By the year 2030, approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population will be age 72 or older. It is a number that is growing rapidly, meaning more and more of dental patients are and will be of advanced age now and in the years to come. While the risk of oral health problems tends to increase with age, it does not mean you have to lose some or all of your natural teeth. To preserve optimal dental health, it is important that older patients understand some of the risk factors that occur with time and the steps that could prevent complications.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
The body produces saliva to help in the break down of food, as well as the removal of food debris from the gums and surface of the teeth. Unfortunately, many medications can produce a dry mouth as a side effect, which can increase the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Examples include many cardiovascular medications and cancer treatments. Talk with your dentist about the steps you can take to combat the effects of dry mouth. This may include frequent rinsing, increasing your water intake, limiting caffeine consumption, and the occasional use of sugar-free gum.
The prevalence of arthritis is higher among older population groups. When arthritis creeps into the hands, it can make everyday activities like brushing your teeth much more difficult and painful. If you find it difficult to brush properly, talk to your dentist about switching from a manual to an electric toothbrush. We here at Briter Dental can help you learn what to look for when shopping for an electric toothbrush.
As the body ages, nerve sensitivity tends to decrease. While that may make uncomfortable procedures more bearable, it could also make it more difficult to detect the beginnings of tooth decay, allowing carries to worsen to more deteriorated states before being treated. That is why it is more important than ever before to continue seeing a dentist for regular checkups. An exam and x-rays can uncover decay and other oral health complications long before symptoms begin.
Receding Gum Tissue
While tooth loss is not an inevitable part of the aging process, gum recession does come naturally with time. This could eventually expose some of the tooth root, which is softer and more susceptible to decay. It is important to maintain good oral health habits at home to prevent the buildup of plaque that could lead to gingivitis and decay.
Fillings are meant to last for many years, but not typically a lifetime. With age, old fillings begin to break down, making the tooth susceptible to decay. Regular dental visits make it easier to identify unstable fillings and when it may be time to replace them.
Physiological Health Changes
Scientific evidence is increasingly pointing to a connection between oral health and the health of the rest of the body. Although the exact causes and corresponding effects are unknown, the body and mouth are not independent of each other. Certain conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and respiratory problems are linked to an increased risk of periodontal disease. In other words, taking steps to preserve and protect your overall health could also have a positive secondary impact on your oral health.
For more information or to set up your appointment, contact our office today.