Seniors And Oral Health: Keeping Your Natural Teeth

shutterstock_84539731It’s common to experience changes in our teeth and gums as we get older. In fact, reaching the golden years puts seniors at a much higher risk for oral health issues, many of which result from the natural aging process, limited access to oral health care, or physical limitations that prevent someone from properly caring for their mouth on a daily basis. Here are some common dental concerns faced by seniors and ways you can keep oral health issues at bay with age.

Dental Concerns for Seniors

Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a common condition experienced by seniors, often caused by certain illnesses or medications. Without proper saliva flow — the body’s natural defense against bacteria and debris that accumulate in the mouth — teeth are much more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. A dedicated brushing routine combined with regular visits to your dentist can help combat dry mouth that leads to decay and other dental problems as you age.

Tooth decay

Studies show that today’s older adults, particularly those aged 65 and older, experience higher rates of tooth decay than younger individuals. This may be caused by receding gums and exposed root surfaces that naturally occur with age; increased dryness in the mouth; and poor oral hygiene due to infrequent dental visits and an inability to properly care for their teeth with age. Maintaining proper oral hygiene and seeking professional dental care are just a few ways to avoid decay in your later years.

Gum disease

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, also becomes more prevalent with age. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 70 percent of Americans 65 and older have some form of gum disease, a chronic infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Without proper treatment, periodontal disease can destroy the surrounding tissues, eventually causing bone and tooth loss. To preserve your natural smile and avoid tooth loss caused by gum disease, adopt healthy oral hygiene habits at home and maintain routine checkups with your dentist.

Oral Health Tips for Older Adults

The good news is that in recent years advances in dental care have made it much easier and affordable for seniors to retain their natural teeth for life. Practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to reduce common dental problems associated with aging.

  • Brush at least twice a day and floss daily.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and checkups.
  • Stop smoking or using tobacco.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and regulate sugar intake.
  • Notify your dentist immediately if you notice changes in the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums.
  • Properly maintain dental appliances, including dentures and dental bridges.

Though older adults are faced with additional oral health challenges, you can take important steps now to reduce the risk of serious dental issues. Start by practicing excellent dental health habits at home, adopting smart diet and lifestyle choices, and visiting your dentist for regular exams and cleanings.

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