We all age in different ways – and our teeth are no different. As the years pass, our pearly whites need slightly different types of care, and there are new concerns to watch out for. Are you aware of what your smile needs from you?
The simplest way to stay in touch with your oral health is to schedule routine exams every six months. But the way that you treat your teeth and gums in between these appointments is what dictates the state of your health when you visit the office. If you’re over the age of 60, the tips below might prove especially beneficial as you carry out your home care.
Unsure about a change you’ve noticed in your mouth? Get in touch today to put any worries to rest.
Common Dental Problems for Seniors (And Their Solutions)
- Dry mouth – If your mouth isn’t producing enough saliva, the oral environment isn’t a safe one for your teeth. Saliva does many beneficial things for your smile, including protecting them from acids to prevent against enamel erosion. Dry mouth can occur for a variety of reasons – one of the most common for seniors is as a side effect of medications. Hundreds of medications can cause dry mouth, including ones prescribed to treat high blood pressure, Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s, high cholesterol, and more. Check in with your dentist when you start taking a new medication to make sure they can monitor your mouth for adverse effects.
- How to Avoid: Dr. Okamura may recommend an oral moisturizer. These are typically rinses or tablets that you use as instructed to help keep your mouth from getting too dry. Patients can also benefit from chewing sugar-free gum and drinking plenty of water, all day – keep a reusable water bottle with you to make this easy to remember.
- Tooth decay – Teeth have a protective outer layer of enamel, which keeps internal layers safe from harm. The aging process tends to thin enamel, making cavities more likely to take hold – especially if you are also experiencing dry mouth.
- How to Avoid: Try to limit sugary foods and acidic beverages, prioritizing fresh produce, daily and proteins. Clean your teeth regularly and don’t forget to floss. Schedule exams every six months so that we can spot early signs of decay before it worsens.
- Gum disease – As the number one cause of tooth loss, periodontal disease is to be avoided at all costs. Gum disease may also be linked to a variety of systemic health conditions, making it even more alarming. If you stay vigilant for signs of gingivitis and periodontitis as you age, you have a better chance of maintaining your full smile.
- How to Avoid: You need to prevent plaque from building up on your teeth and tooth roots. Brush and floss regularly and correctly, and schedule regular exams. Know the symptoms of gum disease and react quickly if you notice your gums changing.
- Oral cancer – Oral cancer is most often diagnosed at the age of 62. It has had a resurgence in recent years with the rise of HPV, and about 35,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Tissues in the mouth, throat and tongue can become cancerous.
- How to Avoid: Dr. Okamura performs oral cancer screenings at your routine exams. This will help us spot potentially cancerous tissues and allow for early detection.
- Shifting bite – If you have struggled with periodontal disease or lost teeth, the adjacent teeth are likely to shift and your bite may change. Teeth move to fill in the space left by a missing tooth, and periodontal tissues that have been compromised by disease struggle to keep teeth in place. You may experience difficulties biting or jaw pain.
- How to Avoid: If you lose a tooth, take actions to restore it with an implant, bridge, or partial as soon as possible.
Other Obstacles in the Way of Seniors’ Oral Health
- No dental insurance – Many people lose their dental insurance when they retire. Ask Dr. Okamura about payment options to finance your preventive dental care.
- Problems carrying out oral hygiene – If you have arthritis or other issues moving your hand or arm, brushing and flossing might be tricky to perform effectively. Trying out new dental products like an electric toothbrush or a floss holder could help. Ask Dr. Okamura for specific product recommendations.
- Difficulty chewing – If you have lost teeth or had other dental problems over the years, chewing might be painful or even impossible. But you need the nutrients that fresh foods provide, and an inability to chew has also been linked with systemic health problems like dementia. Let us know if you’re no longer able to chew comfortably.
- Decades of tobacco use – If you have been a lifelong smoker or chewed tobacco for many years, you are at a heightened risk for periodontal disease and oral cancer. Ask us for tips if you’re ready to quit.
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