When seniors consider health care, they often think about cardiovascular issues, changes in bone density and brain health, but oral hygiene is just as important as many of these concerns. Dental health affects the rest of the body and can be an indicator of other hidden problems. Gum disease often occurs in conjunction with heart disease and arthritis, so paying attention to the condition of your teeth can alert you to other issues and might help prevent overall health problems. Maintaining good oral hygiene helps you continue to enjoy meals and maintain your overall nutrition, since tooth problems can make eating more difficult. At Brightview, communities work with local dentists to help residents maintain healthy oral hygiene. Communities have mobile dentists come into the community to assist residents and we also provide transportation to dentist appointments.
Common Dental Health Issues for Seniors
Permanent teeth come in during childhood, so many seniors have been living with that same set of teeth for decades. Poor dental hygiene earlier in life, chronic disease and normal wear and tear all take a toll on teeth, so seniors often have dental issues that need professional care. About one in five people over age 65 have untreated tooth decay, and about 68 percent of seniors have gum disease. Tooth loss, dry mouth and tooth discoloration are other common dental health issues for seniors.
How Aging Affects Dental Health
Aging can affect dental health in direct and indirect ways. Tooth loss, dry mouth and periodontal disease all become more common as you age. Other issues associated with aging can make it harder to properly care for your teeth. Arthritis in the hands can make brushing and flossing more difficult. Diabetes and other chronic issues can cause an increase in tooth problems. Regular dental care, including a visit to the dentist every six months, can help ensure that any problems are caught early and treated before they get worse.
Gum Disease in Older Adults
Swollen, red and bleeding gums are all signs of early gum disease. Years of poor dental habits and unhealthy eating can cause a buildup of plaque on teeth, leaving older adults particularly susceptible to gum disease.
Sensitive Teeth and Seniors
As tooth enamel wears down over time, teeth can become more sensitive. Seniors might notice a sharp tingling sensation when eating or drinking something cold. Receding gums that expose the root of the tooth, cavities and tooth grinding at night can also cause sensitivity. Gentle brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a desensitizing toothpaste can help decrease sensitivity and improve dental comfort for seniors.
Seniors often experience dry mouth, which is caused by a decrease in saliva production. Because saliva helps protect teeth from bacteria that causes gum disease, dry mouth makes you more susceptible to other oral health problems. Dry mouth also has indirect effects on health. The discomfort caused by dry mouth makes it more difficult to eat, so seniors with dry mouth may become malnourished or experience nutritional deficiencies. Many medicines that seniors take cause dry mouth as a side effect.
A lifetime of eating and drinking gradually wears away the top layer of enamel on your teeth, which can leave you with discoloration as you age. Fluoridated toothpaste can help keep the enamel strong and slow down the thinning process. For teeth that have noticeable discoloration, whitening products or porcelain veneers may help restore brightness.
Tooth Loss and Dentures
Many seniors lose have lost some or all of their rel="noopener noreferrer" teeth — about 27 percent of seniors over age 65 have none of their original teeth remaining. Tooth loss can leave gaps that make it harder to maintain oral hygiene. Dentures require regular cleaning with a solution designed specifically for this purpose, but seniors with dentures still need regular gum checkups. Poor-fitting dentures can also cause problems, including fungal infections.
Maintaining Oral Health as a Senior
Keeping healthy as a senior includes maintaining your oral health. Brushing and flossing twice a day helps prevent cavities and gum disease. Regular visits to a dentist provide a more thorough tooth cleaning and let the dentist check for potential problems. Seniors should also take care to limit their intake of candy or soda and brush immediately after eating or drinking something sweet or sticky. Smoking and tobacco use can also lead to poor dental health.
At Brightview, we know how important it is for seniors to maintain good health in all areas, including oral hygiene. Locate a Brightview Senior Living to find a community that helps you maintain a healthy, vibrant lifestyle as you age.