Monday, September 8, 2014

Dental Concerns for Seniors

Oral health can be a concern at any age, but in the elderly, dental problems can increase risk of poor diet and developing more serious problems. Making sure that teeth and gums stay strong and healthy can help ward off disease and make eating easier and more enjoyable. Seniors can develop a wide range of issues with their oral health:

  • Sensitivity: They may discover that their teeth are more sensitive to heat and cold than they previously were. This could be the result of receding gums or wearing away of the protective enamel covering the teeth. Using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth can ease discomfort.
  • Receding Gums: Over time the gums can begin to pull away from teeth and expose the tooth’s root. This can be caused by genetics, periodontal disease, alignment issues, grinding of the teeth and more. The dentist will usually provide a thorough cleaning of the area to remove any built up plaque or bacteria and promote healing. They may recommend other treatment as well.
  • Cavities: Seniors are still at risk for developing cavities. The enamel on their teeth may have worn down over the years, or they may not have gotten enough fluoride growing up, which can increase risk. Regular brushing and flossing can help keep teeth healthy.
  • Poorly Fitting Dentures: When dentures are not fitted correctly, they can move around in the mouth and exert uneven pressure or rubbing. This can lead to a variety of issues and impair eating and speaking ability. It is important to have regular checkups to assess fit and make any necessary adjustments.

There are also medications that can increase risk of developing dental problems or lead to dry mouth and other conditions. Scheduling regular dental exams can help to identify and resolve problems before they become more serious. The dentist can also recommend steps to take if medication or dentures are impacting dental health or diet. 

As seniors age, memory loss, arthritis, and other conditions can make it more difficult to take proper care of their teeth and gums. Checking in to make sure they are brushing, assisting with these processes, and making sure they get to checkups can help to ensure better dental health throughout their life. Making adaptations in the bathroom and providing customized equipment or special toothpastes designed for seniors can also make caring for their teeth easier. Periodically check in on your loved one to assess their abilities as they age and take the proper actions to keep them safe while also allowing them to be as independent as possible.

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