause of periodontal disease.

Discolored teeth. The teeth commonly become darker as we age. This is due to a number of factors, including the wearing away of the enamel, which exposes the yellow colored dentin. Additionally, many years of consuming stain-causing food and drinks ultimately leads to discolored teeth.

Root decay. Gum recession– which can be caused by aggressive brushing, poor oral hygiene, genetics, and bruxism– sometimes leads to root decay. This is because the tooth roots become exposed as a result of receding gums. Without protective enamel, the roots are left exposed to acids that can cause decay.

Tooth loss. Gum disease becomes more common with age. Without treatment, early stage gum disease– otherwise known as gingivitis– can progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis damages the soft tissue and bones surrounding the teeth; it is one of the most common causes of tooth loss in adults.

Sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is also more likely to occur with increased age. It can be caused by a variety of factors, like years of brushing too aggressively with a hard-bristled toothbrush. Additionally, as the tooth enamel wears down with age, sensitivity is often a result.

Decreased ability to taste. Advancing age impairs our ability to taste. But age isn’t the only culprit behind the diminished ability to taste. Certain diseases, medications, and even dentures can result in a loss of the sense of taste.

Preventative care for seniors

While not every age-related oral health concern is entirely preventable, many conditions that become more prevalent with age can be avoided. Consider the following tips for preventative care:

  • Regular brushing and flossing. This isn’t a tip exclusive to seniors; everyone– regardless of age– should brush a minimum of two times a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Additionally, flossing should occur at least once a day.
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash. Rinsing the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day can help prevent the growth of disease-causing micro organisms.
  • Visit the dentist regularly. Even with top-notch at-home care, our teeth and gums still need professional cleanings and check-ups. Be sure to visit the dentist twice a year so that any potential problems can be spotted and treated before they become more serious oral health concerns.

For more information about dental care for seniors, contact us today. You only get one set of permanent teeth; allow us to help you take care of them. We look forward to hearing from you!

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