This education material has been provided by oralhealthalberta.ca
As we age, oral health is not just about having a good set of teeth. Just as aging changes different systems within the body, the oral cavity also undergoes a number of changes with increasing age.
Dentists are doctors of oral health. They are capable of diagnosing and treating conditions that can range from routine to extremely complex. It is important to continue regular dental visits as you age and see your dentist immediately if you notice any persistent differences.
It is possible that you may experience certain medical conditions and differences:
You may notice that it is becoming tougher to keep your teeth white. This could be for a couple of reasons:
Plaque builds faster and in greater amounts as we age
Dentin naturally changes and causes your teeth to look darker
Loss of taste
Losing your sense of taste is common with age. Certain diseases, medications and having dentures can all be reasons for this.
Dry mouth is when the saliva glands do not work properly. We need saliva to keep our mouths moist, wash away food and neutralize the acids that are produced by plaque. Dry mouth can damage your teeth and make it difficult to eat, swallow, taste and even speak. Talk to your dentist about methods to restore moisture.
Oral cancer is more common in people over 45 who smoke, chew tobacco or abuse alcohol. Early signs of oral cancer are often difficult to detect without an examination by a dentist. Even if you do not have any natural teeth, or if you have never smoked, biannual oral cancer examinations by your dentist are recommended. Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial in significantly increasing long-term survival. To help prevent this disease, reduce or remove risk factors like tobacco and alcohol.
It is important to have any change in voice, sore or discolored area of your mouth, which does not heal within 14 days, looked at by your dentist.
Daily mouth care can improve the overall health of seniors by decreasing dental disease, which may help reduce the risk of serious health problems, such as aspiration pneumonia and cardiovascular disease, and could help with the control of diabetes. Seniors facing challenges with physical and cognitive deterioration may require support with basic daily care. If you have an aging parent or are a caregiver consider the following:
Make sure the toothbrush that a senior is using has soft bristles
If you are doing the brushing, rather than supervising, it is easiest to stand behind the senior and it is important to ensure they are comfortable
Ask the dentist how to conduct periodic checks between dental visits
For seniors who have dentures rather than natural teeth, it is important to clean them daily using denture cleaner not toothpaste and still look inside the mouth for problems.
Regular dental visits will also aid in spotting trouble signs or sources of pain. Attend the dentist with the elder in your care and ensure that you provide the dentist with as much information as possible on medical history and medications.
Prevention and Maintenence
Maintaining proper oral health remains important in your senior years as it not only benefits your oral health, but can also influence your overall health and quality of life.
To help keep your teeth and gums healthy:
Use toothpaste containing fluoride
Visit a dentist at least every six months and bring a list of the medications you are taking
Brush real or replacement teeth at least twice daily
Floss real or replacement teeth at least once a day
Call your dentist if any change in your mouth persists beyond 14 days
If your suffer from arthritis or any other health conditions make it difficult to hold your brush, speak to your dentist about options.
Dentures and Denture Care
Brushing and flossing real or replacement teeth twice daily
Using toothpaste containing fluoride
Eating a healthy diet and limiting sweets
Avoiding risk factors like alcohol and tobacco
Visiting a dentist at least every six months
The causes of tooth decay are the same for all ages. Decay happens when the bacteria in plaque feeds on the sugar in our diet.
Many older adults grew up without fluoride in the water, which means they are more likely to have decay around fillings. Decay of the tooth root is also common in older adults because when the gums recede this exposes the root surface which decays easier than harder tooth enamel.
Gum disease prevention
Gum disease (periodontal disease) often progresses at a slow pace, with no pain. As a result, it is very common in older adults. Gum disease is not just about your mouth— there is evidence linking gum disease to heart disease, respiratory disorders and strokes.
Along with preventive maintenance, make sure you look for warning signs and see your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:
Bleeding gums while brushing, flossing or eating hard foods
Red, swollen or tender gums
Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth
Pus between your teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
At Northside Dental, we are committed to providing world-class dentistry to our valued patients. Our goal is to treat each patient like family; exceeding expectations and providing reliable, family-friendly service.